Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 2, part 1

This post continues your detailed look at the Italian language used in Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. You will find a link where you can view the entire book online in the index. Before you begin working through the chapter 2 posts, you may wish to read the entire chapter to familiarise yourself with its contents.

You will now look at the following introductory text from chapter 2:

Maestro Ciliegia regala il pezzo di legno al suo amico Geppetto, il quale lo prende per fabbricarsi un burattino maraviglioso, che sappia ballare, tirar di scherma e fare i salti mortali.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 2

The first verb you come across in this chapter is regalare, meaning to give (as a gift). The woodworker gives the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto, il falegname regala il pezzo di legno al suo amico Geppetto.

The Treccani dictionary offers some good examples of how you might use the verb regalare, for example:

regalare libri, regalare fiori, regalare dolci
to give books, to give flowers, to give sweets

Che cosa ti hanno regalato per il tuo compleanno?
What did they give you for your birthday?

The text continues with il quale, which you have seen before (chapter 1, part 3). You will remember it simply means who here.

un vecchio falegname, il quale…
an old woodworker who…

il suo amico, il quale…
his friend who…

The woodworker’s friend Geppetto takes the piece of wood: prende il pezzo di legno, to make a marionette: per fabbricarsi un burattino.

Note that Pinocchio is a marionette (activated by strings), which is una marionetta in Italian. Interestingly, Collodi liberally uses the term un burattino instead, which in fact means puppet (activated by an inserted hand). In these posts, I shall translate burattino as marionette, rather than puppet, when it refers to the character of Pinocchio.

Fabbricare means to make. Fabbricarsi, then, means to make (for) oneself.

Mi sono fabbricato un armadio.
I made myself a cupboard.

Geppetto si è fabbricato un burattino.
Geppetto made himself a marionette.

You now have the adjective maraviglioso, which is a Tuscan or literary variant of meraviglioso, meaning wonderful, marvellous.

The text continues with the following usages:

ballare
to dance

tirar di scherma
to fence

fare i salti mortali
to do somersaults

The sport known as fencing in English is called la scherma in Italian. To say the verb form to fence, you might say praticare la scherma in Italian, or tirare di scherma as Collodi has used here.

A somersault is called un salto mortale in Italian. To do a somersault, then, is fare un salto mortale. A somersault is also known as una capriola, so the expression to do a somersault is also said as fare una capriola.

You will notice the text uses the verb sapere (to know), in the congiuntivo presente conjugation sappia. To talk about being able to dance, fence, do somersaults, sing, swim, etc., use this verb. (English often uses can rather than to know.)

Sai ballare?
Do you know how to dance?
Can you dance?

Non so ballare.
I cannot dance.

Non sa cantare.
He cannot sing.

The text uses the congiuntivo presente conjugation sappia, rather than the presente conjugation sa. The burattino still has not been created, so it is yet to be seen if it will really be able to dance, fence and do somersaults. The subjunctive sappia adds an element of doubt.

This post’s portion of text breaks down as follows: Maèstro Ciliègia regàla il pèzzo di légno (Maestro Ciliegia gives the piece of wood) al sùo amìco Geppétto (to his friend Geppetto), il quàle lo prènde (who takes it) per fabbricàrsi un burattìno maraviglióso (to make himself a marvellous marionette), che sàppia ballàre (who knows how to dance), tiràr di schérma (fence) e fàre i sàlti mortàli (and do somersaults).

Key Italian usages from this post include: regalàre (to give [as a gift]), il lìbro (book), il fióre (flower), il dólce (dessert, sweet), il compleànno (birthday), il quàle (who), prèndere (to take), il burattìno (puppet; and marionette in this story), fabbricàre (to make), fabbricàrsi (to make oneself), un armàdio (cupboard, closet), maraviglióso (wonderful, marvellous; this is a Tuscan usage equivalent to meraviglióso), ballàre (to dance), la schérma (fencing), tiràre di schérma (to fence), praticàre la schérma (to fence), fàre un sàlto mortàle (to do a somersault), fàre ùna capriòla (to do a somersault), sapére ballàre (to be able to dance).