October 23, 2011 | Italian

Studying in an Air Cast Is Actually Pretty Easy

The main reason being, it is hard to go places.

I am hardly homebound, but I am not at my most mobile either, which reduces the chances of my roaming very far from my grammar books. As a result, I have gotten quite a bit done.

A Black-and-Blue Air Cast: The Latest in Language-Study Fashions

A Black-and-Blue Air Cast: The Latest in Language-Study Fashions

I am accumulating some Italian questions. Since Italian was not in the plan for this year, I don’t know how many Italian-speaking readers are currently looking at this blog, but if anyone knows the answers to these questions, I would be much obliged.

  1. I am curious to know how often in Italy people really, truly still use Loro, rather than voi, as the plural, formal “you.”
  2. In written Italian, which one of these is preferable: L’ho comprata or La ho comprata? (Meaning, “I bought it.”) Does the choice depend on the level of formality? Or is the second one just plain wrong? Or even worse, weird?
  3. I find it funny that grapes are considered a mass noun in Italian (l’uva) rather than a count noun. Grapes seem exceedingly countable to me. In fact, I ate, oh, about 80 of them just yesterday. Speaking of which, if l’uva is a mass noun, how would you say in Italian, “I ate 80 grapes”? Google Translate refuses to take that on. It offers, unhelpfully, Ho mangiato eighty uva.
  4. In the expression ai tempi degli dei (in the times of the gods), why isn’t degli just dei? To avoid getting stuck with dei dei? Google Translate rebels against the ai tempi degli dei construction, by the way, translating it as “at the time of the.” Sic! That’s it! No gods to be found.

According to one of my grammar books, Advanced Italian Grammar by Marcel Danesi, the process by which an adjective is turned into an adverb (e.g., lento, or “slow” -> lentamente, or “slowly”) is called “adverbialization.”

Cute! That sounds kind of like a manufacturing process. I am picturing a conveyor belt conveying adjectives (capable of modifying only two parts of speech) along until they roll into a piece of equipment that attaches a suffix, then spits them out the other side as larger adverbs, now capable of modifying three entirely different parts of speech.

In my imagination, the machinery is all very creaky and squeaky, which fits with how language works.

Comments (4)

mimi • Posted on Tue, October 25, 2011 - 12:55 pm EST

I have never heard “Loro” used in the formal.
In written italian, i see L’ho comprata. the other now sounds rather awkward to me.

ho mangiato ottanta d’uva use the “di”

and the last one, I do not know the answer but i suspect it has something to do with the way it sounds. Or maybe it’s just a quote from a few hundred years ago?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, October 25, 2011 - 8:16 pm EST

Grazie mille, Mimi! Interesting about the “Loro.” And I’m glad to be able to count my grapes. ;)

Luba • Posted on Wed, October 26, 2011 - 3:22 am EST

In Russian grapes are also a mass noun - vinograd. But there is a special word for one grape - vingradinka, and when you want to say that you ate a few of them you use the plural of this word. But it doesn’t work for 80. If you ate that much you can say that you ate a lot of grapes. or you can count grapes in bunches.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, October 26, 2011 - 12:46 pm EST

I suppose I have no need to say I ate 80 grapes in English, either. I really have no idea how many grapes I ate…a lot in any case!

It is funny how different languages process count versus mass, plural versus singular, differently. In Italian, for instance, “moustache” is a plural noun: i baffi!

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