Friday, 26 November 2010

Titles in politics

If you have a look at the Italian press or listen to the news, you’ll notice that politicians and other personalities are all referred to by their surname or by name and surname: no title such as signor or signora is added. If a politician is a minister, you may notice the word Ministro, in front of a surname, or the word Onorevole for a member of the Camera (the chamber of deputees). Senatore is reserved to members of Senato:

Il ministro Germini
L’onorevole Biondi
Il senatore Andreotti

The prime minister is usually referred to as "il premier” + their surname, for instance: il premier Berlusconi

The president of the republic is commonly referred to "Presidente della Repubblica" or “Presidente + surname”. Occasionally he is simply addressed by surname (particularly after he has already been called “Presidente” at least once the beginning of the report). His wife is normally addressed to as "signora" + "christian name:

Il presidente Napolitano ha visitato il luogo del terremoto. Napolitano ha poi incontrato i familiari delle vittime.
President Napolitano visited the earthwake site. He then met the victims’ relatives.

Il presidente Ciampi e sua moglie, la signora Franca
President Ciampi and his wife, Mrs Franca

Thursday, 11 November 2010


generates many mistakes in Italian. In particular when students put this preposition in front of towns and cities and say for instance in Roma instead of a Roma, in Parigi, instead of a Parigi.

Another mistake is due to the fact that we use in English to project ourselves in the future– I’ll phone you IN ten minutes – , we’ll come back IN a week – When this happens, the Italian translation of in is tra or fra. These two words can be used interchangeably but in this case they don’t mean at all “between”: ti telefono tra dieci minuti means that at the end of the ten minutes’ period (more or less), I will ring you.

Notice that “within” is translated as “entro”:

The milk has to be drunk within a week:
Il latte deve essere bevuto entro una settimana

There are of course many other cases in which in can be left as it is. For instance, if what you need to say is along these lines, than you do need a literal translation:

In less than 10 years the price of housing as gone up by 30%

In meno di 10 anni il prezzo delle case è aumentato del 30 %.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

On the subject of subjects

The most common subject pronouns in Italian are: io, tu, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro. These are the pronouns you are most likely to need. There are a few more that you still occasionally might come across. I say occasionally as they are relegated to formal and written style. The most important are egli (he) and esso / essa (it), essi / esse (them).

You might come across egli in a religious or ancient text - but if you were to use it nowadays you would sound extremely pedantic and unnatural: a relict from ancient history! Esso and its variants are a bit more resistant to natural extinction, but tend to be confined to bureaucratic and formal registers. Therefore, a sentence such as the one below is utterly and completely wrong (it’s an extract from an email one of my students sent me – a self-confessed user of machine translation!):

Sono stato in Italia in vacanza. Esso è stato meraviglioso (sbagliato!)
Sono stato in Italia in vacanza. È stato meraviglioso
I have been on holiday in Italy. It was wonderful

Some examples of correct use of esso:

Ecco la lettera e il documento ad essa allegato

Here is the letter and the document attached to it

La biblioteca contiene oltre 10 000 volumi. Molti di essi sono stati restaurati

The library has over 10,000 books. Many of them have been repaired

Qui c’era l’antica città. Su di essa è stata costruita la città nuova

Here there was the old town. On it was built the new one

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Proiezione di Pranzo di Ferragosto

At the University of Surrey on Monday 6th December at 6.45 pm in 03MS01 there will be the screening of the Italian film "Pranzo di Ferragosto". Details as follows:

Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch) - 2008

Runtime 75 minutes
Genre: Comedy / Drama

An impoverished man agrees to take care of three elderly women for two days in August as a favour to his landlord.
A rare example of sophisticated Italian comedy with excellent acting. Winner of the Future Golden Lion in Venice and Satyajit Ray Award at the London Film Festival in 2008

Seats allocated on a first come, first served basis. There will be a presentation before the screening and a discussion afterwards