La Nostra Lingua

How to Use “Da” in Italian

Let’s continue our series about Italian prepositions with the essential Italian preposition “da.” The Italian preposition da can be translated into the English prepositions “from” and “by.” It serves as an essential link between Italian nouns, is used in Italian phrases that describe time in a complex way, and is also integral to many common expressions. If we learn how to use the Italian preposition da, we will truly sound like a native Italian!   Use “Da” to Say Where You are From One of the most frequent questions asked during polite conversation is, “Where are you from?” We learned how to …

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Being Polite with “Potere”

Homes on Burano, Venice with a bench out front to talk in Italian

Potere means “to can” or “to be able to,” and is classified as a modal, or helping verb. This means that potere provides information about the ability of the speaker to “be able to” complete the  main action described in a sentence. When used in this way, potere is conjugated to reflect the speaker and the action verb follows directly after in its infinitive form — that is, the action verb is not conjugated! (Remember that Italian verbs are categorized into three infinitive forms by the following endings: -are, -ere, and -ire, and that English infinitive verbs are preceded by …

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Tag teaming two past tenses

Italian street in Burano with a park bench to converse in Italian about the past

Combining the Imperfetto with the Passato Prossimo   Choosing an Italian Past Tense Let’s start our blog about how to combine the imperfetto with the passato prossimo by reviewing some general rules of Italian grammar. We learned in “Picking an Italian Past Tense” that the circumstances surrounding the event will determine which Italian past tense to use. Luckily, imbedded in many Italian sentences about past events are certain words and phrases that will  indicate whether the imperfetto or the passato prossimo is needed.  The intent of the speaker will be signaled by these phrases, which will then trigger use of the correct …

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Imperfetto or Passato Prossimo?

Park bench on Burano to discuss the Italian "Imperfetto" or "Passato Prossimo" in front of a block of homes

Imperfetto or Passato Prossimo? Previous blogs in this series have discussed the basics of how to conjugate and use the imperfetto  and the passato prossimo to speak about the recent past.* As we’ve mentioned before, the conjugation of these verb forms is fairly straightforward; the tricky part is knowing which past tense to choose to describe a particular event.    To make matters more complex, a compound sentence can be created using only the imperfetto, only the passato prossimo, or a combination of both. And in many situations, the same event can be described in Italian using either the imperfetto …

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Italian Preposition “a” or “in”?

Sidewalk bench in front of Italian homes where Italians converse using prepositions "a" and "in"

The Italian “a” can be translated as both “to” or “in” in English.  The Italian “in” is translated the same as in English — “in”! Both prepositions “a“ and “in“ can be used to describe where someone is going and where a person of thing is located. But each preposition has its own particular role to play to fulfill this function. If we learn how to use the Italian prepositions “a” and “in” correctly, we will truly sound like a native Italian!”   Use the Italian “a” or “in” for a Country, Region, or City Americans and Italians use the prepositions …

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Making Reservations in Italian

Street on the island of Burano with a park bench in front of houses where people can sit and talk in Italian

Prior to beginning the lesson for this blog, I acknowledge that in the larger cities of Italy it is not usually necessary to make reservations in Italian; the Italian staff usually speak basic English and often the languages of their European neighbors — French, Spanish or German.  Also, of course, in most cases, reservations can now be made over the internet on one’s computer or smart phone, without any human interaction at all! But I’ve found that a few phrases in Italian are always warmly welcomed by Italian servers and hotel receptionists, even in the larger cities, and can serve …

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Comparisons using “di”

Colorful houses in an Italian street in Burano, Italy for people to discuss how to use the preposition "di" in Italian

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, older vs. younger, better vs. worse — often while describing what we prefer. The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. In this blog, we will explore several ways to make comparisons that use the Italian preposition di.  The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking …

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The many uses of mettere

The Italian verb mettere and its reflexive counterpart mettersi are used in many colloquial expressions in Italy today.  It is important to “put in” the time to learn how to use mettere, both literally and figuratively, if one wants to speak Italian like a native! The Italian verb mettere is most often translated into English as “to put” or “to place.”  It can be used in a simple way, to describe moving an object from one place to another. Mettere is commonly used with the prepositions a, da, in and su  in many Italian expressions that have the connotation of “putting” …

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How to use “di” in Italian

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to introduce an object or to describe direction, location or time. We do this naturally in our own language with prepositions — short words like of, to, at/in/from, and by. All languages use prepositions but the choice of preposition in a given situation will differ from one language to another. This is the case for English and Italian; English and Italian often use prepositions in a different way. Also, in some situations Italian sentence structure may require a preposition where English does not! Let’s take a look at …

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Italian phrases for dating

Sidewalk in Murano with a park bench where people can sit and discuss Italian Phrases for Dating

Today in America, we “date,” “go out on a date,” or refer to two people who are “dating,” from the first romantic encounter until they become married. After marriage, a couple can still go out on “date nights.” But be careful when translating American romantic experiences into Italian! The English verb “to date” as used in America today to refer to a romantic relationship does not have a literal translation in Italian. Of course, “to court” a woman was common in past centuries, and the Italian language still reflects this. When a man tries to show he is interested in …

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