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While it might have been lovely (in terms of our sanity) to be able to translate from English to Italian word for word without worrying about messing up the meaning, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as trying to navigate all of the linguistic roadblocks that Italian offers us.
While prepositions and vocabulary play a huge role as well, today we’re focusing on the verbs that can trip us up because they’re thought about differently in Italian compared to English.
You know, it’s the whole “You aren’t hungry, but you HAVE hunger” or “It isn’t hot, it MAKES hot” using the verbs “avere” and “fare” respectively instead of the ever present English usage of the verb “to be”.
While there are TONS of these for me to geekily (& happily) outline for you, here are four to start.
Verb #1: Prendere – to take, to get
— Did you “take” that class or did you “frequent” it?
In English, we like saying that we “took” a class or a lesson, but in Italian, they “frequent” a class or a lesson.
For example, “Ho frequentato un corso su Dante.” – I took a class on Dante.
Here are a few phrases you would use “prendere” with:
- Prendere qualcosa da bere – to get something to drink
- Prendere una decisione – to make a decision
- Prendere l’autobus – to take the bus
— Did you “take” a shower or did you “make” one?
Instead of using the verb “prendere” to talk about how you took a shower this morning, use the verb “fare” to talk about the shower you did or made.
After all, you did turn the water on and that can definitely be thought of as making a shower.
For example, “Questa mattina ho fatto una doccia, ma l’acqua era freddissima!” – This morning I took a shower, but the water was so cold!
Verb #2: Introdurre – to introduce, to bring
— Did you “introduce” or “present” yourself?
In English, we like to say “I introduced myself”, but in Italian, we would say “I presented myself”, which sounds kind of like you’re showing yourself off and then leaving.
It Italian, it’s normal though, and you would say “Mi presento”, or if you’re introducing a friend, you might say “Ti presento la mia migliore amica Giulia” – I introduce my best friend Giulia to you.
Here are a couple phrases you would use “introdurre” with:
- Introdurre cambiamenti – to introduce/make changes
- Introdurre qualcuno nella cucina – To bring someone into the kitchen
- Introdurre la chiave nella serratura – To insert the key in the keyhole
Verb #3: Avere – to have
— Did you “have” a party or did you “make” one?
Instead of using the verb “avere” to talk about a party you had, think twice and use the verb “fare” to talk about the party that you did or made.
For example “Facciamo una festa per il compleanno di Giulia il mese prossimo!” – Let’s have a party for Giulia’s birthday next month!
Here are the things you would use “avere” with:
- Avere paura – to be afraid
- Avere fame – to be hungry
- Avere una lezione – to have class
Verb #4: Mancare – to miss
— Did you “miss” the train or did you “lose” it?
In Italian, when you’re running late and you miss your train, you don’t use the verb “mancare – to miss”, you use the verb “perdere – to lose”.
So, that would be “Oddio! Ho perso il treno. Sto per arrivare in ritardo al lavoro!” – Oh god! I missed the train. I’m about to be late for work!
On a similar note, you don’t “miss” the beginning of a movie, you “lose” it.
Like “Cos’è successo?! Non ho capito perché lui è un lupo mannaro. Ho perso l’inizio del film!” – What happened? I don’t understand why he’s a werewolf. I missed the beginning of the movie!
And if you’ve been away for a while from Italy, your friend won’t tell you that you’ve “missed” a lot of gossip, they’ll tell you that you “lost” a lot of it.
Like “Non sai che Emilio ed io non siamo più amici? Mamma mia, Cher! Ti sei persa molte cose!” – You don’t know why Emilio and me aren’t friends anymore? Oh my, Cher! You’ve missed a lot!
Here are the things you would use “mancare” with:
- Mancare a qualcuno – to miss someone
- Mancare di esperienza – to lack experience
- Mancare di rispetto – to be not respectful (towards someone)
As I mentioned, there are many more of these verbs to come, so look out for future articles so you can keep fine tuning your Italian to sound…well…more Italian.
Are there any differences that you can think of? Leave them in the comments below!