This article will discuss the CONCORDANZA A SENSO. Don’t let yourself be frightened by its name! It’s actually easier than it looks, and we will guide you through it one step at a time. If you have already heard about it, you probably have doubts that nobody ever managed to clear up. Right? In that case, if you’re interested in learning what it’s all about and you’re looking for a clear and thorough explanation of the concordanza a senso…
Concordanza a senso: 3 types
First of all, what do we mean with “concordanza“?
The concordanza (agreement or concord, in English) is the correspondence of the elements of a sentence (articles, adjectives, nouns, verbs) with gender, number and person.
That is, changing the last letter of a word, making it masculine or femenine, singular or plural.
Caterina è una ragazza simpatica —> è = third-person singular, as it matches with the subject (Caterina, lei) + una ragazza simpatica, matching with Caterina, which is feminine and singular.
This is the “traditional” concordanza, which is probably the one that all of you are now studying and learning how to use. It is known as “concordanza grammaticale“, since it follows grammatical rules.
However, the real topic of this article is another type of concordanza: the “concordanza a senso“. In this case, more importance is given to the elements that determine the meaning of the sentence, as opposed to highlighting its grammar structure. Said in simpler terms, the concordanza a senso appears to be more flexible than the grammatical one.
But what is it, exactly? Let’s find out together!
First of all, you should know that there are 2 main types of concordanza a senso.
Type 1 occurs when there is a complemento partitivo (that is, a complement introduced by DI, which specifies the group that includes the noun to which it refers) introducing a relative clause.
Structures like: “one of … (a group) that” –> “uno di … (un gruppo) che”.
Here’s an example:
Laura è una di quelle persone che sa / sanno sempre come comportarsi
So, which one is the correct alternative? What do we use after the relative pronoun CHE? Do we use the singular verb (sa, which matches with “Laura, una”) or the plural verb (sanno, which matches with “persone”)?
What do you think?
Well, according to the concordanza grammaticale and the grammar rules, the verb must match with the partitivo, meaning whatever follows the “di” (“persone”, in this case):
Laura è una di quelle persone che sanno sempre come comportarsi (concordanza grammaticale)
However, according to the concordanza a senso, the verb must match with the main noun, the logical subject that truly expresses the actual meaning of the sentence (Laura, in this case):
Laura è una di quelle persone che sa sempre come comportarsi (concordanza a senso)
So, which one is correct?
The concordanza grammaticale is always correct: following grammar rules, the relative clause is introduced by the complemento partitivo (di quelle persone = plural noun –> plural verb).
However, the concordanza a senso is very common in spoken language and conversations, since we are actually talking about Laura, on a logical level. You are very likely to hear it or read it pretty often, mainly because it’s not considered to be a real mistake. But you must remember to avoid it in formal situations, in order to avoid ambiguity.
Our advice is to always use the concordanza grammaticale. Regardless, it’s important to discuss the topic, in order for you to be able to recognize the concordanza a senso when you hear it and to perfectly understand how it’s used.
Type 2 occurs when there’s a collective subject (a singular noun that indicates a group of elements) introducing a complemento partitivo (introduced by DI): la maggior parte di, la maggioranza di, un centinaio di, una decina di, il … % di and so on.
Here’s an example:
La maggioranza dei ragazzi va / vanno all’università
Which one is the correct form here?
The grammatically correct form is the one containing the singular verb, because according to grammar the verb must match with the subject of the sentence (la maggioranza, in this case):
La maggioranza dei ragazzi va all’università (concordanza grammaticale)
On the other hand, according to the concordanza a senso, the verb matches with the most important element of the sentence, that being the noun that represents the element of interest (ragazzi, in this case):
La maggioranza dei ragazzi vanno all’università (concordanza a senso)
Also in this case, the grammatical solution is recommended. Nevertheless, the concordanza a senso is widespread and very commonly used. Moreover, the use of type 2 concordanza a senso is widely employed in journalism.
As always, in the Italian language, exceptions exist! The concordanza a senso is mandatory in 2 cases: with un po’ di and un paio di.
Sono arrivati un po’ di amici (NOT:
È arrivato un po’ di amici)
Un paio di persone hanno accettato la richiesta (NOT:
Un paio di persone ha accettato la richiesta)
Remember, these are the only 2 exceptions.
Furthermore, you must know that: when there’s just a collective subject, using a plural verb is a mistake. That is to say that, if the subject of the sentence is “la gente, il gruppo, la classe, il branco…”, the verb must always be singular! In this case the regular use of concordanza a senso doesn’t count.
La gente dicono di tutto (It’s a mistake!)
The concordanza a senso is not a new thing! Even Dante used it in his works! But in Dante’s case, we’re talking about type 3 concordanza a senso, which is rarely employed today, without considering some regional dialects:
According to type 3 concordanza a senso, if the subject is plural and it comes after the verb, there is no matching between the two.
Con questo sole ci vorrebbe gli occhiali da sole (remember that it’s colloquial, regional)
“sì de la scheggia rotta usciva insieme/parole e sangue” (D. Alighieri, Inferno)
Nowadays, this is a mistake, we’re sorry Maestro!
Now that you know how to use the concordanza a senso, you can confidently say that you’ve taken a step forward in the path of studying the Italian language! So, now, why don’t you keep going by reading this useful article on how to use the Italian congiuntivo?
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