A Handy Collection Posted by on Jul 13, 2010 in Italian Language

When children learn to speak, they progress from using fairly generic terms to more specific ones as they gradually acquire and refine their vocabulary. They might, for example, begin by learning the word ‘dog’, believing that it can be applied to any small four legged animal. They then learn to differentiate dog from cat, rabbit, sheep, etc. Likewise they might use the generic word ‘car’ to describe a bus or a lorry and so on.

I remember that many years ago my little brother had learnt to distinguish my father’s FIAT 128 from other FIAT 128’s. Whenever he saw a car like my father’s he would point and say: “Papà, non è papà”, i.e. “that’s daddy’s type of car (a FIAT 128), but it isn’t daddy’s”.

When we learn a foreign language we pass through the same process, trying initially to get by with the few words that we know by creatively applying them to similar objects.

So, after that philosophical introduction, here is a simple little themed collection of words which deal with objects that help us to hold, open, and close things. Hopefully it will help to augment your vocabulary so that you can avoid using that ubiquitous word: “cosa” (thing).

una maniglia a handle: this is the type of handle that you use to open and close a door or window
un manico a handle: this is the type of handle that you use to hold a saucepan, or a broom, hammer, spade etc.
una manovella a handle: this is the sort of handle that you might find on a winch, or a very old car to start the engine. It can be translated as crank or winder
una manopola a grip: for example on the handlebar of a motorbike, or on a ski stick. It can also be a rotating knob such as on a stereo, or a valve
un manubrio a handlebar, e.g on a bicycle
una leva a lever
un pomello a non-rotating knob , e.g. on a draw
un catenaccio a bolt, for securing a door, window etc.
un chiavistello a door or window latch
un lucchetto a padlock
una serratura a lock on a door, draw and so on.
una chiave a key
un mazzo di chiavi a bunch of keys
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  1. Alex:

    Hi, this comment is unrelated to the previous series of blogs.

    I was hoping that you could do a lesson further explaining reflexsive verbs. Not subjects pronounds (mi, ti, si…etc) but describe the difference between using formal and informal reflexive verbs (especially in third person(sing and Plural)…. I.e. si senta and or sentarsi.

    I comprehend the concept of these verbs however I get lost in translation sometimes when I read news articles etc. Maybe even explain using these two different with the past and future tense examples please….

    That would be greatly appreciated,


    • serena:

      @Alex Salve Alex! Have you read my old blog on reflexive verbs? Here is a link to it:
      I hope this will answer some of your questions. If not, please feel free to write back to me, and give me some more specific examples of what you would like to know.
      Saluti da Serena

  2. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    This is a very useful approach to learning. Have you done a similar blog on Italian coffee? I’ll bet Italians have many words for the different types of coffee.


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