Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 1, part 5

Your study of the Italian language used in chapter 1 of Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi continues; in this post, you will look at:

— Questo legno è capitato a tempo; voglio servirmene per fare una gamba di tavolino. — Detto fatto, prese subito l’ascia arrotata per cominciare a levargli la scorza e a digrossarlo;

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 1

You will remember from part 3 that capitare can be used to talk about people showing up, for example: sei capitato in un brutto momento (you have shown up at a bad moment). In the text, you have another example of this verb with questo legno è capitato a tempo (this wood has shown up at the right moment).

Capitare a tempo, then, means to show up at the right moment.

Maestro Ciliegia says he wants to use the wood to make una gamba di tavolino (table leg). But how does he say to use in Italian? He uses the verb servirsi.

Compare:

Voglio servirmi di questo legno per fare una gamba di tavolino.
Voglio servirmene per fare una gamba di tavolino.
I want to use this wood to make a table leg.
I want to use it to make a table leg.

Servirsi di una cosa means to use something. Voglio servirmi di questo legno, then, means I want to use this wood. What if you wanted to say I want to use it, without saying this wood? In this case, you can say voglio servirmene. The added ne replaces di questo legno, in the same way it replaces this wood in English. Of course, you must change mi to me before you add ne. Here are a few more examples:

Vuoi servirti di questa matita?
Vuoi servirtene?
Do you want to use this pencil?
Do you want to use it?

Voglio servirmi di questo coltello.
Voglio servirmene.
I want to use this knife.
I want to use it.

Vogliono servirsi della nostra macchina.
Vogliono servirsene.
They want to use our car.
They want to use it.

The expression detto fatto literally means said-done. It is the Italian equivalent of no sooner said than done. If you said you would do something and then immediately did that thing, you can say detto fatto.

Maestro Ciliegia took his ascia (axe), which was arrotata (sharpened), so he could start removing the scorza (bark) from the wood. Levare la scorza means to remove the bark; levargli la scorza means to remove the bark from it, to remove its bark. The gli in levargli refers back to the pezzo di legno.

Levare here means to remove. Here are a few other examples of this usage: levare un quadro dalla parete (to remove a painting from the wall), levare le coperte dal letto (to take the blankets off the bed).

Not only did the woodworker want to remove the scorza (or corteccia, as bark is also known in Italian), he also wanted to thin the wood down, or digrossare il legno.

Getting back to his axe, the text tells us is was sharpened, or arrotata. This adjective comes from the verb arrotare, meaning to sharpen: arrotare un’ascia (to sharpen an axe), arrotare un coltello (to sharpen a knife). There verb affilare also means to sharpen: affilare un coltello (to sharpen a knife). To talk about sharpening a pencil, you can say temperare una matita (to sharpen a pencil).

This post’s portion of text breaks down as follows: — Quésto légno è capitàto a tèmpo (this piece of wood has shown up at the right time); vòglio servìrmene (I want to use it) per fàre ùna gàmba di tavolìno (to make a table leg). — Détto fàtto (no sooner said than done), prése sùbito l’àscia arrotàta (he immediately took the sharpened axe) per cominciàre a levàrgli la scòrza (to start removing the bark from it) e a digrossàrlo (and to thin it down);

Key Italian usages from this post include: capitàre a tèmpo (to show up at the right moment), la gàmba (leg), il tavolìno (small table), servìrsi di ùna còsa (to use something), la matìta (pencil), il coltèllo (knife), la màcchina (car), détto fàtto (no sooner said than done), un’àscia (axe), arrotàre (to sharpen [knife, axe]), affilàre (to sharpen [knife, axe]), temperàre (to sharpen [pencil]), levàre (to remove), la scòrza (bark), la cortéccia (bark), il quàdro (painting), la copèrta (blanket), il lètto (bed), digrossàre (to thin down).