May 18


FCI 004 – Italian Verb Confusion With Cher Hale

By Rick

May 18, 2015

Italian verb confusion with cher haleCher Hale is best described as a relationship counselor between Italophiles and the Italian language. Once they’ve fallen in love with the language and the honeymoon period ends, she helps them stay committed until they’re conversational.

Her website is full of great tips and useful resources for anybody learning the language. She really covers it all, and includes a good measure of travel and culture, as well. (Of course there are links at the bottom of this post to some of her resources and social media profiles.)

In fact, she also has a podcast, which was one of my inspirations for starting my own show. I was fortunate enough to be a guest on her podcast last year, so naturally I wanted to have her on mine as soon as possible.

Italian Verb Confusion

eating gelato in italyWhen I contacted her for this episode, I had made a specific request to pick one particularly tricky aspect of learning Italian as a native English speaker. Her suggestion was perfect: Italian verb confusion.

You’ll realize better what we’re talking about when you listen to the episode. But the basic premise is that there are common situations when the verbs don’t translate perfectly. For example, in English we say, “I TAKE a shower,” whereas in Italian it’s “Faccio la doccia,” or “I MAKE a shower.”

Another interesting example relates to job/career, and it also suggests  an important cultural difference. In my case, years ago I used to say, “I AM a dentist,” whereas an Italian would say, “Faccio il dentista,” or “I MAKE the dentist” (a better translation would be, “I do dentistry”).

One interpretation of this difference is that in the U.S. we very much identify with our careers; which is to say, we ARE our jobs. Whereas in Italy your job is not who you are, but merely what you DO for money.

Cher started “Italian with Cher” (formerly The Iceberg Project) in 2012 driven by a completely irrational passion for the Italian language and culture. She believes that every home needs a constant supply of pecorino cheese and wine, and at the end of her life, wants to be known for spreading smiles like wildfire.

And don’t be intimidated, it’s one of the best Italian podcasts for beginners. So jump right in! How about starting with this one?

Random(?) Episode: Sexy Phrases to Seduce Your Italian Lover

Click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.

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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Hi Rick, I had missed this episode! Really enjoyable and interesting also to an Italian learning English. I especially liked the considerations on the different mindsets that the two different forms entail (e.g. “I fear something” vs. “I have fear of something”) – really wonderful insights, Cher!

    Reading the previous comments, I can help clear out something (since I am a native Italian speaker). “Non c’e` niente sul tavolo” is in fact a double negative, but the Italian logic is different. If you said: “There is nothing on the table”, an Italian would see that as a paradox: how can “nothing” be anywhere?

    I also have another consideration the verb “fare”, which may explain a bit better why the Italians use it so much. “Fare” means both “TO MAKE” and “TO DO” something. So, I think that a literal translation of “faccio la doccia” (I take a shower) would be “I do a shower” – we’re not making something, we are *doing* it. On the other hand when I say “faccio la pizza”, I mean “I make pizza” 🙂


    • Thanks, Paolo! I always appreciate your insights. Regarding “making” a shower and other such translations, I think the reason that we assume this usage is because it’s how we hear Italians (incorrectly) translating it to English. Besides, it sounds kind of funny–in a good way. I think this is why we prefer it, really. 🙂

  • Rick, Why isn’t, “Non c’e’ niente sul tavolo” a double negative? If there is nothing on the table, why don’t we say, “C’e’ niente sul tavolo”?

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