Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 1, part 12

In this post, you will look at the Italian language used in the following portion of text from chapter 1 of Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi:

E così dicendo, agguantò con tutte e due le mani quel povero pezzo di legno, e si pose a sbatacchiarlo senza carità contro le pareti della stanza. Poi si messe in ascolto, per sentire se c’era qualche vocina che si lamentasse. Aspettò due minuti, e nulla; cinque minuti, e nulla; dieci minuti, e nulla!

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 1

You will need to know these verbs: agguantàre (to grab, grasp), sbatacchiàre (to bang, knock about), sentìre (to hear), lamentàrsi (to complain, to lament), aspettàre (to wait).

You will also need to know the following usages: pórsi a fàre (to start to do), méttersi in ascólto (to tune in, to listen), e così dicèndo (and with those words), tùtte e dùe le màni (both hands), pòvero (poor), sènza carità (without pity), cóntro le paréti (against the walls).

The falegname grabbed the piece of wood: agguantò il pezzo di legno. The verb agguantare (to grab, to grasp) comes from the noun guanto, meaning glove. Another verb you will hear frequently used in the same sense is afferrare, for example: afferrare qualcuno per il collo (to grab someone by the neck), afferrare un coltello (to grab a knife). The verb afferrare comes from the noun ferro, meaning tool, iron.

Tutte e due le mani means both hands. Because mani is a feminine noun, you say tutte e due. If the noun had been masculine, you would say tutti e due, for example: tutti e due i piedi (both feet).

Using the expression tutti e due or tutte e due, can you say the following in Italian?

  1. both arms
  2. both eyes
  3. both books


  1. tutte e due le braccia
  2. tutti e due gli occhi
  3. tutti e due i libri

Can you now translate these sentences to Italian?

  1. Both books are interesting.
  2. I closed both eyes.
  3. He pushed me with both arms.


  1. Tutti e due i libri sono interessanti.
  2. Ho chiuso tutti e due gli occhi.
  3. Mi ha spinto (spinta) con tutte e due le braccia.

Now that you know the full forms tutti e due and tutte e due, know that it is also possible to contract them both to tutt’e due:

tutt’e due i bambini
tutt’e due le sorelle, etc.

The verb porre means to put. In the text, you have si pose a sbatacchiarlo (he started to knock it about). Si pose is the third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of porsi, literally meaning to put oneself, for example: porsi in viaggio (to set out; literally, to put oneself in journey), porsi a tavolo (to sit down at the table; literally, to put oneself at the table).

Farther along in the text, you have si messe in ascolto (he started to listen), from the infinitive form mettersi in ascolto. Mettersi is similar to porsi, for example: mettersi a leggere (to start to read; literally, to put oneself to read), mettersi a giocare (to start to play; literally, to put oneself to play).

Note that si messe is Tuscan, equivalent to the Italian si mise. These are both third-person singular, passato remoto conjugations.

Using both the passato prossimo and passato remoto conjugations of mettersi, can you say the following in Italian?

  1. He started to laugh.
  2. She started to write.
  3. I started to yell.


  1. Si è messo (si mise) a ridere.
  2. Si è messa (si mise) a scrivere.
  3. Mi sono messo; mi sono messa (mi misi) a gridare.

Here are a few more examples of the verb sbatacchiare (to bang, to knock about) to learn from: sbatacchiare qualcuno per terra (to knock someone to the ground), ho sbatacchiato il tappeto per spolverarlo (I banged the rug to get rid of the dust).

In the text, you have qualche vocina in the wording per sentire se c’era qualche vocina (to hear if there was some little voice). Remember to use the singular after qualche: ho qualche amico a Roma (I have some friends in Rome), ho qualche libro (I have some books). If an adjective follows the noun, it must also be singular: ho qualche libro interessante (I have some interesting books).

This post’s portion of text can be understood as follows: E così dicèndo (and in so saying), agguantò con tùtte e dùe le màni (he grabbed with both hands) quel pòvero pèzzo di légno (that poor piece of wood), e si póse a sbatacchiàrlo sènza carità (and he started knocking it about mercilessly) cóntro le paréti délla stànza (against the walls of the room). Pòi si mésse in ascólto (then he started to listen), per sentìre se c’èra quàlche vocìna (to hear if there was a little voice) che si lamentàsse (that complained). Aspettò dùe minùti (he waited two minutes), e nùlla (and nothing); cìnque minùti (five minutes), e nùlla (and nothing); dièci minùti (ten minutes), e nùlla (and nothing)!