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As many students of the Italian language have discovered, there is a big difference between the Italian learnt in a language class and everyday colloquial Italian. In fact many students suffer a serious blow to their confidence when, having diligently studied in their language class, they first set foot in Italia and come face to face with the natives, e non capiscono un cavolo di niente (and they don’t understand ‘a cabbage of’ anything)! There are various reasons for this phenomenon, but probably one of the main ones is that everyday spoken Italian is peppered with little phrases and expressions which are largely neglected in language classes with their tendency to focus much more on grammar and rules. Amongst the most difficult colloquial expressions to grasp are those with multiple meanings, such as today’s subject: ecco.
Ecco, a little word which we Italians use all the time, can often be difficult for foreigners to pin down because it doesn’t have a single equivalent in English. So here are some everyday examples which illustrate its usage:
1. with the meaning of ‘well’ or ‘well now’ when you are beginning an explanation, or working out what to say:
Ecco, io lavoro per il comune (well now, I work for the council)
2. used frequently in everyday conversation as an exclamation of agreement meaning ‘that’s right’ often followed by appunto or esatto (exactly): ecco, appunto! (that’s right, exactly!)
3. with the meaning of ‘here’ or ‘there’:
Eccoci arrivati a casa (no satisfactory translation for this into English, but it means something like ‘here we are, we’re home’), eccovi finalmente! (there you are, finally!), dove sei? – eccomi (where are you? – here I am). As you can see, in this case the word ecco is combined with the direct personal pronoun mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, le e.g. ecco (here/there) + vi (you [plural]) becomes eccovi (here/there you are). Obviously the choice of ‘here’ or ‘there’ depends on the situation.
4. with the meaning of ‘here is / are’ or ‘there is / are’:
Ecco il libro che mi hai prestato (here is the book which you lent me), ecco lassù il castello (there is the castle up there), ecco le tue scarpe (here are your shoes).
5. with the meaning of ‘this is’ or ‘that is’:
Ecco come vanno fatte le cose in Italia! (this is / that is how things are done in Italy!), vuoi il mio consiglio? eccolo (do you want my advice? this is / that is it).
6. with the meaning of ‘that’s why’:
Giorgio: Sono stato in vacanza per tre settimane – Lucia: ecco perché non ti ho più visto! (Giorgio: I’ve been on holiday for three weeks – Lucia: that’s why I haven’t seen you!).
7. at the end of a summary or explanation we sometimes say ecco tutto (that’s all).
8. to say that something is done, or finished we often use ecco fatto (‘that’s it’ or ‘it’s done / finished’)
Ecco fatto il blog (that’s the blog finished).