Unità 4

Ce la facciamo!

Obiettivi per il capitolo

At the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • analyze advertisements in Italy and the USA
  • discuss Italian cultural products and practices
  • compare and contrast Italian products and practices with those of their own countries
  • describe how something is made

Vocabolario: l’Italia imprenditoriale. Il ‘Made in Italy’

Here are some words that will help you participate in the conversations in this chapter. Add these, and any other new words you find, to your course dictionary.

italiano English
artigianale handcrafted / handmade
l’artigianato craft / craftmanship
l’artigiano artisan
l’azienda company / firm / business
la campagna pubblicitaria advertising campaign
la ditta company / firm / enterprise
l’economia economy / economics
la fabbrica factory
fabbricare to make, to fabricate
la finanza finance
la Guardia di Finanza police force for the Ministry of Economy and Finance




-della moda

-del turismo / turistica

-i beni per la casa



-le calzature

-la pelletteria

industry (industries)



-food / agricultural




-home furnishings / furniture

-jewelry / jewelry-making



l’impresa business / enterprise / firm / company
la marca brand / brand name
la multinazionale multinational corporation
il prodotto product
la pubblicità advertisement / commercial
il settore sector
lo sfruttamento exploitation

Struttura 4.1 I comparativi

In contesto

Antonio è più introverso di Carmela.

Antonio parla meno di Carmela.

Il comparativo di maggioranza e minoranza

Comparativi di maggioranza o minoranza, or comparisons of inequality, are the ways we express that something is “more than” or “less than” something else, which can be expressed with these words plus an adjective, or with the suffix -er in English. These are expressed with the structures più…di and meno…di or (and this is probably new to you) più…che and meno…che. Let’s look at the differences between the two structures.

Più/meno di…

We use più/meno di… when comparing two people or things (nouns/pronouns) in terms of one quality or action (adjective/adverb) (the examples you’ve probably seen the most up to this point).

Es. Giorgio è più studioso di Gianluca. / Gianluca è meno studioso di Giorgio.

(Giorgio is more studious than Gianluca. / Gianluca is less studious than Giorgio.)

Es. Giorgio studia più di Gianluca. / Gianluca studia meno di Giorgio.

(Giorgio studies more than Gianluca. / Gianluca studies less than Giorgio.)

Two nouns + one adjective Giorgio è più studioso di Gianluca. / Gianluca è meno studioso di Giorgio.
Two nouns + one verb Giorgio studia più di Gianluca. / Gianluca studia meno di Giorgio.
Più/meno che…

If we are comparing other things, such as two qualities, or two objects, then we substitute the preposition di with che, and the structure becomes più/meno…che. This can be a bit confusing for native English speakers, because the translation remains the same: whether we use di or che in Italian, the English equivalent is still “more than” or “less than.” This is another example that really requires you to be able to identify the different parts of speech in a sentence–a sign that you’re really mastering the Italian language!

Es. Giorgio è più studioso che socievole.

(Giorgio is more studious than [he is] social.)

Es. Giorgio legge più libri di storia che romanzi.

(Giorgio reads more history books than novels.)

Es. Giorgio studia meno la sera che la mattina. 

(Giorgio studies less in the evening than in the morning.)

Es. Giorgio studia meno a casa che in biblioteca.

(Giorgio studies less at home than in the library.)

Es. Per Giorgio è più importante studiare che dormire.

(For Giorgio, it is more important to study than to sleep.)

One noun + two adjectives Giorgio è più studioso che socievole.
One verb + two objects Giorgio legge più libri di storia che romanzi.
One verb + two adverbs Giorgio studia meno la sera che la mattina.
Before prepositional phrases Giorgio studia meno a casa che in biblioteca.
Before infinitives Per Giorgio è più importante studiare che dormire.

Il comparativo di uguaglianza

Comparativi di uguaglianza, or comparisons of equality, is how we express that something is “as” something “as” something else. There are two different structures we can use to express these comparisons, and like the comparisons of inequality, their usage depends on the different parts of speech in the sentence.

Es. Giorgio è (così) gentile come Gianluca.

Giorgio è (tanto) gentile quanto Gianluca.

(Giorgio is as kind as Gianluca.)

Es. Giorgio pulisce la casa (così) come Gianluca.

Giorgio pulisce la casa (tanto) quanto Gianluca.

(Giorgio cleans the house as much as Gianluca.)

Es. Giorgio è (così) gentile come paziente.

Giorgio è (tanto) gentile quanto paziente.

(Giorgio is as kind as he is patient.)

Two nouns + one adjective Giorgio è (così) gentile come Gianluca.

Giorgio è (tanto) gentile quanto Gianluca.

Two nouns + one verb/adverb Giorgio pulisce la casa (così) come Gianluca.

Giorgio pulisce la casa (tanto) quanto Gianluca.

One noun + two adjectives Giorgio è (così) gentile come paziente.

Giorgio è (tanto) gentile quanto paziente.

*Note that in all of the above examples, the structures così…come and tanto…quanto can be used interchangeably. You should also notice that both così and tanto can be omitted.

In this next set of examples, these circumstances change:

Es. Giorgio ha tanti fratelli quanto Gianluca.

(Giorgio has as many brothers as Gianluca.)

Es. Giorgio ha tanti fratelli quante sorelle.

(Giorgio has as many brothers as sisters.)

In this case, we are comparing nouns, and the only structure that works for this type of comparison is tanto…quanto. You will also notice that tanto…quanto agrees in gender and numbers with the nouns it modifies.

You can choose whichever form you want for the first examples, but for nouns there is only one!

I comparativi irregolari

Gli aggettivi

There are also some irregular forms for some of the most common adjectives in the comparative. You can use either the regular or irregular forms!

Es. Quel pane con le olive è più buono della crostata alla marmellata. 

(That olive bread is better than the jam tart.)

Es. Quel pane con le olive è migliore della crostata alla marmellata.

In these examples, you can see that più buono/a/i/e (and also più bravo/a/i/e) and migliore/i have the same meaning. The regular form must agree in gender and number with the word(s) it modifies, and the irregular form must agree in number.

*Note that the irregular form of migliore/i does not require the use of più.

Here are the other examples of regular comparatives and their irregular equivalents:

regular comparative irregular comparative
più buono/a/i/e migliore/i
più cattivo/a/i/e peggiore/i
più grande maggiore/i
più piccolo minore/i

Sometimes the regular and irregular forms can be used interchangeably, but in the case of grande and piccolo, there tends to be a distinction. In those cases, the regular forms refer to physical size, while the irregular forms refer to age:

Es. Antonio è più grande di me.

(Antonio is bigger than me.)

Es. Io sono maggiore di Antonio.

(I am older than Antonio.)

Es. Nicola è più piccolo di Andrea.

(Nicola is smaller than Andrea.)

Es. Andrea è minore di Nicola.

(Andrea is younger than Nicola.)

Gli avverbi

There are also four primary irregular comparative adverbs. Unlike the adjectives, only the irregular form is correct here–the “regular” form does not exist.

Es. Gianni balla meglio dei suoi amici.

(Gianni dances better than his friends.)

In this case, meglio also means “better”, just like migliore/i, but we use it to describe a verb, not a person, place or thing. It is the irregular equivalent of più bene, a construction that does not exist!

adverb irregular comparative
bene meglio
male peggio
poco meno, di meno
molto più, di più

Es. Ballo peggio di Gianni.

(I dance worse than Gianni.)

Es. Ballo meno di Gianni.

(I dance less than Gianni.)

Es. Mi piace ballare, ma a Gianni piace di più.

(I like to dance, but Gianni likes it more.)

Una prova

Struttura 4.2 Il superlativo

In contesto

Roberto è il più giovane dei suoi fratelli.

Il Colosseo è antichissimo!

If we want to express that something is “the most” or “the least” of a certain group in Italian, we use a superlative. This is the equivalent of saying “the most/least + adjective” OR with the suffix -est in English, depending on the length of the word. In Italian this is called the superlativo relativo. We can also express a superlative with words that represent the magnitude of something (like “amazing”! Or “super”! Or “extra”!), which is referred to as the superlativo assoluto. 

Il superlativo relativo

There is a general formula to follow to create the relative superlative, or the superlativo relativo, of adjectives:

La professoressa è la persona più vecchia della classe.

  (definite article + più/meno + adjective + di)

This formula also works if you flip the sentence around:

La persona più vecchia della classe è la professoressa.

The definite article is the real essential element here, and it’s the same in English. If we want to say that something is THE most, then we need “the”–hence, the need for the definite article.

To create the relative superlative of adverbs, however, you can omit the definite article (unless the adverb is followed by the word possibile):

Es. Giorgio studia più di tutti gli altri studenti.

(Giorgio studies more than all of the other students.)

Es. Giorgio studia il più possibile.

(Giorgio studies as much as possible.)

Il superlativo assoluto

The absolute superlative, or the superlativo assoluto, on the other hand, is a way of expressing the absolute quality of an adjective or adverb. Unlike the relative superlative, it doesn’t actually compare something to something else–it evaluates it on its own merits.

One common way of expressing the absolute superlative is with the -ssimo/a/i/e form that you have likely already seen:

Es. L’italiano è bellissimo!

(Italian is very beautiful!)

Es. La professoressa parla benissimo l’italiano!

(The professor speaks Italian very well!)

There are two ways to think about how to form these absolute superlatives of adjectives:

1. by adding the endings -ssimo/a/i/e to the masculine, plural form of the adjective:

complicato → complicati → complicatissimo/a/i/e

Es. La formula è complicatissima.

(The formula is very complicated.)

intelligente → intelligenti → intelligentissimo/a/i/e

Es. Gli studenti nel corso d’italiano sono intelligentissimi.

(The students in the Italian course are very intelligent.)

2. by dropping the final letter of the adjective and adding the endings -issimo/a/i/e

complicato → complicat → complicatissimo/a/i/e

intelligente → intelligent → intelligentissimo/a/i/e

They are essentially two paths to get to the same place–choose whichever makes the most sense for you!

The absolute superlative of adverbs is formed in much the same way:

1. if the adverb ends in a vowel, either add -ssimo/a/i/e to the plural, masculine form of the word OR drop the final vowel and add -issimo/a/i/e

bene → beni → benissimo

male → mal → malissimo

2. if the adverb ends in -mente, that ending attaches to the feminine singular form of the absolute superlative adjective

sincero → sincer → sincerissima → sincerissimamente

We can also form absolute superlatives by adding adverbs before the adjectives like molto, assai, or incredibilmente:

Es. Gli atleti olimpici sono incredibilmente forti.

(Olympic athletes are incredibly strong.)

We can also add prefixes like uber, super, stra, and ultra to adjectives and adverbs.

Es. Gli atleti olimpici sono superforti.

(Olympic athletes are super strong.)

Una prova

Struttura 4.3 Espressioni di quantità

In contesto

Al supermercato ho comprato alcune mele, qualche albicocca, e dell’uva.

So far in your study of Italian, you have dedicated time to learning your numbers and being able to express precise measurements. But what if you want to express indefinite amounts like “some” or “a little” or “a few”? Well, there are several different ways to express these quantities, and they can depend on the form of the word they are modifying.

Il partitivo

One way to express “some” or “any” in Italian is with the partitive, or il partitivo. It is formed by combining the preposition di and the definite article. Attenzione! This looks exactly like the combined prepositions (preposizioni articolate) you learned back in Italian 110, but the meaning is different:

il lo l’ la i gli le
di del dello dell’ della dei degli delle

If we take the ingredients for a dish like tiramisù, for instance, we could write them using the partitive:

II tiramisù

  • delle uova (di + le)
  • dello zucchero (di + lo)
  • del caffè (di + il)
  • dei biscotti savoiardi (di + i)
  • del mascarpone (di + il)
  • del cacao (di + il)

In all of these examples, the partitive translates to “some” (some eggs, some sugar, some coffee, etc…). It can be used with all nouns, whether they are singular or plural, or countable or uncountable (things like liquids).

There are also other ways to express “some”, or “several”, or “a few”, or “a little”:

expression of quantity type of nouns example
un po’ di singular, typically uncountable Metto un po’ di formaggio sulla pasta. 

(I put a little cheese on the pasta).

qualche singular*, countable

*(even though it expresses a plural meaning)

Compro qualche bottiglia di vino per la festa.

(I buy some/several bottles of wine for the party.)

alcuni/e plural, countable Compro alcune bottiglie di vino per la festa.

(I buy some/several/a few bottles of wine for the party.)

You likely noticed that qualche and alcuni/e share a meaning – the difference is that the former is invariable and always modifies a singular noun, while the latter always accompanies a plural noun and must agree in gender with that noun.

If we go back to our recipe for tiramisù, here are some other options:

II tiramisù

  • uova
    • delle uova
    • alcune uova
    • qualche uovo
  • zucchero
    • dello zucchero
    • un po’ di zucchero
  • caffè
    • del caffè
    • un po’ di caffè
  • biscotti savoiardi
    • dei biscotti savoiardi
    • alcuni biscotti savoiardi
    • qualche biscotto savoiardo
  • mascarpone
    • del mascarpone
    • un po’ di mascarpone
  • cacao
    • del cacao
    • un po’ di cacao

Espressioni di quantità

There are other expressions of quantity that we use often in Italian (and which you have already encountered many times) like molto (very, many, much, a lot of), poco (little, few, not many, not much), tanto (a lot of, many, much), troppo (too many, too much).

When these expressions of quantity modify nouns, they agree in gender and number with those words:

Es. Bevo troppo caffè.

(I drink too much coffee.)

Es. Bevo poca acqua.

(I drink little water.)

Es. Ci sono molti ristoranti in centro.

(There are many restaurants downtown.)

Es. Mangio tante verdure ad ogni pasto. 

(I eat a lot of vegetables at every meal.)

*When these expressions of quantity modify adjectives or adverbs, they are invariable (which means they do not change). Remember this! This is a very common mistake in Italian.

Es. Quella trattoria è molto buona.

(That trattoria is very good.)

Es. Siamo troppo stanchi per andare a cena.

(We are too tired to go to dinner.)

There are also other specific measurements of quantity, some using the English system and some using the metric system. Most of them use di:

un chilo di / mezzo chilo di a kilo of / a half-kilo of
un grammo di a gram of
un etto di

(*a typical way of ordering cured meats or cheeses at the deli counter)

hectogram (100 grams)
un litro di / un millilitro di a liter of / a milliliter of
una tazza di a cup of
un cucchiaino di a teaspoon of
un cucchiaio di a tablespoon of

Una prova

Struttura 4.4 Ci/Ne e i verbi idiomatici

In contesto

Quanti fratelli hai?

Ne ho 2. 

Vai spesso in palestra?

Ci vado tre volte alla settimana. 

At this point, you’ve dedicated quite a bit of study to pronouns – that is, those tiny little words that take the place of nouns that can sometimes be difficult and confusing and comical to pronounce. Well, there are two more small words that you have probably encountered but perhaps not studied explicitly: ci and ne. These two words tend to be studied together, even though they are technically two different parts of speech: ci is actually an adverb, and ne is a pronoun. Both can take the place of certain prepositional phrases, among other functions.


Let’s look first at the uses of ne.

1. Quantità

Quanti etti di prosciutto compri?

Ne compro 2. 

(How many hectograms of prosciutto are you buying? I’m buying 2 [of them]).

Quante uova usi nella ricetta?

Ne uso 3. 

(How many eggs are you using in the recipe? I’m using 3 [of them]).

As you can see in these examples, we use ne with expressions of quantity. It is the way we say “x number of it/them”. We do not need to repeat the noun we are substituting, and just like with other pronouns, we tend to place ne before the conjugated verb (all previous rules for placement apply here as well).

2. Partitivi e frasi con la preposizione di 

Prendi del pane prima di tornare a casa?

-Certo che ne prendo. 

(Will you pick up some bread before you come home? Certainly, I’ll pick some up.)

This example represents a quantity, like those above, but it also shows another key use of ne: to replace the partitive with di.

In fact, ne is used to replace any combination of the preposition di + a noun or infinitive, even if it does not represent quantity.

Es. Ho voglia di prendere un gelato.

Ne ho voglia.

(I feel like an ice cream. → I feel like it)

Es. Parliamo del menù più tardi.

Ne parliamo più tardi.

(We’ll talk about the menu later. → We’ll talk about it later)

If ne is combined with other pronouns, it comes second:

Es. Ti serve del sale?

-No, non me ne serve.

(Do you need some salt? No, I don’t need it)


You have already seen ci in a lot of different capacities: as a reflexive, reciprocal, direct and indirect object pronoun. But that’s not all!

1. Luogo

Remember when you learned the expressions c’è and ci sono (there is, there are)? Well, the ci in that case means “there” and functions as an adverb. In general, because it can refer to a place, it can replace phrases that begin with the prepositions a, in, su and da.

Es. Vai in biblioteca per studiare?

Ci vado.

(Do you go to the library to study? Yes, I go there.)

Es. Sei mai andato in Italia?

-Non ci sono ancora andato.

(Have you ever been to Italy? I haven’t been there yet.)

Hai lasciato il libro sulla scrivania?

-Sì, ci ho lasciato il libro.

(Did you leave the book on the desk? Yes, I left the book there.)

Sei passata da Diana ieri sera?

-Non ho avuto tempo per passarci.

(Did you pass by Diana’s last night? I didn’t have time to pass by there.)

This last example (da + noun/pronoun) is the equivalent of saying “someone’s house or place of business”. Think of the Italian restaurants you know that have names like Da Luigi – this means Luigi’s!

I verbi idiomatici

In English, there are a lot of idiomatic expressions, or expressions that have a figurative, rather than a literal, meaning. If you say: “Wow, ci and ne in Italian are a piece of cake”, then you are using an idiomatic expression because obviously these two grammatical elements are not actually cake. In Italian, there are also certain verbs that have idiomatic meanings, and these verbs often include ci or ne in their infinitive forms. A little particular, but also fun and useful phrases to learn!

Es. ‘Ci’ e ‘ne’ sono difficili, ma gli studenti se la cavano.

(‘Ci’ and ‘ne’ are difficult, but the students are managing.)

Es. Quando finisco l’università, me ne vado da Massachusetts.

(When I finish college, I’m getting out of Massachusetts.)

Es. Martina ha un appuntamento e non ce la fa a venire alla nostra festa.

(Martina has a date and can’t make it to our party.)

As you can see in these examples, the verb conjugations have “built in” double pronouns–some reflexive verbs that add ne or the direct object pronoun la, and some that use ci in a similar way. Here are the infinitive forms of the verbs in the examples above:

se la cavano cavarsela to get by, to manage, to succeed
me ne vado andarsene to leave, to go away
ce la fa farcela to make it, to manage, to succeed

Here are some other examples:

-reflexive pronoun + la

verb meaning example
prendersela to get angry, upset, annoyed, offended Quando gli studenti non studiano, la professoressa se la prende con loro. 
passarsela (bene o male) to get on well/badly (sometimes economically) Noemi se la passa bene, dopo la promozione al lavoro.
sentirsela to feel like doing something, to feel up to doing something Non me la sento di viaggiare durante la pandemia.
verb meaning example
farcela to make it, to manage, to succeed Martina ha un appuntamento e non ce la fa a venire alla nostra festa.
avercela (con) to be angry with someone, to have it in for someone Sono arrivato in ritardo per il nostro appuntamento, e ora il mio ragazzo ce l’ha con me.
metterci to take x amount of time

(all subjects)

Mio fratello ci ha messo tre ore per andare da Milano a Parma.
volerci to take x amount of time (only third person, singular or plural) Ci vogliono due ore per andare da Milano a Parma.
tenerci to care about I professori ci tengono tanto ad insegnare le loro materie agli studenti.
entrarci to have to do with La pallacanestro non c’entra niente con l’arte rinascimentale.


verb meaning example
andarsene to leave, to go away, to get away from Quando finisco l’università, me ne vado da Massachusetts.
intendersene to be an expert in, to know a lot about Guardo sempre il Food Network–me ne intendo di cucinare, e di mangiare!

Una prova



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Torniamo a tavola! Volume 1 by Melina Masterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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