In this lesson we are going to deal with some mistakes that are quite common and annoying among foreign students, but also among Italian native speakers and that could be easily avoided.
7 Common and Annoying Italian Doubts
Let’s get it started, how do you say:
TERRORISTA or TERRORISTICO?
We need to say that terrorista and terroristico are adjectives which refer to those people who spread terror as a mean of political action, however there’s a difference:
terrorista: adjective that means “inspired by terrorist intent”, “dedicated to terrorist acts”, “pervaded by ideologies of terror”, all kind of things that can be said about a terrorist, namely a person.
Examples: “gruppo terrorista” (terrorist group), “donna terrorista” (terrorist woman), “bambino terrorista” (terrorist child)
terroristico: it’s an adjective that refers not only to human being but also to the entire world of terrorism.
Examples: “covo terroristico” (terrorist lair), “atto terroristico” (act of terrorism), “emergenza terroristica” (terrorist emergency), “clima terroristico” (terrorist climate)
Moving forward, how do you say:
IMPARARE or INSEGNARE?
insegnare: means “having people apprehend, sharing knowledge, leading in learning through teaching methods”.
Usually teachers or professors are the ones who teach.
Example: “io insegno Italiano” (I teach Italian)
imparare: means “acquiring knowledge or skills through study or exercise”, therefore the students, or in general any person who something is taught to, are the ones who learn.
WATCH OUT: you CAN’T say: “Ho imparato a mio figlio ad andare in bici!”, but:
“Ho insegnato a mio figlio ad andare in bici” (I taught my kid how to ride a bike) or
“Mio figlio ha imparato ad andare in bici” (My kid learned how to ride a bike).
DISSUADERE or PERSUADERE?
dissuadére (not dissuàdere): means “distracting someone from a purpose; convincing them to not do something”.
Example: “Per fortuna mio fratello mi ha dissuaso dal prendere l’autobus questa mattina! C’era lo sciopero dei mezzi” (Luckily my brother dissuaded me from taking the bus this morning! There was a Tube strike.
persuadere: means “convincing, inducing someone to believe, to do, to say something ”. It’s the opposite of the previous term!
Example: “Avrebbe voluto portare sua moglie in vacanza negli Stati Uniti, ma non riusciva a persuaderla perché lei aveva paura dell’aereo” (He wanted to take his wife on holiday in the USA, but he couldn’t persuade her because she was afraid of taking the plane) .
DESTRO, DESTRIMANO or DESTRORSO?
mancino: person who uses the left hand more usually than the right hand.
Let’s see what the name of a person who uses the right hand is:
the most deep-rooted form in the language consciousness of native speakers seems to be, since nineteenth century is destrorso, even though there are some pen brands that use the term destrimano (or destrimane). Destro, instead, is not very common!
BELGI or BELGHI?
Belga: this term in the singular form indicates both a man and a woman.
Examples: “un ragazzo belga” (a Belgian boy), “una ragazza belga” (a Belgian girl).
Belgi: it’s the plural form that probably comes from the French term Belges, that doesn’t follow the rule of the formation of the plural form of words ending with –ca and –ga (-che and –ghe in the plural form). The feminine form is: Belghe
Example: “Ho parlato con due uomini belgi e mi hanno suggerito di provare le loro patatine fritte” (I spoke to two Belgian men and they suggested that I try their fried potatoes).
AVVOCATA or AVVOCATESSA? / SINDACA or SINDACHESSA?
avvocata: (advocate) it’s not commonly used when referring to a woman who practices the law (except in some ironic cases), but, only in the singular form, it’s used as an attribute for Our Lady or Saint women, with the meaning of protector.
avvocatessa: (attorney) it’s used to indicate, without any particular connotation of linguistic register, bot a woman who practices the law and, playfully, a woman with the gift of the gab, who is resolute in supporting her own and others’ reasons.
As regards the feminine form of “sindaco”:
sindaca: (mayor) it’s the form that is more used than “sindachessa”, because in order to indicate the new social roles in which women are involved nowadays, it’s preferable to use the suffix -a to indicate nouns ending with -o (ministro-ministra), or placing the definite article LA before nouns ending with -e (LA giudice)
PORTAFOGLI or PORTAFOGLIO?
portafogli: (wallet) it’s the original and invariable form, since it’s a compound word (porta + fogli), like: portapenne (pen holder), portaombrelli (umbrella stand), portamonete (nickel bag). However the connection with the function of “portare fogli” was weakened, leaving space for the definition of an object in the singular form that needed a plural form, namely: portafoglio (singular), portafogli ( plural). Thus, if we’re victims of purse-snatching we will say:
Example: “Mi hanno rubato il portafoglio!” (They stole my wallet)
Oh, speaking of theft and purse-snatching, don’t miss the video we made on the vocabulary of Crime and Law in Italian. We are sure it will be very useful and also very interesting!