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A Bucket Of Paint – Analysis Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in Grammar

Let’s take a closer look at some of the grammar from our previous post, A Bucket Of Paint

La mamma ed io stiamo guardando delle vecchie foto che ci riportano indietro a dei bei ricordi.
Mum and I are looking at some old photos that bring back some nice memories.

ci riportano indietro a dei bei ricordi = they (the photos) take us back to some nice memories (ci, in this case is the personal pronoun ‘us’)

Fra le tante, ci sono un paio di foto di papà nel suo negozio di macchine da scrivere Olivetti a Bengasi.
Amongst the many photos, there are a couple of dad in his Olivetti typewriter shop in Benghazi, Libya.”

Fra le tante = amongst the many (the word foto is not necessary here as the context has already been established)
un paio di foto = foto is an abbreviation of fotografia. This explains why although it ends with the usually masculine ‘o‘ it is a feminine word: la foto. Abbreviations are not pluralized, hence la foto = the photo, le foto = the photos. In its full form it would be la fotografia, le fotografie. Another example is la moto = the motorbike, le moto = the motorbikes (abbreviation of motocicletta/e).

Serena: “Guarda com’era giovane e magro papà!
Serena: “Look how young and slim dad was!”

Italian syntax dictates the word order here, it would be incorrect to put era (was) at the end as we do in English. Com’era is a combination of come = how, and era = was, this avoids the awkward repetition of the letter ‘e’.

Mamma: “Sì, questa foto è stata fatta ai tempi in cui lo conobbi. E’ nel suo negozio in Piazza Lenghi. Qualche anno dopo si trasferì nel nuovo negozio davanti ai giardinetti.”
Mum: “Yes, this photo was taken around the time I met him. He’s in his shop in Piazza Lenghi. A few years later he moved into the new shop in front of the gardens.”

questa foto è stata fatta, literally: this photo has been made. In Italian we don’t ‘take’ a photo, we ‘make’ it.
in cui lo conobbi = in which I knew him. Here the historical past conobbi is used as we’re talking about an event from many years ago. Conoscere (to know) is also used to mean meet, hence the translation ‘around the time I met him.’
Qualche anno dopo: qualche (some, a few) is always used in the singular. Alternatively we can say alcuni anni dopo. For more information see this post: Qualche

Guarda com’era giovane e magro papà!

Serena: “Quello nuovo me lo ricordo bene. Una mattina ci portasti a trovare papà per vederlo.”
Serena: “I remember the new one well. One morning you took us to meet dad so that we could see it.”

Quello nuovo me lo ricordo bene: the use of quello nuovo me lo ricordo bene instead of me lo ricordo bene quello nuovo gives more emphasis to ‘the new one (shop)’.
a trovare papà: trovare (to find) is also used to mean ‘to visit, to see, to meet someone’, e.g. vieni a trovarci = come and visit us.

Mamma: “Può essere, non mi ricordo bene.
Mum: “Maybe, I don’t really remember.”

Serena: “Io ero piccolina, avrò avuto massimo quattro anni, ma me lo ricordo bene, eccome! Stavano finendo di decorarlo … avevano usato una vernice strana, non era liscia ma tipo granigliato, aveva come dei sassolini neri, bianchi e grigi. Non me la dimenticherò mai, quella maledetta vernice!
Serena: “I was little, I must have been maximum four years old, but I remember it well, (how could I not!) They were finishing decorating it … they’d used a strange paint, it wasn’t smooth but kind of grainy, it had some sort of little black, white and grey stones in it. I’ll never forget that damned paint!”

avrò avuto: this is the futuro anteriore (perfect future) of the verb avere = to have. In Italian, the future tense is often used when we would use the conditional in English, e.g. chi sarà alla porta? = who could be at the door? In the story I used il futuro anteriore (perfect future) because I’m guessing about something that took place in the past. See this post: Presente o Futuro?
eccome! is an exclamation used to reinforce a previous statement. You could also use
Non me la dimenticherò mai, quella maledetta vernice! literally: I won’t ever forget it, that damned paint! Here, I used a comma to create a pause and therefore put more emphasis on quella maledetta vernice!

Mamma: “Perché, cos’è successo?”
Mum: “Why, what happened?”

Serena: “Non ti ricordi? Ero tutta felice di vedere papà al lavoro e gli corsi incontro a braccia aperte per abbracciarlo, ma fra me e lui c’era il secchio di vernice che gli imbianchini avevano lasciato lì. Era senza coperchio e io ci finii dentro con tutte e due le braccia!”
Serena: “Don’t you remember? I was really happy to see dad at work and I ran to him with my arms open wide to hug him, but between me and him was a bucket of paint that the decorators had left there. The lid was off and I ended up with both my arms in it!”

gli corsi incontro a braccia aperte, literally: gli = to him, corsi = I ran, incontro = towards, a braccia aperte = with arms open. Regarding a braccia aperte: we use the preposition ‘a‘ to express how we do something, e.g. sognare a occhi aperti = to daydream (literally: to dream with one’s eyes open). N.B. braccia is an irregular word: il braccio = the arm, masculine singular; le braccia = the arms, feminine plural.
io ci finii dentro, in this case ‘ci‘ is not the personal pronoun ‘us’, but the adverb ‘there’, hence: ‘I ended up inside there’. See this article: ‘Ci’

Mamma: “Questo sì che me lo ricordo! Avevi il cappottino nuovo che zia Maria e zia Pupina ti avevano mandato di regalo dall’Italia!”
Mum: “Yes, of course I remember! You were wearing the new coat that aunt Maria and aunt Pupina had sent to you from Italy as a present!”

Questo sì che me lo ricordo! literally: this one, yes that I remember it! ‘Questo/a/i/e sì che …!‘ is a common emphatic exclamation, e.g. questi sì che sono belli! = these ones really are beautiful!
di regalo: the preposition ‘di‘ explains the purpose of something. I this case I could have also written ‘in regalo‘ or ‘per regalo‘.

Serena: “Il cappottino era di un colore rosa antico, se non mi sbaglio, coi bottoni dorati. Come ci rimasi male!
Serena: “If I’m not mistaken, the coat was and old rose colour with golden buttons. I was so upset!”

se non mi sbaglio: first person singular of the reflexive verb sbagliarsi = to be mistaken, to be wrong.
Come ci rimasi male! Literally: ‘how I remained upset’. This is an idiomatic expression constructed with the verb rimanerci = to remain and male (bad) = to feel bad, to be upset. N.B. here the ci is not a reflexive pronoun, but is actually part of the verb.

Mamma: “Sì, era rosa antico. Lo mettesti una volta sola e dovemmo buttarlo via, non riuscimmo a pulirlo.”
Mum: “Yes, it was old rose. You only wore it once and we had to throw it away, we didn’t manage to clean it.”

Serena: “Quanti pianti che feci!
Serena: “I cried so much!” 😭 😭 😭

Quanti pianti che feci! Idiomatic expression. Literally: How many cries that I made!

Cari lettori, speriamo di esservi stati d’aiuto

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  1. Carol:

    Italian is so hard😩

    • Geoff:

      @Carol Yep!
      That’s why we always laugh when we see online courses claiming that you’ll be ‘fluent’ in a few weeks!
      The only way to speak fluent Italian is to live here. And even then it can take years.

      Don’t be discouraged, keep at it Carol, it’s worth it … and we’ll do what we can to help you. Saluti da Geoff e Serena 🙂

      • Lisa:

        @Geoff Ciao Geoff,
        I agree with you. I just roll my eyes when I see ads to learn Italian in a few weeks– 15 minutes a day.
        I have lived here over 4 years and I still feel like I’m in “kindergarten” learning Italian.
        Piano, piano !!

        Thanks for all of your articles. They have been so timely!

        • Geoff:

          @Lisa Thanks for your comment Lisa! You’ve only lived here for 4 years? You’re just a beginner then! 😉

          Dove sei in Italia?

  2. rukmini nini:

    Grazie .

  3. Jane Bowden:

    Le spiegazioni – queste sì che sono molto utili!

  4. Donna:

    Grazie per le note dettagliate. Mi dispiace per il piccolo cappotto! Qualche volta le cose che sono successe molto tempo fa feriscono di più quelle che sono successe ieri.

  5. Rosalind:

    Questa sì che è una buona maniera di spiegarci la grammatica italiana!
    È mi sono accorta con interesse dell’uso del passato storico nella conversazione con tua mamma – pensavo che si usava soltanto nello scritto. Quantunque non intendo impararlo! Ce la farò la lingua italiana senza il passato storico.

  6. Chippy:

    Da voi: “Speriamo di esservi stati d’aiuto”

    Risposta da me: Eccome!!!!!!!

  7. kathleen:

    Like Carol, having finished reading this analysis, my reaction is ‘Italian is SO HARD! I have been learning it now for several years and have often felt like abandoning the attempt but I plough on, just so that I can speak to Italian friends on an annual visit, always hoping that it will become easier. It doesn’t! Still, there is your excellent blog, and I am grateful for it. Mille grazie!

    • Geoff:

      @kathleen Ciao Kathleen, thanks for your kind comment.
      Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Italy (or in an Italian speaking community) it can tend to feel like you’re not making any real progress. It is possible to make headway in a situation like yours, but it’s a slow haul. In the meantime, enjoy what you already have. Pian pianino.
      The only answer is to spend more time in Italy!

      Ti aspettiamo! 🙂

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