Italian Language Blog

Esprimiti! part 1. Posted by on Jul 12, 2009 in Grammar, Italian Language

Learning another language always has its ups and downs, and it’s quite normal to pass through phases in which you feel that you’re making progress, followed by times where you feel that you’re not getting anywhere. This partly depends on the level of interaction that you have with native speakers of the language that you are learning. For example, someone who is just beginning to learn Italian will probably feel a real sense of ‘Wow, I’m speaking Italian!’ they may think to themselves, and then one of the ‘natives’ in the bar, or on the bus starts chatting to them in Italian and they realize that non capiscono un cavolo di niente! (they don’t understand a single ‘cabbage’ thing!). Oh well, back to the drawing board, as they say.

At a certain point in your learning you will probably feel that, although you can communicate on a basic level by asking questions and saying a bit about yourself etc., you are not really able to esprimerti (express yourself), and this can be the source of a lot of frustration. When I say ‘express yourself’, what I’m talking about is the ability to communicate your likes and dislikes, passions and preferences, beyond simply saying mi piace or non mi piace. I will assume that you have a working knowledge of the use of piacere, if not you should read my article A different point of view as I don’t intend to cover it here.

Let’s begin with preferire = to prefer: this is fairly straightforward as it works pretty much in the same way as its English counterpart, e.g.:

Io preferisco quel quadro li’ a sinistra, tu quale preferisci? (I prefer that painting on the left, what about you, which one do you prefer?)

Il crème caramel e’ il mio dolce preferito (Crème caramel is my preferred dessert). N.B. you could also use favorito/a, just remember to change the ending in either case according to the gender of the subject, i.e. il mio dolce preferito / favorito (my favorite dessert), la mia macchina preferita / favorita (my favorite car)

If you are ‘keen on’, or are ‘an enthusiast’ about something you can use the expression ‘essere entusiasta per’. The important thing to remember here is that the ending only changes in the plural, not the singular, i.e. entusiasta  = masc. or fem. singular, entusiasti = masc. plural, entusiaste = fem. plural. Let’s see some examples:

Giovanni e’ entusiasta per le moto (Giovanni is keen on motorbikes)

Loro sono entusiasti per il giardinaggio (they are gardening enthusiasts)

You can also use ‘essere entusiata di’ to mean ‘very pleased’, or ‘delighted’ about something, for example:

Sono entusiasta della mia nuova macchina fotografica (I’m really pleased/delighted with my new camera)

Siamo entusiasti della nostra nuova casa (we are delighted with our new house)

Alternately you can use ‘essere contento/a/i/e’, e.g.

Sono molto contenta di vederti (I’m really pleased to see you)

Giorgio e’ contento che ha smesso di piovere (Georgio is pleased that it has stopped raining)

If your feelings about something are a little bit stronger, then you can use ‘essere appassionato/a/i/e di’ which means to be a ‘lover’ or a ‘fan’ of something. In this case the ending changes in both the singular and plural forms for masculine and feminine. Here are some examples:

Luigi e’ appassionato di musica classica (Luigi is a classical music lover)

Fernada e’ appassionata della musica di Corelli (Fernanda is a fan of Corelli’s music)

Loro sono tutti e due appassionati del calcio (they are both football fans)

Another common expression in the same vein is ‘andare matto per’ (to be mad about), e.g.

Lino va matto per i funghi (Lino is mad about funghi)

Maria Pia va matta per l’equitazione (Maria Pia is mad about horse riding) 

The final expression for part one of this article is ‘essere affezionato/a/i/e a’ meaning ‘to be fond of’, ‘to feel affection for’, or ‘to have an attachment to’ an object, or animal etc.. Here are a couple of examples:

Sono molto affezionata al mio gatto (I’m very fond of my cat)

Marco e’ molto affezionato alla sua vecchia Cinquecento (Marco is very attached to his old Cinquecento)

Alla prossima (until next time)

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  1. nastaran:

    hey, it wez really useful.
    I really needed such frases to express my self,thank you!!!

  2. Bill Rohwer:

    Grazie Serena,

    utilissimo, particolarmente the stuff about ‘entusiasta.’


  3. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    I have only a limited use of Italian but the sentence “Siamo entusiasti della nostra nuova casa” did not sound right to me. I read it again and then I saw ‘nuova casa’. That’s how we say it in English. Do Italians now put adjectives in front of nouns with there being no change in meaning? Is there a rule for when you put an adjective in front of a noun or after a noun?

    Also what I find hard when speaking to native Italians is that they use all the verb tenses. I know, at best, past, present, and future and that’s where it ends. In addition, some Italian words have several very different meanings and I may know only the most common meaning. So I can easily get confused trying to figure out what something I think I know means. Things are a lot easier in a classroom.


  4. Serena:

    Salve Vince,

    ‘Nuova casa’ is perfectly normal, the word order really depends on the emphasis, I will attempt to clarify this in a future blog, va bene? I know it is frustrating trying to learn ‘THE RULES’ and then finding out that they get broken all the time, just when you think that everything is back to front in Italian you suddenly discover that words can actually go in the same order as in English.
    I do appreciate your frustration about the difference between the artificial environment of Italian language classes, and the real living world of everyday spoken Italian, and I know from experience that a lot of people feel the same way. Yes of course, we use many different tenses and moods when we speak, without even thinking about it, whereas language classes often, mistakenly in my view, restrict students to using the most basic present, past and future tenses. I would strongly suggest that you try and put yourself in touch with native speakers of Italian in order to try and absorb the language, and furthermore, try to get hold of some Italian reading material that is not too complicated, but interesting enough to hold your attention. When you read, try and absorb the general sense of the text, underlining words or phrases that you don’t understand and looking them up in your dictinary or grammar book at the end of the page or paragraph, otherwise you will get fed up very quickly.
    Finally, remember, not even a native speaker will understand everything they read or hear, it’s just that normally we skip the bits that don’t mean anything to us, or guess using contextual clues. Translating everything word by word is a bit artificial.

    Auguri, Serena

  5. Benny the Irish polyglot:

    Hey, you have an excellent blog!! 🙂 I linked to it on mine, so others can get a good idea of an excellent blog for learning the language – I just made a video post about how to start learning Italian.
    Best of luck in the Top 100 Language blogs this year!!

  6. Serena:

    Salve Benny,

    Grazie per i complimenti e il ‘link’. Ho dato un’occhiata al tuo website e mi sembra molto interessante, complimenti.


  7. cinzia:

    Ciao Serena! No where do you say that “essere entusiasta” could mean “to be enthusiastic”. It does also mean this, doesn’t it? Or is it another false friend? 🙂

  8. John:

    It looks like you’ve got a great blog, but could you use the proper accents, please? Sarebbe fantastico.

  9. Serena:

    Ciao Cinzia,

    Yes you are right, ‘essere entusiasta’ also means ‘to be enthusiastic’, I suppose I thought it was obvious from the previous example ‘essere entusiasta di’ = ‘to be an enthusiast’, and then the examples I gave seemed to translate much better with ‘really keen’ or ‘delighted’, but your caution is of course prudent after all the ‘false friends that we have discussed. I’ll be looking at another couple of them in my next article in this series.


  10. Serena:

    Salve John,

    Thanks for the compliment. I would love to use the correct foreign accents, but unfortunately this is a limitation of the blogging software that I have to use, my only option at the moment is to compromise by using the apostrophe.


  11. John:

    Hi, Serena.
    If you are able to install programs, maybe you could take a look at a keyboard layout I made (see the first one at You can switch to that layout with CTRL+SHIFT or ALT+SHIFT (I forget which one, I only use one) and type an accented character by pressing the apostrophe/grave and then the letter.

  12. Natasha_TLadmin:

    Serena, I just sent you e-mail about special characters issue.

  13. Serena:

    Grazie Natasha, ci provero’!


  14. Serena:

    Salve John,

    Admin have already responded, they are very supportive around here, and they tell me that there is a way of inserting special characters into wordpress, which is the program used by, although it’s a bit laborious for me because of a very slow internet connection. For that reason I write my blogs in Windows Live Writer and copy and paste into wordpress, which is the method that I have found to give the least problems on good old ‘dial-up’. Live Writer doesn’t do foreign accents however, would your software function with Live Writer, and if not what method do you use for your blogs?

    Grazie per il tuo aiuto, Serena

  15. John:

    Salve, Serena.
    Keyboard layouts work system-wide. (The one I gave the link to is for Windows computers—let me know if you have another OS.) Acute accents you get with the right ALT+the letter (RightAlt+a = á). Grave accents you get by pressing RightAlt+` and then the letter (RightAlt+`, a = à). This produces the special character right away, without the need for software particular to a given program.

    Let me know how it works!

  16. Serena:

    Grazie di nuovo John, I’ve downloaded the keyboard layouts, I’ll give them a try later and see how it goes.


  17. Serena:

    Salve John,

    Grazie mille, as you will see in my latest blog your keyboard layout really works!

    A presto, Serena

  18. John:

    Di niente!

  19. Melissa:

    Sono molto entusiasta per questo blog!!

    Ho una richiesta. Ho cercato un indirizzo per chiederti “back channel”, ma non l’ho trovato, dunque ti scrivo la mia domanda qui e spero che tu possa chiarificare questo punto di grammatica in uno dei tuoi post futuri.

    Non conosco molto bene il pronome relative “il quale”. Per esempio quando di usare “quale (“il quale”, “la quale”) o quando di usare “cui” (“in cui”, “per cui”)

    La citta’ in cui viviamo e’ piccola o
    La citta’, la quale, viviamo e’ piccola. ???

    Per qualsiasi ragione, questo punto di grammatica mi da un po’ di fastidio! Grazie in anticipo per l’aiuto!

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