Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 1, part 1

Carlo Collodi

The author of Le avventure di Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi (pen name of Carlo Lorenzini), was born in Florence, in 1826.

Chapters 1-15 were published in serial form in a newspaper from 1881 to 1882, under the name La storia di un burattino. Chapters 16-36 were then added, and the work was published as a completed book in 1883, under the name Le avventure di Pinocchio.

This post begins your study of the Italian language used in Le avventure di Pinocchio.

Before working through the chapter 1 posts, read the entire chapter of the book first. You will find a link in the index where you can read online a 1902 edition of the book.

Chapter 1 begins:

Come andò che Maestro Ciliegia, falegname, trovò un pezzo di legno che piangeva e rideva come un bambino.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 1

Come andò che can be translated as how it occurred that. Andò is third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of andare (to go). Literally, come andò che means how it went that.

A woodworker is called a falegname in Italian. This is an interesting word; it comes from the combination of two others: fare (to do, to make) and legname (timber).

A distinction is made between il falegname and il carpentiere. Both are men who work with wood, but the falegname works on furniture and other crafted objects, whereas the carpentiere works in construction. The carpentiere might make a wooden scaffolding, for example. The work of the falegname is called la falegnameria, and that of the carpentiere is la carpenteria.

Un pezzo di legno is a piece of wood. You looked above at legname (timber), which you see is related etymologically to legno (wood).

You have another example of the passato remoto in the third-person singular trovò, from the verb trovare (to find). Using falegname, you can now say, for example, il falegname trovò un pezzo di legno (the woodworker found a piece of wood). Using the passato prossimo instead, you would say il falegname ha trovato un pezzo di legno.

You learn that the pezzo di legno acted like a child. The expressions you find are piangere come un bambino (to cry like a child) and ridere come un bambino (to laugh like a child). The text uses piangeva and rideva, which are both third-person singular, imperfetto conjugations.

This post’s portion of text can be translated into English as: Cóme andò che Maèstro Ciliègia (how it occurred that Maestro Ciliegia), falegnàme (a woodworker), trovò un pèzzo di légno (found a piece of wood) che piangéva e ridéva cóme un bambìno (that cried and laughed like a child).

Key Italian usages from this post include: cóme andò che (how it occurred that), il maèstro (master, craftsman), la ciliègia (cherry), le ciliègie (cherries), il falegnàme (woodworker, carpenter), il carpentière (carpenter), la falegnamerìa (woodworking, carpentry), la carpenterìa (carpentry), il pèzzo (piece), il légno (wood), il legnàme (timber), piàngere (to cry), rìdere (to laugh), cóme un bambìno (like a child).