Do you have problems remembering all those convoluted and seemingly arbitrary rules of Italian grammar? I’ve often found that simple mnemonic devices can really help. Here’s a nice easy one in the form of a flower: the humble Forget me not.
It’s difficult to trace the exact origins of the forget-me-not’s slightly nostalgic name. Its Latin name for example, Myosotis, comes from the Greek ‘mouse’s ear’, after the shape of its leaf. What is certain though is that many different cultures have a similar name for it, and in some cases use the flower, or its image as a symbol of remembrance.
A German legend, for example, states that when God named all the plants, a tiny one that he’d overlooked called out “Forget-me-not, O Lord”, and God replied: “Then that shall be your name”. The flower was often worn by lovers when they were apart in order that they not be forgotten, and has also been used as a symbol of remembrance, for example: in Newfoundland for the nation’s war dead and in Armenia to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
So, how is this going to help me with my Italian grammar you may ask. Simple: its Italian name is ‘non ti scordar di me’, and that pretty name contains an important rule: in Italian, we use the infinitive to express the imperativo negative singolare, which, in simple terms, means ‘don’t …!’
Forget-me-not is just a poetic way of saying ‘don’t forget me’, and in Italian we have two ways of saying ‘to forget’: ‘dimenticare’ and ‘scordare’ which are both used colloquially in their reflexive forms ‘dimenticarsi’ and ‘scordarsi’, e.g. mi sono dimenticato di comprare il latte, or mi sono scordato di comprare il latte = I forgot to buy the milk.
If I want to tell someone ‘don’t forget the milk’ in Italian I say ‘non ti dimenticare il latte’ or ‘non ti scordare il latte’. N.B. in the case of the flower ‘forget me not’, the Italian name ‘non ti scordar di me’ drops the ‘e’ at the end of the infinitive ‘scordare’ for purely poetical reasons.
If you want to use the negative imperative when speaking to more than one person then simply use the regular second person plural conjugation of the appropriate verb: non dimenticatevi /scordatevi il latte = ‘don’t you (plural) forget the milk’.
Here are a few more examples that reinforce the concept:
non guidare troppo velocemente = don’t drive too fast
non andare in cucina perché c’è troppo casino = don’t go in the kitchen because there’s too much mess
non fumare, fa male alla salute = don’t smoke, it’s bad for your health
non perdetevi = don’t (you plural) get lost
non avvicinarti troppo al bordo, è pericoloso = don’t get too close to the edge, it’s very dangerous
non camminate sull’erba = don’t (you plural) walk on the grass
Now take a short musical break by clicking on the video link below, then have a go at translating the following phrases:
don’t shout (singular)
don’t eat too much (singular)
don’t get home too late (plural)
don’t forget that in Italian we use the infinitive to express the imperativo negative singolare
Now, whenever you get into a muddle with ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’ phrases just think of the lovely little blue flower who’s begging you: non ti scordar di me.
Any questions? Leave a comment.