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Identification: giving personal


In Italian, as in other languages, one of the simplest ways of giving or eliciting information about
yourself or others, is by using the verb essere to be as shown in this simple dialogue:

A Buongiorno, io sono Monica. Sono la nuova assistente di marketing. E voi?

B Io sono Carlo, sono il direttore tecnico. E questo il mio collega, Gerardo. Siamo
colleghi da pi di dieci anni!

C Piacere, Monica.
A Piacere, Gerardo. Di dove sei? C Sono napoletano. E tu?
A Io sono di Milano.

A Good morning. Im Monica. Im the new marketing assistant. What about you?

B Im Carlo. Im the technical director. And this is my colleague Gerardo. Weve been
colleagues for more than ten years!

C Pleased to meet you, Monica.

A Pleased to meet you, Gerardo. Where are you from? C Im from Naples. And you?
A Im from Milan.

Tu or Lei?
There are two ways of addressing someone in Italian: Lei (formal) or tu (informal). Lei should be
used when addressing someone you dont know well, or dont know at all, although young people
meeting each other often use tu straightaway, as in the conversation above. You may at some point
be invited to use the tu form with the words: Diamoci del tu.
When using Lei to address someone, the third person verb form is used (Lei parla inglese?), rather
than the second person verb form (Tu parli inglese?) normally used when addressing someone
directly. In our examples, we have shown both you forms.



Giving different kinds of personal information

The verb essere to be is used in most of the functions illustrated below, to supply the kind of
personal information we exchange, for example, when meeting someone for the first time.
In Italian the verb endings tell us which person is referred to (see Chapter 2). This means it is not
necessary to use the subject pronouns io, tu, lui, etc. to indicate the person, so they are shown in our
examples in brackets:
mio fratello.
He is my brother.
suo marito.
Its her husband.
Sono i suoi figli.
Theyre her children.
Here is a list of close relations, with English translations:
il padre il fratello il cugino
father brother cousin (m.)
la madre la sorella la cugina
mother sister cousin (f.)
My name is Anna. His name is Franco.
Whats his name? His names Marco.
un amico.

Giving ones name

(Io) sono Anna.
(Lui) Franco.
(Loro) sono Monica e Gerardo.
I am Anna.
He is Franco.
Theyre Monica and Gerardo.
The verb essere can be replaced by the verb chiamarsi (2.1.7) to be called:
(Io) mi chiamo Anna. (Lui) si chiama Franco.
Come si chiama? Si chiama Marco.

Indicating relationship to speaker Friends or colleagues

una collega.
She is a (my) colleague.
Note the use of the articles in un mio, i miei:
un mio amico.
Hes a friend of mine/my friend.
Sono i miei colleghi.
They are colleagues of mine/my colleagues.

Family relations
When we talk about family relations, we naturally often use the possessives mio, tuo, etc.With
relations, the definite article il, la, etc. is omitted, unless talking about relatives in the plural
He is a friend.
Giving different kinds of personal information

il marito il figlio
lo zio
il suocero il genero il cognato il nonno il nipote
uncle father-in-law son-in-law brother-in-law grandfather grandson, nephew
la moglie la figlia
la zia
la suocera la nuora la cognata la nonna la nipote
mother-in-law daughter-in-law sister-in-law grandmother granddaughter, niece
Note that the words la famiglia and i parenti do need the definite article:
la mia famiglia
il mio/la mia parente
Avoid confusing the following:
i miei parenti i miei genitori


Indicating profession
my family
my relative (m./f.)
my relatives my parents
In Italian, when talking about ones profession using essere, the indefinite article un, una a, an is
not needed:
(Io) sono insegnante. (Lui) ingegnere. (Loro) sono medici.
I am a teacher. He is an engineer. Theyre doctors.
When, on the other hand, we use the verb fare, the definite article is used:
Faccio linsegnante. Im a teacher.
We have indicated in the following list some of the trades and professions you are
most likely to come into contact with in Italy:
il medico
il/la dentista
il ragioniere
il/la pediatra
il professore/la professoressa il maestro/la maestra
Builders and workmen: il muratore
loperaio lidraulico lelettricista
Shops, trade:
il pescatore
il fruttivendolo il droghiere
teacher (m./f.)
lecturer, secondary school teacher teacher (elementary school)
builder workman plumber electrician
fisherman greengrocer groce

il salumiere
il fotografo
il bagnino/la bagnina
General: limpiegato/a
lo/la statale
il/la giornalista
il commesso/ la commessa
grocer (delicatessen) photographer
beach attendant
office employee state employee journalist
shop assistant

Where a specific individual post is referred to, the definite article il, la (see 1.3.5) is normally used,
but see last example:
Sono il direttore commerciale dellagenzia di viaggio. Im the commercial director of the travel
la nuova insegnante ditaliano. Shes the new Italian teacher.
Sono capo della sezione di Risorse Umane. Im head of Human Resources.

Indicating nationality
Generally, nationality is indicated by using essere with the appropriate adjective (see 1.4) of
(Io) sono scozzese. Mia madre italiana. (Loro) sono francesi.
I am Scottish.
My mother is Italian. Theyre French.
Here is a selection of adjectives denoting the more common nationalities:
africano albanese americano australiano austriaco belga britannico canadese cinese croato
danese finlandese francese gallese giapponese greco indiano inglese iracheno
African irlandese Albanian italiano American kosovaro Australian libanese Austrian libico
Belgian lussemburghese British neozelandese Canadian norvegese Chinese olandese Croatian
portoghese Danish russo
Finnish sloveno French spagnolo Welsh sudafricano Japanese svedese Greek svizzero Indian
tedesco English turco
Iraqui ucraino

Kosovan Lebanese
Libyan Luxembourgeois New Zealander Norwegian Dutch Portuguese Russian Slovenian Spanish
South African Swedish
Swiss German Turkish Ukrainian
Giving different kinds of personal information

However, note that:

(a) In Italian, no capital letter is used for adjectives of nationality: un collega italiano an Italian
(b) The singular form of the adjective belga Belgian is the same for masculine and feminine, but
the plural form has two distinct endings:
degli amici belgi Belgian friends (m.) delle amiche belghe Belgian friends (f.)
(c) Inglese is often used by Italians to denote British.

Indicating marital status

Essere is used with an adjective (see 1.4) to indicate marital status (see also 10.3.2): (Io) sono
I am married.
(Lui) divorziato. Hes divorced.
(Noi) siamo sposati da venti anni. Weve been married for twenty years.
Single is best expressed in spoken Italian as non sposato. In the media, the English single is
often used. In more formal contexts (for example CVs, passports, etc.), the words celibe bachelor,
nubile spinster are often used.
Giorgio non sposato. Giorgio is single/not married.

Indicating religion
Here are some religions you might want to describe in spoken Italian or on a form (see also 10.3.4):
protestante Protestant ebreo Jewish
Religion: Catholic
cattolico Catholic musulmano Muslim
Religione: cattolica
Il mio fidanzato ebreo. Io sono musulmana.
My fianc is Jewish. I am Muslim.
Details of other adjectives, for example those that describe physical appearance (age,
shape, size, etc.), are found in 10.2.

Indicating place of origin

Note that while English uses from, Italian uses di (see 4.3.4) when referring to the city or town of
(Io) sono di Napoli. (Lui) di Firenze. Im from Naples. Hes from Florence.
I miei colleghi sono di Londra. My colleagues are from London.


However, when using the verb venire, to express the place where you come from, not necessarily
where you were born, use da (see 4.3.3) instead:
Vengo da Londra. Vengono dalla Sicilia. I come from London. They come from Sicily.

Emphasising the person referred to Stressed subject pronouns

In Italian, the verb endings change or inflect; this means it is not necessary to use the subject
pronouns io, tu, lui, etc. (see 3.3) to indicate who we are referring to. But the pronouns are
sometimes used to contrast or emphasise the person(s) spoken about:
Io sono inglese. Lui italiano. I am English. He is Italian.
They are also used (particularly when using the polite Lei form of address, see 8.2 above) to make a
question sound less abrupt:
Lei inglese? Lei di Londra?
Are you English? Are you from London?

With questo
We can also add the demonstrative pronoun questo this (see 3.8) in our intro- ductions, although
when introducing someone, it is far preferable to use the subject pronouns:

Eliciting personal information

Essere is also used to elicit information, and 15.3):
Chi lui?
Di dove sei/?
Di dov Franco?
Di dove sono gli studenti?
sometimes with a question word (see 3.6 Who is he?
Who are you?
Where is Franco from? Where are the students from?

Normally the form of the sentence and the word order are exactly the same, whether statement or
question (but see 40.7). To turn a statement into a question, we need only alter the intonation of the
sentence, usually by raising the voice towards the end of the sentence (see 15.2):
Lei sposata?
Tu sei insegnante? un collega?
Are you married? Are you a teacher? Is he a colleague?
Questi sono i miei studenti. Queste sono le mie amiche.
Lui Franco.
Lei una mia collega.
These are my students. These are my friends.
He (This) is Franco.
She is a colleague of mine.


In the following examples, note the use of quale (qual) where English would use the question word
what. Quale can be abbreviated to qual but must never use an apostrophe:
Qual il Suo cognome? Qual il Suo indirizzo?

Un incontro con amici
What is your surname? What is your address?


A Ciao, Mariella!

B Ciao, Gianna. Che sorpresa!

A Questo mio cugino, Aurelio. siciliano.

Aurelio, questa la mia amica, Mariella.

B Ciao, Aurelio. Benvenuto a Pisa. Di dove sei?

C Sono di Catania, ma mia madre di Pisa.

B Ah, anche il mio fidanzato di Catania. Si chiama Carmelo.
ragioniere. I suoi sono di Messina, ma sono a Catania da molto tempo.

Meeting friends

A Hi Mariella!

B Hi, Gianna. What a surprise!

A This is my cousin, Aurelio. Hes Sicilian.

Aurelio, this is my friend Mariella.

B Hi, Aurelio. Welcome to Pisa.Where are you from?

C Im from Catania, but my mother is from Pisa.

B Ah, my boyfriends from Catania too. Hes called Carmelo.Hes an accountant. His
parents are from Messina, but theyve been in Catania for some time.
In the following dialogue several legal/bureaucratic terms are used: residenza resi- dence or
home address, domicilio the place where you are presently living, stato civile married status.
Note too how the polite form Suo (yours) is generally written with a capital letter.

Allufficio di Polizia

A Prego si accomodi. Dobbiamo compilare questo modulo con le Sue generalit. Le

far alcune domande. Il Suo cognome?

B Smith.

A Mi scusi. Come si scrive?

B Esse-emme-i-ti-acca (Savona, Mantova, Imola, Taranto, Hotel).

A E il nome?

B Richard.

A La nazionalit?

B Australiana.

A Residenza?

B 56 Ramsay Street, Sydney, Australia.

A Qual il Suo domicilio in Italia?

B Hotel Miramare, Napoli.

A Numero di telefono?

B 081271638.

A E il Suo stato civile?

B Coniugato.

A Qual il numero del Suo passaporto?

B 0044998245.

A Che professione fa?

B Commerciante.

A Va bene, grazie. Per ora basta. Le telefoneremo non appena avremo notizie della Sua
pratica di permesso di soggiorno.

At the police station


A Please sit down. We have to fill in this form with your particulars. I have to ask you some
questions. Your surname?

B Smith.

A Sorry, how is that written?

B S for sugar, M for mother, I for India, T for Tommy, H for Harry.

A And your name?

B Richard.

A Nationality?

B Australian.

A Home address?

B 56 Ramsay Street, Sydney, Australia.

A What is your address in Italy?

B Hotel Miramare, Naples.

A And the telephone number?

B 081271638.

A And your marital status?

B Married.

A Whats the number of your passport?

B 0044998245.

A What is your profession?

B Businessman /salesman.

A Thats fine, thanks. Thats enough for now. Well call you as soon as we
have some news of your application for a residence permit.

Talking about the present

Situations, actions and events are expressed by the use of verbs (see Chapter 2). Here we look at
how to describe situations, actions and events taking place at the present time (i.e. in the same
period of time when we are speaking or writing). The verb tense most commonly used for this is the
present indicative (see 2.3.3), as shown in our examples. The examples here are mainly in the
affirmative; interrogative and negative statements are covered more fully in Chapters 15 and 16

Describing present situations, actions and events

The present tense is used to describe a situation, action or event that is in effect or taking place at
the present time, although not necessarily at the exact moment when we speak or write. Here are
some examples:

Facts, situations or descriptions

LAvv. Bianchi lavora alla FIAT.
Mr Bianchi the lawyer works at FIAT.
Questo film dura due ore. This film lasts two hours.
Molti Italiani amano il calcio. Many Italians love football.
Mi piace molto passeggiare. I like walking a lot.
Mia madre malata. Ha una malattia cardiaca. My mother is ill. She has a heart disease.
Le autostrade sono invase da turisti stranieri che vengono in vacanza in Italia.
The motorways are invaded by foreign tourists who come on holiday
to Italy.
Il turismo in Calabria poco sviluppato. Tourism in Calabria is not very developed.
Il tempo brutto. The weather is bad.
I gemelli non sono identici. The twins are not identical.

Actions or events Single actions and events

Perch non telefoni allUfficio Vendite? Why dont you phone the Sales Department?
Oggi cucina Walter. Today Walter is cooking.
In Italian, we use the same present tense of the verb to describe actions or events which are
happening at the time we speak or write (The Boat Show is taking place this week, Isabella is
teaching this morning), and those that may not be happening right now, but are a habit or regular
occurrence (The Boat Show takes place every year, Isabella teaches every Tuesday).

Isabella insegna stamattina./Isabella insegna ogni marted. Isabella is teaching this morning./
Isabella teaches every Tuesday.
Linfermiera non viene oggi./Linfermiera non viene il gioved. The nurse isnt coming today./
The nurse doesnt come on Thursdays.
Il Salone Nautico si svolge questa settimana a Genova. The Boat Show is taking place this week
in Genova.
Il Salone Nautico si svolge ogni anno ad aprile. The Boat Show takes place every year in April.

Regular actions
Often, in fact, the only feature that distinguishes habitual actions from single actions is the use of
adverbs or phrases used to convey the notion of habit or regular occur- rence such as:
di solito generalmente normalmente ogni
usually generally normally every every
tutti i, tutte le
Ogni mese, andiamo a trovare i parenti in campagna.
Every month, we go to see our relatives in the country.
Ogni gioved mattina, c il mercato a Postiglione.
Every Thursday morning theres the market at Postiglione.
Tutte le settimane facciamo la spesa al Centro Commerciale Globus. Every week we do the
shopping at the Globus shopping centre.
Normalmente mio marito torna a casa prima di me. Normally my husband comes home before

Words and phrases indicating present time
With days of the week, use of the article il, la also conveys the idea of a regular weekly action:
Il venerd mangiamo il pesce. Every Friday we eat fish.
La domenica mia madre va a messa. On Sundays my mother goes to Mass.

Expressing ongoing actions
If you need to express something more immediate, or an action that is still going on at the present
time and is not yet completed, you can use the progressive form of the present tense. The
progressive present, similar to the English to be doing something, is formed by using the present
tense of the verb stare together with the gerund (see 2.3.25) of the verb expressing the action
(lavorando, leggendo, partendo):

I ragazzi stanno leggendo. The boys are reading.

Il signor Rossi sta partendo. Mr Rossi is just leaving.
Stiamo lavorando.
We are working.
Note that stare and the gerund cannot be used to translate the English to be doing construction
when it refers to the future, even if its the very near future. For this you use the regular present
indicative or the future:
Il Dott. Cuomo arriva fra mezzora. Dr Cuomo is arriving in half an hour.
Dove andrete domani?
Where are you going tomorrow?

Words and phrases indicating present time

The present time is also indicated by using adverbs or phrases specifying time. (For more complex
time contexts, see 30.4 and Chapter 36). Here are some examples:
ora, adesso now tardi. Ora andiamo a casa.
Its late. Lets go home now.
Scusami, adesso non voglio parlare. Excuse me, I dont wish to talk now.
Ho cambiato ufficio. Adesso lavoro al terzo piano.
I changed my office. Im working on the third floor now.

subito immediatamente right now/immediately Vieni subito qua!

Come here right now!
Attenda un attimo, per favore. Le passo immediatamente il direttore. Hold on a second, please.
Ill put you through to the manager immediately.
oggi today Oggi mi sento felice!
I feel happy today!
Oggi sabato. Today is Saturday.
ancora still ancora presto per partire.
Its still early to be leaving.
Ho ancora fame! I am still hungry!

Questanno le vendite vanno bene.
This year the sales are going well.
Questa settimana lavoro fino a tardi. This week Im working till late.
Questo pomeriggio fa freddo. Its cold this afternoon.
Note the shortened forms stamattina this morning, stanotte this/last night, stasera this
Stasera Monica nervosa. Tonight Monica is edgy.
Stanotte non sono riuscita a dormire. I couldnt sleep last night.

In this dialogue the different forms of the present are highlighted.

Incontro di lavoro
Mario Adinolfi impiegato alla Camera di Commercio di Bari, ma in questi giorni sta
lavorando a Roma per organizzare la partecipazione di alcune industrie romane alla Fiera del
Levante di Bari. La Ditta Cosmetici 2000 Spa vuole presentare alla Fiera un nuovo prodotto
per la cura dei capelli e il Sig. Luca Violli, direttore delle vendite, incontra il Sig. Adinolfi per
chiedere informazioni sui servizi della Fiera. Ecco un brano della loro conversazione:

Violli Quanto costa laffitto di un ufficio per il periodo della Fiera? Adinolfi Questanno
abbiamo uffici attrezzati con servizi di segreteria,
che costano 1.500 per 5 giorni. Violli Quando posso visitare gli uffici?
Adinolfi Gli uffici si possono visitare dopo il 10 settembre. Ora stiamo ancora completando i
lavori, ma Lei pu fare una prenotazione adesso. Deve solo riempire questo modulo.
Violli Va bene. Chi deve firmare il modulo?
Adinolfi Pu firmare Lei, o un altro responsabile della Ditta, come
preferisce. Business meeting
Mario Adinolfi is an employee at the Chamber of Commerce in Bari, but
at present he is working in Rome making arrangements for several Roman companies in the Fiera
del Levante Trade Fair in Bari. The company Cosmetics 2000 Ltd wants to present its new hair
care product and Mr Luca Violli, director of sales, meets Mr Adinolfi to ask for information on the
services offered by the Fair. Here is a snatch of their conversation.
Violli How much does it cost to rent an office for the duration of the Fair?
Adinolfi This year we have ready-equipped offices with secretarial services, which cost 1,500 euros
for 5 days.

Violli When can I visit the offices?

Adinolfi After the 10th September. We are just finishing the work, but you
can book now. You only need to fill in this form.
Violli All right. Who needs to sign the form?
Adinolfi You can sign it, or else some other representative of the company,
as you prefer.