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Why Can’t The Italians Speak ‘Proper’ Italian Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Italian Language

… just like I learnt in my grammar book?

I know that I mention this topic frequently but I’m very aware that the difference between ‘exercise’ book Italian and colloquial Italian is a major source of frustration for students. A reader recently asked me to write more posts highlighting some of the frequently used expressions that you rarely find in grammar books. Today I’ve chosen three such expressions. Let’s see how they’re used in everyday speech:

1. It could be

Grammar books will probably give you potrebbe essere or forse, but a very common way of saying ‘it could be’, ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, etc. is può darsi:

“Pensi che domani farà bello?” – “Boh, può darsi” = “Do you think the weather will be nice tomorrow?” – “well, maybe”

può darsi che ci siano rimaste due uova in frigo = there could be two eggs left in the fridge

We also say può anche darsi, meaning ‘it may well be’, ‘it could also be’:

può anche darsi che il pacco non sia mai arrivato = it could also be that the parcel never arrived

2. I’ll take a look

Instead of using the grammatically correct guardare (to look), we tend to use the expression dare un’occhiata (literally: to give a glance):

potresti dare un’occhiata al mio orologio che non funziona più? = could you take a look at my watch because it’s not working any more?

devo dare un’occhiata a quella lettera dalla banca = I have to take a look at that letter from the bank

Here are two examples in which the indirect object is substituted by the pronoun ci:

“Potresti dare un’occhiata al mio orologio che non funziona più?” “Sì, ci do un’occhiata sto pomeriggio” = “could you take a look at my watch because it’s not working any more?” – “yes, I’ll take a look at it this afternoon”

“Hai visto quella lettera dalla banca?” “Sì, adesso ci do un’occhiata” =  “Have you seen that letter from the bank?” – “Yes, I’ll take a look at it now”

watch
potresti dare un’occhiata al mio orologio che non funziona più? Photo (CC) by col_adamson

Here are a couple of examples of the conjugations for this construction:

Presente = Present tense:
io ci do un’occhiata = I take a look at it 
tu ci dai un’occhiata = you (singular) take a look at it 
lui/lei ci dà un’occhiata = he/she takes a look at it  
noi ci diamo un’occhiata = we take a look at it 
voi ci date un’occhiata = you (plural) take a look at it 
loro ci danno un’occhiata = they take a look at it

Passato Prossimo = Present Perfect:
io ci ho dato un’occhiata = I took a look at it
tu ci hai dato un’occhiata =  you (singular) took a look at it
lui/lei ci ha dato un’occhiata = he/she took a look at it
noi ci abbiamo dato un’occhiata = we took a look at it
voi ci avete dato un’occhiata = you (plural) took a look at it
loro ci hanno dato un’occhiata = they took a look at it

3. I’ll show you

Grammatically, you’d expect to use mostrare when talking about showing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the most frequently used expression is far vedere qualcosa a qualcuno (N.B. we drop the final –e in fare). Here’re some examples using this expression:

devo andare dal dottore a fargli vedere gli esami del sangue = I’ve got to go to the doctor and show him the results of my blood test

Claudio mi ha fatto vedere delle bellissime foto dell’Umbria = Claudio showed me some beautiful photos of Umbria

fammi vedere cos’hai in mano = show me what you’ve got in your hand

“Ho trovato cinquanta euro!” – “Non ci credo, fammeli vedere!” = “I’ve found fifty euros” – “I don’t believe it, show me (them)”

e adesso vi faccio vedere la nostra micina = and now I’ll show you our little kitten

se vieni con noi ti facciamo vedere un bellissimo posto sulla costa ligure = if you come with us I’ll show you a beautiful place on the Liguria coast

Lig 5
se vieni con noi ti facciamo vedere un bellissimo posto sulla costa ligure. Photo: La Chiesa di San Giorgio, Tellaro by Geoff Chamberlain©

N.B. because we say ‘show something to someone’ it is important to use the correct indirect object. For the use of indirect objects you may find THIS BLOG useful. Here are some examples:

far vedere a Giorgio or fargli vedere = show (to) Giorgio, show him

far vedere a noi or farci vedere = show (to) us, show us

far vedere a voi or farvi vedere = show (to) you (plural), show you (plural)

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