Italian language series: Pinocchio, chapter 1 (part 10)

This post will look at the following portion of text in Italian from chapter 1 of Carlo Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio:

Appena riebbe l’uso della parola, cominciò a dire tremando e balbettando dallo spavento: — Ma di dove sarà uscita questa vocina che ha detto ohi?… Eppure qui non c’è anima viva.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 1

Riebbe is the third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of riavere, meaning to get back (literally, to have again). Riavere is the verb avere with the prefix ri. Appena riebbe l’uso della parola, then, means as soon as he was able to speak again (literally, as soon as he got the use of speech back, as soon as he regained the use of speech).

Riavere is a good verb to learn, so here are two more examples of it, taken from the Treccani dictionary: non riavrai più quei soldi (you will never get that money back), non è facile riavere i libri dati in prestito (it is not easy to get back the books you have lent out).

Out of fear, il falegname tremava e balbettava. The verbs here are tremare (to tremble) and balbettare (to stutter). Out of fear is dallo spavento.

Consider now the wording di dove sarà uscita questa vocina?, which means where might this little voice have come from? What is interesting is how Italian and English use different tenses here: Italian uses the futuro anteriore when it says sarà uscita. Literally, in English, the sentence reads as the equivalent of where will this little voice have come from?

This is an important structure to learn. Here are more examples of this:

Ma cos’avrò fatto di male?
But what might I have (possibly) done wrong?

Con chi sarebbero venuti?
Who might they have come with?

Di dove saranno usciti?
Where might they have come from?

In these examples, English uses might have, followed by a past participle (might have come, might have done). English can also use could have here (could have come, could have done).

— Tu hai sbagliato.
— Ma cos’avrò fatto di male?
— You were mistaken.
— But what could I have done wrong?

Look now at how Italian conveys a similar idea, this time using the futuro semplice instead:

Di dove sarà?
Where might he be from?

Cos’avrai in quella borsa?
What might you have in that bag?

Ma perché sarà più facile?
But why might it be easier?

In these last examples, English simply uses might.


Cos’avrai in quella borsa? (futuro semplice)
Cos’avrai messo in quella borsa? (futuro anteriore)
What might you have in that bag?
What might you have put in that bag?

Getting back to the text, eppure means but, yet. The falegname then says: eppure qui non c’è anima viva (but there is not a living soul here). In other words, he cannot figure out where the voice is coming from because he is the only person in the bottega.

This portion of text translates as: Appéna rièbbe l’ùso délla paròla (as soon as regained the use of speech), cominciò a dìre (he started to say) tremàndo e balbettàndo (trembling and stuttering) dàllo spavénto (out of fear): — Ma di dóve sarà uscìta (but from where might have come) quésta vocìna che ha détto óhi (this little voice that said oh)?… Eppùre qui non c’è ànima vìva (and yet there is not a living soul here).

Key Italian usages from this post include: un ùso (use), la paròla (word, speech), riavére (to get back), il prèstito (loan), dàre in prèstito (to lend), tremàre (to tremble), balbettàre (to stutter), lo spavénto (fear), sbagliàre (to be mistaken), la bórsa (bag), un’ànima (soul), vìvo (living, alive), la bottéga (workshop).