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Prendere: To Take?

Posted on 30. Oct, 2014 by in Italian Language, Vocabulary

We all know that prendere means to take, as in prendiamo l’autobus o andiamo a piedi? (shall we take the bus or walk?), or prendi questa borsa (take this bag). However prendere is one of those verbs that can be used in many different situations. Let’s look at some of its most common uses:

1. to catch, to capture, to seize someone or something:
ha preso la palla al volo = he caught the ball in mid-air
la polizia non è riuscita a prendere il ladro = the police didn’t manage to catch the robber
i gatti prendono i topi e poi ci giocano = cats catch mice and then play with them
la città è stata presa dopo un lungo assedio = the town was seized after a long siege

Gatto_killer

“la pallottola lo ha preso in pieno petto”

2. to hit a target:
la pallottola lo ha preso in pieno petto = the bullet hit him right in the chest
chi prende quella lattina al primo colpo vince = who hits that tin with the first shot wins
il calciatore ha preso il palo = the footballer hit the pole

3. to collect, to pick up:
vado a prendere i bambini a scuola = I’m going to pick up the children from school
Mario è andato a prendere un pacco all’ufficio postale = Mario has gone to the post office to collect a parcel

4. to catch an illness, or to make oneself sick by doing something wrong (often used in the reflexive form):
ho preso il raffreddore/mi sono preso il raffreddore = I caught a cold
ieri sera Gianni ha preso una sbronza/si è preso una sbronza = yesterday evening Gianni got drunk

5. to be exposed to the natural elements:
quanta pioggia abbiamo preso, siamo completamente zuppi = we were rained on so much, we’re completely soaked
Maria è in terrazza a prendere il sole = Maria is on the terrazzo sunbathing
mentre guardavo la partita ho preso freddo = while I was watching the match I got cold

rain

“quanta pioggia abbiamo preso, siamo completamente zuppi” Photo (CC) by Zuerichs Strassen

6. to behave towards someone:
se lo prendi con le buone è molto premuroso = if you are polite to him he can be very considerate
se non la smetti di dire bugie ti prendo a schiaffi = if you don’t stop telling lies I’ll slap you
si sono presi a male parole = they exchanged insults (literally: they took each other at bad words)

7. to take something on a temporary base:
quando andremo in Sicilia prenderemo a nolo una macchina = when we go to Sicily we’ll hire a car (literally: we’ll take a car on hire)
ho preso in prestito un libro dalla biblioteca = I borrowed a book from the library (literally: I took a book on loan from the library) Read more about the expression prendere in prestito HERE
Gianni sta cercando un appartamento da prendere in affitto
= Gianni is looking for an apartment to rent (literally: to take on rent)

8. to mistake someone or something for someone/something else:
scusa, ti avevo preso per tuo fratello = sorry, I mistook you for your brother
per chi mi hai preso? = who do you think I am? (literally: whom did you take me for?)

Finally, here are some common idiomatic expressions which can be translated as “to get the wrong end of the stick”:
prendere lucciole per lanterne = literally: to take fire flies for lanterns
prendere un abbaglio = literally: to take a dazzle
prendere un granchio = literally: to take a crab
prendere fischi per fiaschi = literally: to take whistles for flasks. Another version of this expression is capire fischi per fiaschi = to understand whistles for flasks, because fischi (whistles) and fiaschi (flasks) sound very similar.

If you have heard any other expression using the verb prendere whose meaning is not so obvious please let me know!

How to use the Past Conditional in Italian

Posted on 22. Oct, 2014 by in Grammar

Last week we took a look at the present conditional, which, if you missed it, you can find HERE. Today we are going to look at il condizionale passato (the past conditional). Here are a couple of examples of how we conjugate it, firstly with the auxiliary verb essere (to be):

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei stato/a
tu saresti stato/a
lui sarebbe stato
lei sarebbe stata
noi saremmo stati/e
voi sareste stati/e
loro sarebbero stati/e
I would have been
you would have been (sing, inf.)
he would have been
she would have been
we would have been
you would have been (plural)
they would have been

This second example is built with the auxiliary verb avere (to have):

Coniugazione del verbo avere: Conjugation of the verb to have:
io avrei avuto
tu avresti avuto
lui/lei avrebbe avuto
noi avremmo avuto
voi avreste avuto
loro avrebbero avuto
I would have had
you would have had (sing, inf.)
he/she would have had
we would have had
you would have had (plural)
they would have had

The past conditional is used:

1. to express a regret:
avrei dovuto seguire il consiglio di mio padre! = I should have followed my father’s advice!
sarebbe stato meglio partire ieri = it would have been better to leave yesterday
me lo sarei dovuto immaginare! = I should have imagined that/it!

2. to express disbelief, incredulity:
chi l’avrebbe mai detto! = who would ever have thought it! (literally: who would have ever said it!)
l’avresti pensato che era così antipatico? = would you have thought that he he could be so unfriendly? (literally: that he was so unfriendly)
chi l’avrebbe mai immaginato che la torre di Pisa pendeva così tanto!
= who would ever  have imagined that the tower of Pisa leaned so much?

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La Torre di Pisa. Photo: (CC) by Maxime Guilbot

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
la notizia sarebbe stata diffusa di proposito dalla polizia = it is thought that the news has been spread by the police on purpose (literally: the news would have been spread)
secondo i giornali il presidente della società avrebbe presentato le dimissioni
= according to newspapers the president of the society has handed in his resignations (literally: would have handed in)
alcune fonti internazionali riferiscono che ci sarebbe stato un colpo di stato in Antartide = some international fonts report that there has been a coupe in the Antarctic (literally: there would have been a coupe)

4. to say what we would have done if the conditions had been different:
se fossimo stati più ricchi avremmo comprato una casa al mare in Liguria = if we had been richer we would have bought a house on the coast in Liguria
se avessi avuto più tempo a Venezia, mi sarebbe piaciuto visitare anche l’isola di Torcello = If I had had more time in Venice, I would have liked to have visited the island of Torcello as well
se ieri non avesse piovuto il bucato si sarebbe asciugato completamente = if it hadn’t rained yesterday the washing would have dried completely

Torcello
Torcello. Photo: (CC) by John W. Schulze

5. to express the future in the past:
Maria mi ha detto che oggi sarebbe andata a Sarzana = Maria told me that she would go to Sarzana today (literally: today she would have gone to Sarzana)
non immaginavo che ci sarebbe voluto così tanto tempo = I didn’t imagine that it would take such a long time (literally: it would have taken)
ho chiesto a Giorgio quando sarebbe tornato da New York = I asked Giorgio when he would come back from New York (literally: when he would have come back)

As usual, if you have any questions please leave a comment.

How to use the Present Conditional in Italian

Posted on 16. Oct, 2014 by in Grammar

While I was replying a reader’s question last week about the differences between the congiuntivo presente and the condizionale, I realised that although I’ve covered the use of the congiuntivo presente I’d never written an article specifically on the use of the condizionale (conditional). So I’m going to make amends, beginning today with il condizionale presente (the present conditional). But first let’s have a look at how we conjugate it:

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei
tu saresti
lui/lei sarebbe
noi saremmo
voi sareste
loro sarebbero
I would be
you would be (singular, informal)
he/she would be
we would be
you would be (plural)
they would be

The present conditional is used:

1. to politely express a wish or a request:
vorrei un bicchiere d’acqua, per piacere = I would like a glass of water, please
mi potresti prestare una penna? = could you lend me a pen?
scusi, saprebbe dirmi dov’è Piazza del Duomo? = excuse me, could you tell me where Piazza del Duomo is? (literally: … would you know how to tell me …)

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Piazza del Duomo, Pontremoli. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

2. to express a personal opinion, or to give advice:
secondo me dovresti andare dal dottore = in my opinion you should go to the doctor
io suggerirei di partire subito dopo pranzo = I would suggest that we leave immediately after lunch
sarebbe meglio se Marco rimandasse la partenza di qualche giorno = it would be better if Marco delayed his departure for a few days

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
secondo alcuni testimoni i rapinatori sarebbero ancora all’interno della banca = according to some witnesses the robbers are still inside the bank (literally: … the robbers would still be inside the bank)
ho sentito che il presidente del club starebbe pensando di presentare le sue dimissioni = I’ve heard that the president of the club is thinking of handing in his resignations (literally: … the president of the club would be thinking of handing in his resignations)
mi è stato detto che Marco vorrebbe trasferirsi in Inghilterra = I’ve been told that Marco would like to move to England

Lig 4
… una casa al mare in Liguria. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

4. to say what we would do if the conditions were different:
se non piovesse andrei a fare due passi = if it didn’t rain, I would go for a little stroll
se fossimo ricchi ci compreremmo una casa al mare in Liguria = if we were rich we would buy a house on the coast in Liguria
se ci fosse abbastanza basilico si potrebbe fare una pasta al pesto = if we had enough basil we could make pasta with pesto (literally: if there were enough basil, one could make pasta with pesto)

Next week I’m going to cover the past conditional. A presto!