Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 4, part 6

The cricket has suggested to Pinocchio that he learn a trade so that he might one day make a living; Pinocchio is not interested in the least, and he now tells the cricket why.

You will look in this post at the following portion of text in Italian from chapter 4 of Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi:

— Vuoi che te lo dica? — replicò Pinocchio, che cominciava a perdere la pazienza. — Fra i mestieri del mondo non ce n’è che uno solo che veramente mi vada a genio. — E questo mestiere sarebbe? — Quello di mangiare, bere, dormire, divertirmi e fare dalla mattina alla sera la vita del vagabondo.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 4

You will remember from the last post that the cricket, in an attempt to convince Pinocchio to make something of himself in this world, has just said: E se non ti garba di andare a scuola, perché non impari almeno un mestiere, tanto da guadagnarti onestamente un pezzo di pane?

Pinocchio responds: Vuoi che te lo dica?, meaning do you want me to tell you? It is important to learn how this question (and usages similar to it) works in Italian; you will now take a detailed look.

Voglio che tu venga con me.
I want you to come with me.

Voglio che lui soffra.
I want him to suffer.

Non voglio che lui perda tutto.
I do not want him to lose everything.

To render I want you to (do something) in Italian, you will literally say I want that you (do something); the verb after che must be conjugated in the congiuntivo presente. Similarly, to render I want him to (do something), you will say the equivalent in Italian of I want that he (do something).

Voglio che tu mi dica la verità.
I want you to tell me the truth.

Voglio che lui mi dica la verità.
I want him to tell me the truth.

Vuoi che ti dica la verità?
Do you want me to tell you the truth?

Cosa vuoi che ti dica?
What do you want me to tell you?

Vuoi che te lo dica?
Do you want me to tell you (it)?

The last example above is what you find in the text. The lo here refers to the reason why Pinocchio will not learn a trade; it simply means it (that is, the reason), but this it is not expressed in English.

Losing his patience (perdendo la pazienza), Pinocchio continues: Fra i mestieri del mondo non ce n’è che uno solo che veramente mi vada a genio. The expression andare a genio means to suit perfectly.

Questo mestiere mi va a genio.
This trade suits me perfectly.

Examine now non ce n’è che uno solo, which may have left you perplexed. First, know that non… che means only.

Non amo che lei.
I love only her. I love but her.

Non vedevo che morte e desolazione.
I saw only death and despair. I saw but death and despair.

Non c’è che un solo Dio.
There is only one God. There is but one God.

Non c’è che un solo problema.
There is only one problem. There is but one problem.

In the last example, imagine a situation where the context makes it clear that you are talking about problems, and so it became unnecessary to use the word problem itself. For example:

— There are no problems.
— Yes, there are. But there is only one.

In the wording there is only one, what is understood but not stated explicitly is there is only one problem. In English, to avoid stating the obvious, you can say there is only one or even there is only one of them. In English, this of them is optional, but in Italian it is mandatory: it is rendered in Italian with the use of ne. Ne is placed before the conjugated verb.

Leggevo due libri.
Ne leggevo due.
I was reading two books.
I was reading two (of them).

Non leggevo che due libri.
Non ne leggevo che due.
I was reading only two books.
I was reading only two (of them).

Non c’è che un solo problema.
Non ce n’è che uno solo.

There is only one problem.
There is only one (of them).

c’è = ce + è
ce n’è = ce + ne + è
(ne is inserted before è then contracts)

Note that un solo problema becomes uno solo when problema is substituted with ne. Look now at how this works using the wording from the text (vada is in the congiuntivo presente):

Non c’è che un solo mestiere che mi vada a genio.
Non ce n’è che uno solo che mi vada a genio.
There is only one trade that suits me perfectly.
There is only one (of them) that suits me perfectly.

This is, admittedly, a difficult area to master for English speakers, and it will take sufficient time and exposure for you to assimilate it. I might suggest that you memorise the sentence non ce n’è che uno solo che mi vada a genio, so as to have a set example in your mind.

The cricket asks Pinocchio what the one trade he thinks might suit him is: E questo mestiere sarebbe? Pinocchio responds that it is the one that involves eating, drinking, sleeping, having fun and living the life of a vagabond: Quello di mangiare, bere, dormire, divertirmi e fare dalla mattina alla sera la vita del vagabondo.

This post’s portion of text can be broken down as follows: — Vuòi che te lo dìca (do you want me to tell you)? — replicò Pinòcchio (replied Pinocchio), che cominciàva a pèrdere la paziènza (who started to lose patience). — Fra i mestièri del móndo (amongst the trades of the world) non ce n’è che ùno sólo (there is only one of them) che veraménte mi vàda a gènio (that really suits me). — E quésto mestière sarèbbe (and this trade might be)? — Quéllo di mangiàre (the one of eating), bére (drinking), dormìre (sleeping), divertìrmi (having fun) e fàre dàlla mattìna àlla séra la vìta del vagabóndo (and living from morning to evening the life of a vagabond).

Important Italian usages appearing in this post include: la paziènza (patience), pèrdere la paziènza (to lose patience), il mestière (trade), andàre a gènio (to suit perfectly), mangiàre (to eat), bére (to drink), dormìre (to sleep), divertìrsi (to have fun), la mattìna (morning), la séra (evening), la vìta (life), il vagabóndo (vagabond, tramp).