Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 3, part 16

This post completes your study of the Italian language appearing in chapter 3 of Carlo Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio.

Once you have completed your study of chapter 3, I encourage you to read the entire chapter again to appreciate your new understanding of the text in Italian.

The last portion of chapter 3 reads:

Insomma, tanto dissero e tanto fecero, che il carabiniere rimesse in libertà Pinocchio, e condusse in prigione quel pover’uomo di Geppetto. Il quale, non avendo parole lì per lì per difendersi, piangeva come un vitellino, e nell’avviarsi verso il carcere, balbettava singhiozzando: — Sciagurato figliuolo! E pensare che ho penato tanto a farlo un burattino per bene! Ma mi sta il dovere! Dovevo pensarci prima!… — Quello che accadde dopo, è una storia così strana da non potersi quasi credere, e ve la racconterò in quest’altri capitoli.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 3

This portion of text begins with insomma, a word you will hear used frequently in spoken, colloquial language. It means in short and is used to bring what someone is saying to a conclusion.

Insomma, non ho la più pallida idea.
In short, I have not the faintest idea.

Pallido (literally means pale) is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: pàllido.

In the text, you find: tanto dissero e tanto fecero (they said so much and did so much). In other words, the onlookers made such a fuss that the carabiniere released Pinocchio (rimesse in libertà Pinocchio) and took poor old Geppetto to prison (condusse in prigione quel pover’uomo di Geppetto). The expressions used here are rimettere in libertà (to free, to release; literally, to put back in liberty) and condurre in prigione (to take to prison; literally, to lead to prison). The past participles are rimesso and condotto.

Rimesse in libertà Pinocchio.
Ha rimesso in libertà Pinocchio.
He let Pinocchio go. He released Pinocchio.

Condusse Geppetto in prigione.
Ha condotto Geppetto in prigione.
He took Geppetto to prison.

Note how povero loses its o before uomo: quel pover’uomo di Geppetto (that poor man Geppetto). Remember, povero takes its stress on the first syllable: pòvero.

Getting back to the story, Geppetto did not know what to say to defend himself: non avendo parole lì per lì per difendersi (not having words at that moment to defend himself). Lì per lì means at that very moment.

Geppetto wailed come un vitellino. Un vitello is a calf; un vitellino, then, is an even smaller calf; that is, one that has just been born. Collodi’s use of piangere come un vitellino is equivalent to the English to cry like a baby.

In addition to la prigione, you come across another word for prison in the text: il carcere. Nell’avviarsi verso il carcere (on the way to jail), balbettava singhiozzando (he muttered while sobbing). Carcere is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: càrcere.

The verb avviarsi means to set off, to get going, to proceed. Avviarsi verso il carcere, then, literally means to proceed towards the jail, and nell’avviarsi verso il carcere literally means (while) in (the process of) proceeding towards the jail. You will often come across this use of nel (or nell’) before an infinitive in Italian.

You have seen the verb balbettare before; you will remember it means to mumble, stammer. Il falegname tremava e balbettava dallo spavento. The verb singhiozzare means to sob.

Geppetto, while sobbing, qualifies Pinocchio as sciagurato: wicked, deplorable. Sciagurato figliuolo! Deplorable son! Now that you know sciagurato, you can also learn the related sciagura (pronounced sciagùra), meaning disaster, tragedy.

Geppetto continues: E pensare che ho penato tanto a farlo un burattino per bene! The expression e pensare che finds its equivalent in the English and to think that.

E pensare che ho penato tanto!
And to think I toiled so! And to think I worked so hard!

Penare, as we just saw above, means to toil, to struggle. Geppetto says he toiled to make Pinocchio become a respectable marionette: un burattino per bene. Per bene means good, respectable, decent.

un ragazzo per bene
a decent boy, respectable lad, etc.

Geppetto states, however, that he deserved Pinocchio’s misbehaviour: mi sta il dovere (I deserve it), and adds: dovevo pensarci prima (I should have thought of that before). Note that the ci in pensarci equates to the English it or that.

I shall end this post with the entire last line of this post’s portion of text: Quello che accadde dopo (that which happened next), è una storia così strana (is such a strange story) da non potersi quasi credere (that it almost cannot be believed), e ve la racconterò in quest’altri capitoli (and I shall tell it to you in the chapters that follow).

Accadde is the third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of the verb accadere (to happen, to occur). As for understanding da non potersi credere, consider first these examples of usage:

muoversi
to move (literally, to move oneself)

Era così grosso da non potersi più muovere.
He was so fat that he could not move anymore.

allontanarsi da casa
to leave home (literally, to distance oneself from home)

È così malato da non potersi allontanare da casa.
He is so ill that he cannot leave home.

Si, in the examples above, can be moved to the end of potere in the presence of that verb:

muoversi
potersi muovere
da non potersi muovere
to move himself
to be able to move himself
that he cannot/could not move himself

allontanarsi
potersi allontanare
da non potersi allontanare
to distance himself
to be able to distance himself
that he cannot/could not distance himself

You have another example of this in the text:

credersi
potersi credere
da non potersi credere
to be believed
to be able to be believed
that it cannot/could not be able to be believed

This final portion of text from the chapter can be broken down as follows: Insómma (in short), tànto dìssero e tànto fécero (they made such a fuss), che il carabinière rimésse in libertà Pinòcchio (that the carabiniere released Pinocchio), e condùsse in prigióne (and took to prison) quel pover’uòmo di Geppétto (that poor man Geppetto). Il quàle (who), non avèndo paròle lì per lì per difèndersi (not having words at that moment to defend himself), piangéva cóme un vitellìno (cried like a baby), e nell’avviàrsi vèrso il càrcere (and on the way to jail), balbettàva singhiozzàndo (muttered while sobbing): — Sciaguràto figliuòlo (deplorable son)! E pensàre che ho penàto tànto (and to think I toiled so) a fàrlo un burattìno per bène (to make a decent marionette)! Ma mi sta il dovére (but I deserve it)! Dovévo pensàrci prìma (I should have thought of that before)!… — Quéllo che accàdde dópo (that which happened next), è una stòria così stràna (is such a strange story) da non potérsi quàsi crédere (that it almost cannot be believed), e ve la racconterò in quest’àltri capìtoli (and I shall tell it to you in the chapters that follow).

Key Italian usages appearing in this post include: insómma (in short), pàllido (pale), la libertà (freedom, liberty), riméttere in libertà (to release, to free), il càrcere (prison, jail), la prigióne (prison, jail), condùrre in prigióne (to take to prison), lì per lì (at that very moment), difèndersi (to defend oneself), piàngere (to cry), il vitèllo (calf), avviàrsi vèrso (to set off for, to set off towards), balbettàre (to stammer, mumble), singhiozzàre (to sob), sciaguràto (deplorable, wicked), la sciagùra (disaster, tragedy), e pensàre che (and to think that), penàre a fàre (to toil to do), per bène (decent, respectable, good), mi sta il dovére (I deserve it), pensàrci (to think about it), prìma (before, beforehand), accadére (to happen, to occur), la stòria (story), stràno (strange), raccontàre (to tell), il capìtolo (chapter), crédere (to believe).