La Nostra Lingua

Impersonal Phrases with Italian Reflexive Verbs

A street in Burano with a park bench out front where one can discuss how to create impersonal statements with Italian reflexive verbs.

Italian Reflexive Verbs Knowing how to use Italian reflexive verbs is extremely important for conversation, since Italian reflexive verbs often describe activities and emotions that are encountered every day. Reflexive verbs are recognized by the –si ending of their infinitive form. Let’s review a bit about reflexive verbs before going on to discuss how they are used to make impersonal statements. Direct reflexive verbs, as their name suggests, are used when an action refers back directly to the speaker in the subject of the sentence. For example, if one wants to describe the everyday act of falling asleep in Italian, …

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The holidays in Italy

Christmas in Italy There are several important holidays that Italians celebrate during the Christmas season (periodo di Natale), which begins on December 8th with L’Immacolata and ends on January 6th with L’Epifania. The feast of Santa Lucia on December 13th is also an important holiday in northern Italy. This saint day is celebrated with candles, special pastries and presents for children who have been good during the year. See the table below for a list of the important celebrations that take place in Italy during the Christmas season and some common phrases that Italians use to wish each other “happy …

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The Many Uses of “Tenere”

Park bench in front of homes on the island of Burano, Italy, where people can chat using the verb "tenere."

The Italian verb tenere has a wide range of meanings and its use lends a bit of sophistication to one’s Italian. It is important to “keep in mind” the nuances of the verb tenere to create sentences as we would in our native language. The Italian verb tenere is most often translated into English as “to hold” or “to keep.”  It can be used in a simple way, to describe holding an object or holding another’s hand. As in English, the verb tenere can also mean “to hold,” with reference to capacity, as in how many objects or people can occupy …

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Let’s talk about calcio!

A street in Burano Italy, showing homes and a bench where neighbors can converse about soccer in Italy

Italy’s thrilling victory over England at the UEFA EURO 2020 soccer championship this past July sparked a week-long, country-wide celebration.  Why not learn a few terms used to describe a sport that Italians are crazy about? Calcio, as the Italians call this popular sport, is derived from the verb calciare, which means “to kick.”If you’re in a soccer league here in the United States or you just like watching it at home, knowing a few Italian words and phrases will certainly add to the excitement of being involved in this Italian passion! Soccer — a brief history of the game  …

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“Missing you” with mancare

Italian homes with a park bench in front where people can sit and talk about who they miss in Italian using the verb mancare.

The verb mancare has many meanings: to miss/to lose/to lack/to be lacking/to omit/to fail. Perhaps the most common way to use mancare is to convey the idea of missing someone, so it is important to learn the conjugation and sentence structure for this verb for everyday speech. To start off, you should know that the sentence structure used for mancare is the same as for the verb piacere, the prototype for Italian verbs that only take an indirect object pronoun. You should also realize that this group of Italian verbs works differently from its English counterparts. Therefore, the English translation will not match the Italian …

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He Said/She Said

Colorful houses in Burano, Italy with a park bench where people can discuss what "he said" and "she said" in Italian!

Let’s begin our discussion of the important phrases “he said” and “she said” by looking at how to use the verb dire — to say —  in the past tense. The past tense for “he said” and “she said” in Italian, a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo, and is “ lui/lei ha detto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English past tense, “he has said” and “she has said.”  Since the subject pronoun is generally left out of an Italian sentence, we are left with “ha detto” to describe both what he said …

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The Many Uses of “Riuscire”

The Italian verb riuscire has a wide range of meanings and its use lends a bit of sophistication to one’s Italian phrases. It’s important to learn the nuances of the verb to create sentences as we would in our native language. When linked by the conjunction a to another verb, riuscire means “to be able to” or “to manage to.” The meaning is similar to potere, with an important exception: riuscire lends a dimension of personal effort on the speaker’s part. Hence the translation into English as “to manage to.” In the negative sense, the use of riuscire a implies that …

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Becoming Friends

How do we conjugate an Italian verb into the polite or familiar form? Let’s begin our discussion of polite and familiar expressions in Italian by talking a look at the conjugation table for chiamarsi, the reflexive verb that means “to be named,” or “to call oneself.” This verb is one of the first verbs an Italian student learns to conjugate and contains all the elements to understand polite and familiar verb tenses. First, let’s conjugate chiamarsi the way we would any other –are  verb. Chiamarsi (to call oneself/to be named) will have the same stem and endings as chiamare (to …

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As far as I know

As we’ve seen in a previous blog about the verb sapere,it is important to understand how to conjugate sapere in the present tense if one wants to describe what he or she knows. Sapere in the present tense is a verb of certainty; when one uses the Italian verb sapere, they do so to describe a fact or something they believe to be true. But there are times when you may not be certain if what you’re talking about is factual. To express doubt, possibility, uncertainty, personal feelings, desire or suggestions, Italian uses the subjunctive mood. And to convey uncertainty …

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How much does it cost?

When visiting another country (and I am sure travelers will one day be able to visit Italy again), it is important to understand the ins and outs of making a purchase. Whether you are dining at a restaurant, visiting an important historical site, or purchasing a souvenir of your trip, knowing a few  words in Italian is always helpful to understand the cost. And if you like to barter, you can pepper your English with a few friendly Italian phrases to help the deal go through! How do I use the verb costare? In order to ask how much something …

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