Italian Language Blog

STOP! Posted by on Mar 19, 2009 in Italian Language

Such a seemingly simple word, ‘stop’. In English it is used in many different situations: Stop the bus, stop eating too much chocolate, stop the cat from climbing on the bed. In Italian, as usual, why bother using one word when twenty will do? Yes, we have various ways of saying stop, and in this post I’ll try to help you understand which one to use depending on the situation.

Stop 1. Fermare.

Fermare is used when we talk about movement, hence it implies someone or something stopping an object or person moving. Some examples: Michele, ferma la macchina davanti alla farmacia (Michele, stop the car in front of the pharmacy), or hanno fermato il ladro che aveva rapinato la banca (they’ve stopped the thief who robbed the bank).

Fermarsi is the reflexive form and means to stop oneself/itself from moving. e.g.: si e’ fermato l’orologio (the clock has stopped) or mi sono fermato al bar a prendere un caffe’ (I stopped at the bar for a coffee).

Fermata is the noun that comes from the verb fermare and is used to describe the bus or tram stop: dov’e’ la fermata dell’autobus ? (where is the bus stop?)

Stop 2. Impedire.

Impedire is related to the Latin pedis (foot) and literally means to mettere ceppi ai piedi (put shackles on the feet, as may be done to prisoners for example). It is also the root of the English word ‘impede’. Impedire implies to stop or prevent something from happening, or to stop somebody/something from doing something. For example: La tempesta ci ha impedito di partire (the storm stopped us from leaving), c’era un muro alto che ci impediva di entrare (there was a high wall that stopped us from entering), and voglio impedire ai cani di entrare nell’orto (I want to stop the dogs getting into the vegetable garden). N.B. the grammatical form: Impedire a qualcuno/cosa di fare qualcosa.

Stop 3. Smettere.

Smettere means to stop or give up doing something. Some examples: Smettila! (Stop it!), ha smesso di piovere (it’s stopped raining), and Maurizio vuole smettere di fumare (Maurizio wants to give up smoking). N.B. Smettere di fare qualcosa.

Stop 4. Sostare.

Sostare implies a temporary stop, e.g.: Durante il viaggio abbiamo fatto una sosta all’area di servizio (During the journey we stopped at the service area), we could also say abbiamo sostato all’ area di servizio (we stopped at the service area), another common example which you will often see on signs in front of entrances is Divieto di sosta! (No stopping!).

and finally, Stop 5. Stop!

Yes the easiest of the lot. You will see this written in big white letters on the road at junctions, but we do also use it in spoken language, especially in news headlines: Il comune impone lo stop alla nuova autostrada (The council puts a stop to the new motorway).

E’ ora di smettere di scrivere (It’s time to stop writing).

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  1. Ken:

    Interessante e molto informativo – – millegrazie

  2. Katherine:

    What a great feature! I never noticed it before. Thanks for making my learning
    Italian such an adventure.

  3. Lea:

    And there’s “Basta!” meaning, “stop!” or “that’s enough!” Certainly not “stop” in the exact sense, but I sure have heard it a lot on the streets…

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