Study Italian from the Bible: Genesis 1, verses 20-23

In this post, you will study verses 20-23 from chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis in Italian, version Diodati 1821, which describe the fifth day of creation: il quinto giorno.

I have translated the verses rather literally into English to help you grasp the sense of the Italian text.

Verses 20-23 read as follows:

20Poi Iddio disse: Producano le acque copiosamente rettili, che sieno animali viventi; e volino gli uccelli sopra la terra, e per la distesa del cielo.

 

21Iddio adunque creò le grandi balene, ed ogni animal vivente che va serpendo; i quali animali le acque produssero copiosamente, secondo le loro specie; ed ogni sorta di uccelli che hanno ale, secondo le loro specie. E Iddio vide che ciò era buono.

 

22E Iddio li benedisse, dicendo: Figliate, moltiplicate, ed empiete le acque ne’ mari; moltiplichino parimente gli uccelli sulla terra.

 

23Così fu sera, e poi fu mattina, che fu il quinto giorno.

Genesi 1:20-23 (Diodati 1821)

Versetto 20

Pòi Iddìo dìsse (then God said): Prodùcano le àcque copiosaménte rèttili (let produce the waters copiously reptiles), che sieno animali viventi (let be the living animals); e vólino gli uccèlli sópra la tèrra (and let fly the birds over the earth), e per la distesa del cièlo (and in the expanse of the heaven).

Un animale vivente is a living animal, living creature.

Compare these conjugations:

volano gli uccelli
volino gli uccelli

the birds fly
let the birds fly

Now compare these:

produce la terra
produca la terra

the earth produces
let the earth produce

producono le acque
producano le acque

the waters produce
let the waters produce

Versetto 21

Iddìo adùnque creò le gràndi baléne (God therefore created the great whales), ed ógni animàl vivènte che va serpèndo (and every living animal that goes slithering); i quali animali le acque produssero copiosamente (which animals the waters produced copiously), secóndo le lóro spècie (according to their kinds); ed ógni sòrta di uccèlli che hànno àle, secóndo le lóro spècie (and all sort of birds that have wings, according to their kinds). E Iddìo vìde che ciò èra buòno (and God saw that this was good).

Una balena is a whale. Le grandi balene, or great whales, refers to large sea creatures. Un’ala is a wing; in modern usage, its plural form is le ali. The plural le ale, used here in uccelli che hanno ale, is an older form.

The gerund serpendo comes from the verb serpere (pronounced sèrpere), meaning to slither. Serpere is considered a literary usage today; modern equivalents in everyday language are serpeggiare and strisciare. Serpere is related to the Italian word for snake: il serpente.

Versetto 22

E Iddìo li benedìsse, dicèndo (and God blessed them, saying): Figliàte, moltiplicàte, ed empiéte le àcque ne’ màri (reproduce, multiply and fill the waters in the seas); moltìplichino pariménte gli uccèlli sùlla tèrra (let multiply likewise the birds upon the earth).

Benedire means to bless. I bless is (io) benedico; I blessed is (io) ho benedetto (using the passato prossimo) o io benedissi (using the passato remoto). In this verse, you have the form benedisse, which is the third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation: Iddio li benedisse (God blessed them).

Figliare means to give birth, to reproduce. Figliate as used here is the imperative voi form. Moltiplicare means to multiply; moltiplicate is its imperative voi form. Empiete is the imperative voi form of the verb empiere (pronounced émpiere) meaning to fill. In modern usage, to fill is usually said with the verb riempire (pronounced riempìre).

Ne’ is a truncated form of nei; ne’ mari, then, is a variation of nei mari (in the seas). You will remember that you have also seen de’, a truncated form of dei, for example: de’ mari (of the seas).

If you wanted to say the birds multiply, you would say gli uccelli moltiplicano. This verse uses the subjunctive form moltiplichino instead, which renders the idea of let. Moltiplichino gli uccelli means let the birds multiply. Be sure to stress the correct syllable in these conjugated forms: moltìplicano, moltìplichino.

moltiplicano gli uccelli
the birds multiply

moltiplichino gli uccelli
let the birds multiply

Parimente is a less common equivalent of parimenti, meaning likewise.

Versetto 23

Così fu séra, e pòi fu mattìna (thus it was evening, and then it was morning), che fu il quìnto giórno (which was the fifth day).

The only new usage here is quinto, meaning fifth.