Una consonante fa la differenza Posted by on Aug 31, 2012 in Italian Language

There are times when a single or a double consonant can make a big difference to a sentence, e.g. Mi passi la pala per piacere? (Can you pass me the shovel please?) instead of Mi passi la palla per piacere? (Can you pass me the ball please?), or Mi piace Luca (I like Luke, a person) instead of Mi piace Lucca (I like Lucca, the town), which can be very confusing when you have a friend called Luca who lives in Lucca: Luca da Lucca! This differentiation between single and double consonants is particularly important in the case of the first person plural (we) of the future tense and present conditional tense, as the former has one ‘m’: verremo alla festa (we will come to the party) and the latter two: verremmo alla festa (we would come to the party). Because the double consonant in Italian is so important, we differentiate the two when speaking by adding a little pause on the double letter.

In many cases however the context of the sentence gives a clear indication of which word we are using, even if the pronunciation is not perfect. Let’s have a look at some examples:

Capello (hair) and cappello (hat):

Hai un capello sulla giacca (you’ve got a hair on your jacket ); oggi Giorgio ha un cappello nuovo (today Giorgio has a new hat)

Casa (house/home) and cassa (box/till):

Luisa ha una bella casa in sasso (Luisa has a beautiful stone house); questa cassa è molto pesante (this box is very heavy)

Caro (dear/expensive) and carro (cart):

Questo cappotto è molto caro (this coat is very expensive); questo carro è molto vecchio (this cart is very old)

Nono (ninth) and nonno (grandfather):

Mario è arrivato nono nella gara di salto in lungo (Mario arrived ninth in the long jump competition); questo è il nonno di Mario (this is Mario’s grandfather)

Note (notes) and notte (night):

Le note musicali sono sette (there are seven musical notes); una bella notte stellata (a beautiful starry night)

Rosa (rose, or the colour pink) and rossa (red)

In giardino abbiamo una bella rosa rosa (In our garden we have a beautiful pink rose), in giardino abbiamo una bella rosa rossa (in our garden we have a beautiful red rose)

Sera (evening) and serra (greenhouse):

Una calda sera d’estate (a warm summer’s evening); una serra piena di piante tropicali (a greenhouse full of tropical plants)

Sete (thirst) and sette (seven):

Ho molta sete (I’m very thirsty; literally: I have a lot of thirst); Dina ha sette galline (Dina has seven chickens)

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  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Sicuramente ci sono altre: Latina/lattina; Dita/ditta; cuccia/cucia etc.

    • Serena:

      @Allan Mahnke Sì, la lista è infinita, ma bisogna fare una scelta, no?

  2. Andrea:

    Molto interessante. Ma io direi più che “una casa in sasso”, “una casa in pietra”.

    • Serena:

      @Andrea Salve Andrea, si può dire sia casa in pietra che casa in sasso. Magari casa in pietra è il più diffuso, ma dalle nostre parti sull’Appennino Tosco Emiliano si usa casa in sasso. Comunque, era soltanto un esempio, ma grazie per la lezione d’italiano 🙂

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