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Marco: All About Italian Lesson 3 - Painless Italian Grammar
Laura: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Grammar portion of ItalianPod101.com's All About Series!
Marco: Oh no, not grammar!
Laura: I'm sure some listeners are having that very same reaction right about now. But before you throw up your hands in despair, we're here to tell you there's nothing to worry about. We've made Italian grammar so simple that you'll wonder what the fuss was all about.
Marco: Okay, so let's get started!
Sentence Order SOV
Laura: First, what we want to do is take a look at English. English and Italian belong to different language families.
Marco: Yes, English is a Germanic language, whereas Italian is a member of the family of Romance languages. Nevertheless, these two languages have many similarities.
Laura: We will utilize these similarities to learn faster!
Marco: For one thing, both of them are SVO languages! Laura, what does SVO stand for?
Laura: Subject-verb-object. That means that in a sentence, the subject always comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object. That's how English sentences are put together, and Italian is the same.
Laura: Let's see an example, Marco.
Marco: "I eat the apple." "I" is the subject, or the one doing the action. "Eat" is the verb, or the action taking place. And lastly, "the apple" is the object that receives the action.
Laura: SVO…that makes sense.
Marco: "I read the newspaper," "I watch TV"…these are all SVO sentences.
Laura: And that's the same in Italian too, then. Italian is what's called an SVO language, but…
Marco: But?
Laura: Well, our listeners should think of Italian more as a relatively free word order language.
Marco: And why is that so?
Laura: Mainly for reasons of emphasis. The SVO order could be changed according to what we want to emphasize.
Marco: So we could say normally "I eat the apple"…
Laura: and at the same time, "the apple I eat." It sounds a bit strange in English, doesn't it?
Marco: Yes it does!
Laura: But still, in Italian we could say that to focus the attention on the apple without using punctuation!
Marco: Fascinating. And let's not forget one of the important things to remember about grammar, the verb tense!
Laura: Yes, the verb plays a key role in Italian. Now let's go through some basic rules to show how the Italian tense system works.
Marco: What we've decided to do is compare them to English grammar examples so that you can really see the differences.
Laura: Tense…well, first, what is tense?
Marco: Good question! Tense refers to time…past, present, and future.
Laura: I think that we could say that the verb is a sort of king of the Italian sentence.
Marco: Yes, it could be tricky at the beginning, but once you've learned the most commonly used forms, it will become natural and easy, mostly due to the possibilities offered by some Italian conjugation.
Laura: For example, the present indicative "I eat," which in Italian could be employed in several situations, sometimes is used to mean past and future also!
Marco: Doesn't that seem like it'd be more confusing though?
Laura: Not at all! As long as you have a conjugated verb, in Italian the subject could also be totally omitted. Isn't it easy?
Marco: Let's hear some examples. How about the sentence we've heard before…"I eat the apple."
Laura: "Mangio la mela." "Mangio" is the verb, of course, and means "I eat." As you may see, we could totally omit the subject "I" from the sentence.
Marco: So that sentence is in the present tense. How can we understand how the verb conjugates for every person?
Laura: Well, that's simple. There are only three conjugations for verbs in Italian…"-are," "-ere," and "–ire." For example, the verb we used in this lesson, "mangiare," "to eat," belongs to the first.
Marco: So every verb ending its infinitive form in "-are" has the same conjugation?
Laura: Yes. Except for a couple of exceptions, that is the basic rule.
Marco: And there's no need to include the subject, which is nice!
Laura: That's right.
Marco: This is especially true for Romance languages, but we also see it in English. For example, "I go" versus "he goes." How about in Italian?
Laura: Compared to English, Italian conjugation involves all the persons.
Marco: Laura, can we hear some examples? Now listeners, don't worry about trying to catch every word. Just listen for the verb at the beginning. It's the same one we mentioned before…"mangiare," "to eat."
Laura: "Mangio la pizza."
Marco: "I eat the pizza."
Laura: "Mangia la pizza."
Marco: "He eats the pizza."
Laura: "Mangiano la pizza."
Marco: "They eat the pizza." Wow, I think I heard the exact same verb with slightly different endings!
Laura: That's what Italian conjugation is about!
Marco: Next, let's also talk about singulars and plurals. For English, we learn that to make a plural, we add "s" at the end of a word, but when you think about it, there are tons of exceptions.
Laura: Yeah, like "wolves" and "teeth" and stuff like that. Now, Italian has basically only two ways to form the plural. The only distinction is between masculine and feminine words, with the nouns ending respectively in "-i" or "-e." An example for feminine could be "pizza," which in the plural becomes "pizze."
Marco: I didn't know that "pizza" had a plural form!
Laura: Yes, it does! And for the masculine, ending in "-i" in its plural, we could use "gelato," "ice cream," which will be "gelati" in its plural form.
Marco: That makes sense!
Laura: Definitely. Although there are some irregularities, those are the basics and that's what you need to start learning!
Marco: Speaking of something that English doesn't have…how about gender?
Laura: Yes, that can be really interesting for our listeners!
Marco: We mean the famous categorization in masculine and feminine.
Laura: Right. In Italian, every noun has to have a gender and its corresponding article!
Marco: I think it gives Italian an interesting flavor.
Laura: Yeah, this is really interesting. Like, for example, did you know that in Italian, "the sun" is a masculine noun and "the moon" a feminine noun?
Marco: Does it come from Latin?
Laura: Yes. In other languages, like the ones in the Germanic family, it's precisely the opposite.
Marco: Wow.
Laura: It's called natural gender, and it may vary according to the vision of life that population had through history.
Marco: What about foreign words, like "iPod" or "Playstation?"
Laura: Yes, that's the tricky part. Foreign words are mostly declined arbitrarily. I have a friend who used to think that "Playstation" was feminine and another one thinking the opposite, therefore using a masculine article!
Marco: That's funny! But it's still understandable, of course, right?
Laura: Of course it is!


Laura: All right, I think that just about does it for our overview of Italian grammar!
Marco: We hope this has prepared you for your journey into the Italian language. Hopefully after this, there should be no major surprises!
Laura: Keep up with ItalianPod101.com for more lessons that will teach you Italian the easy and fun way.
Marco: Bye, everyone!
Laura: Ciao!