Prepare dark glasses, hat and raincoat… Today we are going to talk about the MYSTERIES of the ITALIAN LANGUAGE! In particular, we will see 5 of them.
Fine, si è…, D eufonica, -sta, “ha piovuto” vs “è piovuto”
1. The first mystery of the Italian language concerns the word fine, with the meaning of “conclusion”, “end”.
This word is usually feminine (la fine)… In fact, we say: una bella fine, una fine drammatica, una fine inaspettata… (a beautiful ending, a tragic ending, an unexpected ending…)
However, for some crazy reason, when we use the word “fine” with the adjective lieto (happy, glad) – but only with this one – becomes masculine!
Quella storia non ha un lieto fine. (That story doesn’t have a happy ending)
Quella storia non ha una bella fine. (That story doesn’t have a happy ending)
To settle things once and for all 1 and avoid any doubt, you can use the word finale, which is always masculine (Quella storia non ha un buon finale → That story doesn’t have a happy ending).
2. The second mystery of Italian language concerns si è…
This construction, in fact, is sometimes followed by the plural (although “è” is singular)…
When the construction is si è… + adjective, this one is plural, masculine or feminine according to the subject.
Quando si è felici, si affronta meglio la vita. (When you’re happy, you go better through life)
Durante il ciclo mestruale, si è di solito molto nervose. (During their period, girls are generally very nervous)
What happens, instead, when we have si è + verb?
Good question! Let’s try to clarify!
The verb (actually, the past participle) will be plural – masculine or feminine according to the subject – when the auxiliary in the “personal” construction is essere!
si è diventati = siamo diventati (we became)
si è andate = siamo andate (we went)
The past participle of the verb will be singular (masculine) if the auxiliary of the “personal” form is avere!
si è parlato molto = abbiamo parlato molto (we talked a lot)
3. The third mystery is… euphonious D!
One of the biggest question of foreigners: should I put the D la metto? When yes? When no?
Well… Although there are conflicting opinions, the most credited rule says that “you should use the euphonious D when the vowel following is the same as that preceding the D” 2
Stati Uniti ed Europa hanno firmato un accordo ad aprile a Edimburgo. (USA and Italy signed an agreement in April in Edinburgh)
An exception to this rule is “ad esempio”.
4. Is musicista entusiasta (enthusiastic musician) a man or a woman?
It can be both! The words ending in -sta can be either masculine or feminine: we can establish the gender only with the article! This means they only have one form for the singular (and no… “musicisto entusiasto” doesn’t exist).
uno stakanovista / una stakanovista (a hardworking person)
un tennista / una tennista (a tennis player)
Fortunately, in the plural, there is no problem: we have both the masculine and the feminine form.
i musicisti / le musiciste (the musicians)
5. Fifth and last mystery… È piovuto or ha piovuto?
According to the highest authority with regard to the Italian language, the “Accademia della Crusca”, the verb piovere (to rain), in the intransitive impersonal use (that is, when it means “rain falling from the sky”), can form the compound tenses with either the auxiliary essere or avere!
Ieri è piovuto tutto il giorno = Ieri ha piovuto tutto il giorno (Yesterday it rained all day long)
Instead, in all other cases (that is, when the verb is not used in an impersonal way but it has a metaphorical meaning), piovere forms the compound tenses with essere.
Sono piovute un sacco di critiche a causa del suo gesto. (Many criticisms arose because of his act)
Are there any other things that are not clear? Write them in the comments!
Also find out the 10 weirdest Italian words!
Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!