Italian language: Ask Me and Trust me
- WTI Magazine #157 Nov 18, 2022
Ciao! Today’s grammar topic is verbs and prepositions. In particular, I’ll be focusing on common mistakes English speakers make while speaking Italian due to the different ways the two language use prepositions (but this is true also for Italians when speaking English!). Let’s take a look!
One of the mistakes I always hear has to do with the verb aspettare – to wait. In English, it’s to “wait for someone,” so it’s natural for most English speakers to say aspetta per me. However, in Italian aspettare qualcuno is not followed by a preposition, the correct phrase is aspetta without any preposition, for example: aspetto sempre Lucia fuori dal lavoro– I always wait for Lucia outside her company.
This is the same reason why you hear a lot of Italians saying “wait me” instead of “wait for me” when speaking English (Remember that aspetta me – wait for me – is rather unnatural; the more natural form to use is aspettami). Another similar situation occurs with “look for” and cercare. Cercare is a common way to translate “to look for something,” however cercare qualcosa is not followed by a preposition, you can simply say cerco le chiavi– I’m looking for my keys – and not cerco per le chiavi.
Another very common and confusing verb is “to listen to.” Ascolto la radio, ascolto una canzone – I listen to the radio, I listen to a song. It comes natural to English speakers to add an a – as a translation for “to” – however, you should never use a after ascoltare. It might be easy to remember when we’re saying “listening to the radio”, or “to a song”, since we learn the phrase as a “pair,” but becomes more difficult when we need to say that we are listening to someone – i.e. I listen to my coworker speaking – ascolto il/la collega che parla is the correct translation, not ascolta al/alla collega che parla. The same goes with your favorite singer: Ascolto Cesare Cremonini – I listen to Cesare Cremonini – without the a.
An opposite example is “to trust.” In In this case, English does not use a preposition, you just “trust someone” – I trust Marco – However Italian requires the use of the preposition di – Mi fido di Marco. Similarly “I believe Matteo” is credo a Matteo, so it’s credere a. You also use credere a when specifying what you believe: credo alle fate – I believe in fairies. This is probably one of the very few times in which an Italian preposition is convenient. The phrase “go home” is sometimes confusing as well since in Italian is andare a casa with an a before “home” as if we were saying “go to home.”
An interesting example is “to ask.” When “asking somebody” English does not use a preposition – i.e. I asked Chiara – however Italian does chiedere a qualcuno. You cannot say chiedo Chiara in Italian but you need to say chiedo a Chiara. Strictly speaking chiedo Chiara means you are asking for Chiara. And that’s where it becomes both interesting and confusing. As you may have noticed, Italian does not use the preposition when instead you are “asking for something” – i.e. I asked for the keys becomes ho chiesto le chiavi. The trick is to remember that you “ask something to someone” – chiedere qualcosa a qualcuno: chiedo le chiavi a Chiara.
These verbs are verbs I’m sure you use frequently when speaking Italian. Unfortunately, the two languages just work differently and there are not many tricks we can use to remember prepositions (especially Italian prepositions which make no logical sense). My suggestion is to focus on improving one verb at the time, trying to focus on saying it correctly in our sentences until it becomes natural to use. Don’t get upset if you make a mistake, and don’t hesitate to ask your Italian speaking friends for help and to (politely!) correct you.