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La Nostra Lingua

Italian Past: Avere or Essere?

Every Italian student starts by speaking only in the present tense — that is, about what is happening in the “here and now.”  But what if we want to refer back to an event that has happened in the recent past, such as this morning, yesterday, or last year?  Well, then, will have to learn how to form the passato prossimo past tense! The passato prossimo translates into English as the present perfect tense and the simple past tense; in effect, when we learn this one type of past tense in Italian, we can substitute it for two types of ...

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To Go and Return in Italian

On any given day, the most commonly talked about activity is where one is going. We make plans, we go, we return, we talk about our activities along the way, and then we talk about where we went once again at the end of the day! To talk about where one has to go on a certain day seems easy at first. We learn about the Italian verb “to go,” which is andare, in every beginning course in Italian.  The Italian verb andare is a bit tricky to use, though, so let’s go through a few pointers. The first thing ...

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Let’s Email in Italian!

Talking about the concept of email in Italian is tricky.  For one thing, the word “email” is an English abbreviation for “electronic mail,” and this abbreviation is not easily translated into Italian. For another thing, the way English speakers and Italians talk about email has evolved with each technological advancement in communication, and will probably continue to change in the future.  We may find that the terms we use in this blog today have been abandoned for different terms tomorrow! But, let’s try anyway to talk about email the way Italians do — at least for now and hopefully into the ...

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Benvenuto Natale!

How to Use Benvenuto! and Italian Holiday Party Conversation “Benvenuto!”* and its variations (Benvenuti! Benvenuta! and Benvenute!) are frequently used Italian interjections that all mean “Welcome!” Guests (gli ospiti) to an Italian household can expect to hear these words as a warm greeting before crossing the threshold into the home (casa) of the host or  hosts (la padrona di casa/il padrone di casa or gli ospiti).**   Whether family, friend or acquaintance, every guest will be greeted warmly as a sign of the Italian dedication to hospitality for all. And, of course, the Italian Christmas season, which starts in early December and lasts until early January, ...

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Bello means “It’s nice!”

How to Use Bello with Singular Nouns Bello is an Italian adjective that one will use often when visiting the “bel paese”—so many people are and places are beautiful, nice, and lovely in Italy!  But, the form of this adjective will change according to the masculine or feminine form of the noun (person, place or thing) it modifies, the number of “things” that are beautiful, and also according to where this adjective is placed in the sentence. When referring to a person, bello/bella are used to mean handsome and beautiful, as well as nice, or lovely.  Places or things can be beautiful, and also nice or lovely.  The ...

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Buono means “It’s Good!”

Buono is an adjective that will come up quite often when one starts to learn Italian, and it’s one that you’ll use often while traveling — so many things are good in Italy! But, the form of this adjective will change according to the masculine or feminine form of the noun (person, place or thing) it modifies, the number of “things” that are good, and also according to where this adjective is placed in the sentence.  Sound complicated?  Well, it is… a little bit.  But luckily, there are many “commonly used phrases” spoken every day in Italy that use the ...

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Italian Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

Reciprocal reflexive verbs are used when two or more people perform the same action together; this will make all people involved the subject of the action. To express this type of situation in English we simply add the phrase “each other” after the verb that describes the action. Italians employ the -si ending, as with regular reflexive verbs with actions that revert back to the  speaker. Listed below are verbs that commonly use the reciprocal reflexive form: abbracciarsi to hug each other aiutarsi to help each other amarsi to love each other baciarsi to kiss each other chiamarsi to call ...

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Vestirsi — How We Dress

In Italian we need to learn how to use three important verbs and we are all set to talk about what we are wearing—vestirsi, mettersi, and indossare.  If we learn how to use these verbs properly, we will be able to tell others how we dress and make “small talk” about how well others are dressed — part of “fare la bella figura” (making a good impression) in Italian — just as we do in our native language! Vestirsi Let’s start with the Italian verb “vestirsi,” which carries the general meaning of “to get dressed.” To use this verb, just conjugate it as ...

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How to Say “Get” in Italian

At first glance, it seems easy to say “get” in Italian.  The verb prendere translates as “to get.”  But, the verb prendere actually has the specific meaning of “to procure something.”  In English conversation, which is typically less formal than written English,  the verb to get is used in many more ways and conveys many more meanings than the verb prendere does in Italian.  We English speakers rely on our basic understanding of what is going on in any given conversation to come up with the meaning of the verb to get. Instead, in both written and conversational Italian, the use of ...

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“Make Me!” (Fare Causativo)

English speakers use the verb “make” to describe how someone has made them do  something or how someone has made them feel.  In other words, in this type of situation, the subject of the sentence is the instigator that will make the stated action take place for someone else. The verb “make” is called a “causative verb,” and is one of the three true causative verbs in English, which are: let, have, and make. Check out some popular American songs to see how often this concept comes up in language.  Catchy tunes like, “You Make Me Feel Brand New,”  sung ...

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