Mind where you put your adjectives! Posted by Serena on Sep 19, 2009 in Grammar
At the end of my previous blog dealing with adjectives and their positions I said: “Finally, there are some cases in which adjectives change meaning according to their position, but I will save that for a rainy day!” Well il giorno piovoso (the rainy day) has finally arrived after almost two months of siccità (dryness), so here is that blog! The following examples illustrate how the position of the adjective can change the meaning expressed by the sentence.
The adjectives grande (big), buono/a (good), and povero/a (poor) have a literal meaning when they follow the noun:
È una donna grande – She is a big woman
È un uomo buono – He is a good man
È una donna povera – She is a poor woman (i.e. without money)
However when these same adjectives precede the noun they take on a more metaphoric meaning:
È una gran donna – She is a great woman (N.B. we drop the ‘-de’ from grande for pronunciation reasons)
È un buon uomo – He is a naive man
È una povera donna – She is an unfortunate woman
Here are a few more adjectives that change meaning according to their position:
Certe notizie – some particular pieces of news / notizie certe – definite news
Diversi vestiti – several clothes / vestiti diversi – different clothes
Numerose famiglie – many families / famiglie numerose – big families
È una semplice operazione – it’s just an operation / è un’operazione semplice – it’s an easy operation
Un’unica foto – a single photo / una foto unica – a unique photo
Una vecchia amica – an old friend / un’amica vecchia – an elderly friend
Now have a go at translating the following sentence, paying close attention to the position of the adjectives in italics:
Ieri ho visto un’amica vecchia, che è andata dal dottore per fare un semplice controllo. Finora, quella povera donna non ha ottenuto risultati certi, ma il dottore pensa che si tratti di un caso unico.
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