Italian Language Blog

Beat It! Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

In Italian, you’ll often encounter groups of words deriving from the same root which have subtly different meanings. Battere, sbattere and abbattere are one such group.

With three words all based on the root battere (to beat), it can be difficult to know which to apply in a particular situation. Let’s take a look at each of them more closely to see how they differ.

1. Battere

Battere is equivalent to the English verb to beat or hit, and is used in many of the same ways.

a. Battere qualcosa o qualcuno = to beat something or someone:
Luisa ha battuto il tappeto per toglierci la polvere = Luisa beat the carpet to get the dust out of it.
Basta, non deve mai battere i cani così! = Stop it, you should never beat a dog like that!
Il bimbo batteva le mani con gioa = The child clapped his hands with joy (lit: beat his hands)

b. Vincere, sconfiggere qualcosa o qualcuno = to win something, defeat someone
Paolo ha battuto Giorgio a briscola = Paolo beat Giorgio at briscola (a popular card game)
Sono sicuro che ti posso battere a tennis! = I’m sure I can beat you at tennis!

c. Battere una parte del corpo contro qualcosa = Hit a part of ones body against something
Aio, ho battuto il gomito contro il muro! = Ouch, I hit my elbow against the wall!

d. Perlustrare un luogo = to search/comb an area
La polizia ha battuto la zona = The police combed the area

I Bari (The Cardsharps), di Caravaggio. Public Domain.

2. Sbattere

Sbattere is an intensive version of battere which also gives a sense of repetition.

Bisogna sbattere le uova per al meno cinque minuti = The eggs need to be whisked for at least five minutes
E non sbattere la porta quando te ne vai! = And don’t slam the door when you leave!
Il ladro ha sbattuto la guardia contro il muro = The robber slammed the guard against the wall
Il piccolo uccello sbatteva le ali, si levò in aria e prese a volare = The little bird flapped its wings, took to the air and began to fly

Sbattere also has a number of figurative meanings:
Mi ha sbattuto la porta in faccia = He refused to help me (lit: he slammed the door in my face)
Non so dove sbattere la testa! = I don’t know what to do! (used in desperate circumstances)
Lo hanno sbattuto fuori dal gruppo = They threw him out of the group

3. Abbattere

Abbattere is used when we talk about knocking, pulling or cutting something down.

Il vento fortissimo ha abbattuto diversi alberi = The very strong wind felled several trees
L’edificio era troppo pericolante, l’abbiamo dovuto abbattere = The building was too unsafe, we had to knock it down
Luca ha avuto una malattia che lo ha molto abbattuto = Luca’s had an illness that has really weakened him (pulled him down)

A Presto!

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  1. Gianna Shaw:

    Grazie grazie 😊
    Questo blog mi è davvero piaciuto. Molto utile a fare imparare ai miei studenti….ed anch’io!!

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