Italian DOESN’T MAKE SENSE: 4 totally illogical things about the Italian language!

Italian is a beautiful language, everyone says so, musical, poetic and all that, but it’s also true that it has oddities which surprise us and make us think that the grammar doesn’t make much sense. Isn’t it? How many times did you think of it? Let’s look at some of the senseless and strangest things of Italian!

The oddities of Italian

The Italian language is characterized by a pretty complex grammar and a rich and nuanced vocabulary, that often make this language look like it’s nonsense and impossible to learn. Below, we reported examples, both at the lexical and grammar levels, with the intent of clarifying aspects so you can’t go wrong or make any mistake.

Maybe there’s no sense, but we have explanations!

Vocabulary

  • Geosynonymes

Italy is not a very big country, but this doesn’t mean that there are no differences in terms of language between different regions and within the same region. These are not only dialects, that are already difficult to understand, but also the same “standard” Italian lexicon. For example, cannella (cinnamon) is a term that indicates a spice known for its yellow-brown colour, but if in Tuscany you’re asked to “aprire la cannella” (open the cannella) that means that you have to turn on the tap. Another example is spazzatura (trash) that, even if common throughout the peninsula and islands, it changes depending on the place you’re in: in Bologna it’s called “rusco”, in Tuscanysudicio”, “monnezza” in Naples, and more! Another thing that italians have in common is “marinare la scuola“, that is skipping school and you could say: “bucare” or “tagliare” in Piedmont, “fare sega” in Roma, “fare forca” in Florence, “fare filone” in Bari etc. These terms, used to indicate objects and situations of everyday life, vary greatly from place to place and it’s hard to learn them all, so the best thing is to ask when you don’t understand.

  • Blasphemies

These are pecularities of oral and written Italian, they make no sense! Because they don’t exist in other languages/cultures. What’s it about? These are insults, offences against God and Saints and holy and religious things. Many confuse them with parolacce, but they’re actually two different things. Parolacce are in fact swear, offensive, obscene words and so on. But generally they don’t involve religion. Because of that, they’re considered “acceptable” in informal spoken Italian, especially to emphasize what you’re saying. Blasphemies, on the other hand, make your language veeery colorful and are undoubtedly not suitable for formal settings or in which you don’t know how the person in front of you might react. In blasphemies, it is sufficient to juxtapose the divinity with an animal, because it means that the divinity has the same characteristics of the animal and this is considered offensive to many italians, because religion is deeply rooted in the culture, although Italy is a secular country. Because of this, you won’t hear many people blaspheme in public or around children.

Grammar

  • The verb piacere and its siblings

To somebody the verb “piacere” (to like) works in a stange way, because while other languages with the verb “piacere” the grammatical subject and the logical subject coincide, for example in English I like pasta, I am both the grammatical subject (I like) and the logical subject who actually like pasta. In Italian Mi piace la pasta, instead, it’s the logical object, pasta, what I like (logical subjects), so pasta is the grammatical subject. The same thing goes, for example, for the verb “mancare” (I miss you, in English, BUT Mi manchi, in Italian, that is Tu manchi a me, even if I am the person who feels the emotion). This oppositive function compared to other languages can lead to confusion at first, but once you understand the rule you won’t have a problem.

  • Double plurals

Normally masculine nouns form the plural by replacing the ending with -i and the feminine nouns with -e, but it’s not always the case. For example, when it comes to body parts, such as “braccio” or “dito” plurals are not“bracci” or “diti”, but “braccia” and “dita”. This explains double plurals: the plural form of these words is regular, that is “bracci” and “diti”, which, however it has a different meaning from the irregular one in -a. In fact, “braccia” is the correct word to indicate the extremities of the upper body, whilst “bracci” indicates items and parts of objects that stick out or extends resembling an arm (etc. bracci of the crane). So it’s not a mistake to use one form in place of the other, but you need to pay attention to what you want to say.

Speaking of double plurals, don’t forget to watch our video on this topic.

Even if these particularities create a little confusion and can discourage your path of learning, always remember that these are all the things that make the language special and more interesting, even if at the beginning it seems impossibile to get into the logic of this senseless language, after practicing for a bit you’ll reach an important goal!

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