Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 3, part 10

In the last part, Geppetto put Pinocchio on the floor to start teaching him how to walk. Now, in this next portion of text from chapter 3 of Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, you will see what new antics (or monellerie) Pinocchio gets up to.

Pinocchio aveva le gambe aggranchite e non sapeva muoversi, e Geppetto lo conduceva per la mano per insegnargli a mettere un passo dietro l’altro. Quando le gambe gli si furono sgranchite, Pinocchio cominciò a camminare da sé e a correre per la stanza; finché, infilata la porta di casa, saltò nella strada e si dette a scappare.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 3

This portion of text begins with the adjective aggranchito, meaning numb, stiff, such as gambe aggranchite (numb legs). Aggranchito comes from the verb aggranchire, meaning to numb, to stiffen, which in turn comes from the noun un granchio, meaning crab. Imagine the way a granchio walks, and you will see the relation.

Another way to say stiff, numb when talking about body parts is intorpidito, from the verb intorpidire, which in turn comes from the adjective torpido, meaning sluggish, sleepy.

Avevo le gambe intorpidite.
My legs were numb, asleep.

Questa posizione scomoda m’intorpidisce le gambe.
This uncomfortable position is making my legs numb.

Because Pinocchio’s legs were intorpidite or aggranchite, he could not move: non sapeva muoversi. Maybe you will remember that you have already seen how Italian uses sapere where English often uses can, to be able to.

Non sapeva muoversi.
He could not move.

Non so nuotare.
I cannot swim.
I do not know how to swim.

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

You then read that Geppetto lo conduceva per la mano (Geppetto led him by the hand) per insegnargli (to teach him) a mettere un passo dietro l’altro (to take one step after another; literally, to put one step behind the other).

Conduceva is a conjugated form of the verb condurre (to lead). Here are some important conjugations to learn from this verb:

Geppetto lo conduce (presente)
Geppetto lo conduceva (imperfetto)
Geppetto l’ha condotto (passato prossimo)
Geppetto lo condusse (passato remoto)

Look now at why Italian says insegnargli (to teach him), using gli: the gli of insegnargli means to him; this is because you teach something to someone.

Ha iniziato a insegnarmi il russo.
He has begun to teach Russian to me.
He has begun teaching me Russian.

Ho iniziato a insegnargli il russo.
I have begun to teach Russian to him.
I have begun teaching him Russian.

Hanno iniziato a insegnargli a camminare.
They have begun teaching him how to walk.
(literally, they have begun to teach [how] to walk to him)

Getting back to the verb aggranchire, its opposite is sgranchire. Similarly the opposite of aggranchito is sgranchito.

sgranchirsi le gambe
to limber up one’s legs

In the text, you find: quando le gambe gli si furono sgranchite. Sgranchirsi here means to limber up: le gambe si sono sgranchite (the legs limbered up). Gli tells you that it is his (Pinocchio’s) legs that are being discussed: le gambe gli si sono sgranchite (his legs limbered up; literally, the legs limbered up on him). The wording quando le gambe gli si furono sgranchite from the text, then, means when his legs had limbered up (literally, when the legs had limbered up on him).

Now that Pinocchio’s legs had limbered up, he began to walk on his own (cominciò a camminare da sé) and to run around the room (e a correre per la stanza). Note the use of da sé, on his own.

Il bambino cammina già da sé.
The child can already walk on his own.

Note also the use of per, in per la stanza.

Ha cominciato a correre per la stanza.
He started running around the room.

Il bambino correva per il parco.
The child was running around the park.

Geppetto continued running around the room until such time as he had slipped out the door, leapt into the street and taken off. I shall end this post with a look at how Collodi expressed these events in Italian.

Finché means until. Pinocchio ran around the room finché saltò nella strada (until he leapt into the street). But, in order to leap into the street, he had to first slip out the front door: infilare la porta di casa (to slip out the house door).

Infilò la porta di casa e saltò nella strada.
He slipped out the house door and leapt into the street.

The text, however, says infilata la porta di casa. Translated literally, infilata la porta di casa, saltò nella strada means the house door (having been) slipped out of, he leapt into the street.

Once the door had been infilata, Pinocchio leapt into the street (saltò nella strada) and started to take off (si dette a scappare).

Scappare means to take off, to escape. Darsi a scappare means to begin to take off. Dette is a third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of the verb dare; another third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of dare is diede.

Si dette a scappare.
Si diede a scappare.
He started to take off.

This post’s portion of text can be broken down as follows: Pinòcchio avéva le gàmbe aggranchìte (Pinocchio’s legs were numb) e non sapéva muòversi (and he could not move), e Geppétto lo conducéva per la màno (and Geppetto led him by the hand) per insegnàrgli a méttere un pàsso diètro l’àltro (to teach him how to take one step after another). Quàndo le gàmbe gli si fùrono sgranchìte (when his legs had limbered up on him), Pinòcchio cominciò a camminàre da sé (Pinocchio began to walk on his own) e a córrere per la stànza (and to run around the room); finché (until), infilàta la pòrta di càsa (the house door having been slipped out of), saltò nélla stràda (he jumped into the street) e si dètte a scàppare (and started to take off).

Key Italian usages from this post include: aggranchìre (to numb, to stiffen), sgranchìre (to limber up), aggranchìto (numb, stiff), sgranchìto (limber), il grànchio (crab), intorpidìre (to numb, to stiffen), intorpidìto (numb, stiff), tòrpido (sluggish, sleepy), scòmodo (uncomfortable), muòversi (to move), nuotàre (to swim), ballàre (to dance), condùrre (to lead), la màno (hand), insegnàre (to teach), il pàsso (step), insegnàre (to teach), il rùsso (Russian language), camminàre (to walk), córrere (to run), la stànza (room), da sé (on his own), il pàrco (park), finché (until), saltàre (to leap, to jump), infilàre (to slip through), la pórta (door), la stràda (street), dàrsi a fàre (to take to doing), scappàre (to take off, to escape).