If you follow us on Tik Tok, you’ve likely already seen our two-part Stuffed Squash Blossom video-recipe (Fiori di zucca ripieni). You can also look forward to seeing that same recipe rendered a misura di bambino in a new 3E cookbook (coming soon!). But behind every successful recipe is a full comprehension of the language used to communicate it. Foreign language instructors often use recipes in their lesson plans, and with good reason: many difficult structures can be introduced or consolidated via this user-friendly, visually-supported medium. But since a number of the grammar points taught there are quite challenging, students who learn in an exclusive L2 environment (that is, a classroom where only the foreign language is used in instruction) continue to struggle with them. So 3E has created a bilingual guide to recipe grammar for Intermediate students of Italian.
In our first recipe, we’ll review:
1 – definite articles (like ‘the’ in English)
2 – verbs from all three ending groups (‘ARE’, ‘ERE’, and ‘IRE’), both regular and irregular (or ‘isc’ verbs in the third group)
3 – review simple and articulated prepositions
- Definite articles
Pulire i fiori di zucca.
Tagliare la mozzarella.
Farcire i fiori con la mozzarella e impanare ogni fiore con la pastella o il pan grattato.
Friggere i fiori di zucca.
Italian has six main definite articles: il, lo, la, i gli, le. The first three are used with singular nouns. The last three are used with plural nouns.
But Italian also takes into consideration gender when applying these articles. Accordingly, the first two are used with masculine singular nouns, while the third is used with feminine singular nouns. The fourth and fifth are used with masculine plural nouns, and the last with feminine plural nouns.
|Singular||il, lo, l’||la, l’|
How can you tell if an Italian noun is masculine or feminine? Singular or plural?
There are some easy tricks. Most nouns that end in ‘a’ are feminine and singular (but there are lots of exceptions, too). And most nouns that end in ‘o’ are masculine and singular. Most nouns that end in ‘e’ are feminine and plural, while nouns that end in ‘i’ can be either masculine and plural or feminine and plural. When in doubt, use a dictionary to check the gender of your noun.
Let’s have a look at ours:
Fiori di zucca
Fiori can only be plural, because it ends in ‘i’. But is it masculine or feminine?
The singular of ‘fiori’ is ‘fiore,’ which is masculine. So the plural form, fiori, will be masculine, too. We will match fiori with a definite article that is also masculine and plural, and find ourselves before two choices: i and gli. So which is it?
“Gli” is only used with plural nouns that begin with s + consonant, z, gn, ps, pn, or y. Fiori does not match that profile, so the only acceptable choice is ‘i’: i fiori di zucca.
Let’s have a look at mozzarella and pastella. These are much simpler. They both end in a, which means they are likely feminine and singular. A quick check in the dictionary reveals our impulse to be correct. There is only one article applicable to feminine singular nouns that start with consonants: la. La mozzarella, la pastella.
Pan grattato ends in ‘o’, which makes it probably masculine (correct in this case) and singular. It doesn’t start with s + consonant, z, ps, pn, gn, or y, so we can exclude ‘lo’ (the singular of ‘gli): il pan grattato.
2. Verb conjugation
There are five main verbs in our recipe: pulire, tagliare, farcire, impanare, and friggere. Italian has three verb groups: verbs that end in ‘ARE,’ verbs that end in ‘ERE,’ and verbs that end in ‘IRE.’ All three are represented here. The last group (‘IRE’) contains ‘isc’ verbs: verbs that, when conjugated, contain ‘isc’ in their declination.
The easiest group is ‘ARE,’ so let’s start there:
To conjugate these verbs, we must first remove the ending (‘ARE’) and replace with new ones, specific to each subject. The Present Indicative looks like this:
io (I) taglio
tu (you) tagli
lui/lei (he/she) taglia
noi (we) tagliamo
voi (you, pl) tagliate
loro (they) tagliano
All regular verbs in this group follow the same pattern. So, applying it to impanare, you would get:
‘ERE’ verbs behave a little differently. We must still replace the infinitive verb ending, but our new ones are slightly modified:
As you can see, the first persons singular and plural and the second person singular remain the same as in the first group. But the third persons singular and plural and the second person plural change.
Things get still more complicated with ‘isc’ verbs in the third group. They look mostly like second group verbs, but with an added intruder:
Notice that in all verb groups, the first letter of the new verb ending of the second person plural corresponds to the first letter of the infinitive verb ending.
Let’s try applying that same pattern to our other ‘isc’ verb: pulire:
Also notice that the first and second persons plural are not at all affected by the ‘isc’ insertion.
3. Simple and Articulated prepositions
Our recipe shows one example of a simple preposition and one example of an articulated preposition. What’s the difference? Simple prepositions don’t combine with articles, definite or indefinite, while articulated prepositions combine with definite articles, and alter their form as a result.
Impanare con la pastella o il pan grattato.
Bread with pastella or breadcrumbs.
‘Con’ means ‘with’ in English. It is a preposition that is not typically articulated, so the article that follows it (accompanying ‘la’) will remain distinct from it.
Friggo nella padella.
Nella = In + la. In this case, our preposition (in) has shape-shifted to take in the article attached to it (la). In has turned into nel, to which we add la: nella.
An alternative to this phrase which does not use an articulated preposition is: friggo in una padella.
Notice that prepositions ARE NEVER ARTICULATED BEFORE INDEFINITE ARTICLES (like un, uno, una). This is something many students struggle with A LOT. Nella una padella is simply incorrect! It would be like saying “in the a pan.” Can you see where that sentence goes wrong?
That’s it for today’s recipe quick lesson. For a more comprehensive review of these three concepts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and book your personal, private consultation session. Buon lavoro!