Translated by Alanna Quintyne
Andare, fare and sapere are Italian verbs very common and learnt almost immediately by Italian learners. In this article called “Andare, Fare and Sapere: the unique uses of these words” I will not focus on the meaning everybody knows but I will let you know the particular uses of these Italian verbs.
Are you familiar with the verbs andare, fare and sapere? Have you ever come across them? Of course, what silly questions… I’m sure you know them perfectly and are also able to use them quite well, so you may find this article trivial or even useless.
But don’t worry, I have no desire to waste your precious time. Read on and you’ll find out what I’m getting at….
Why write about such common verbs?
The idea for this article came about during a lesson with one of my students, who was explaining to me the use of a particular ingredient about which I did not know much. So I automatically asked him: “… e quest’ingrediente di che sa?”
Let’s leave this story for a moment, which we will take up later, and return to the main topic, the use of these 3 very common verbs:
- Andare = to go
- Fare = to do, to make
- Sapere = to know
These are verbs that are so widely used in the Italian language that I’m sure you learned them almost immediately. But are you sure that you know them to the core? Is it possible that they have other much less obvious meanings? Of course they do, and today I want to examine them with you.
Andare as in volere
As mentioned earlier, the meaning of the verb andare is to go, which indicates heading toward a place or person, as in the following example:
- Vai al mare? Sì, ci vado.
- Are you going to the seaside? Yes, I am going there.
In Italian, however, it is also common to use the verb andare as volere (to want).
- Ti va di andare al mare?
- Do you want to go to the beach?
Which is basically like saying: Vuoi andare al mare?
Fare as in dire
If you come to Italy you may happen to hear people telling stories or facts using the verb fare instead of the verb dire. I personally do not like this way of expressing myself and consequently do not use it much, but it is not uncommon to find Italians using it, as in this example:
- Ogni volta che esco con Laura mi fa: “Guarda che bel ragazzo, guarda quell’altro…”, non la sopporto più!
- Every time I go out with Laura she’s like, “Look at that handsome guy, look at that other guy…,” I can’t stand her anymore!
Instead of the more canonical:
- Ogni volta che esco con Laura mi dice “Guarda che bel ragazzo, guarda quell’altro…”, non la sopporto più!
As you can see the meaning is exactly the same even though two different verbs are used.
Sapere as in ha il gusto o il sapore di
Let us now resume the story we had interrupted earlier, at the moment when I asked my student “…e quest’ingrediente di che sa?”
I will let you imagine the astonishment on his face on hearing a question that he did not expect and that didn’t really make sense to him.
“It knows… It knows what? What does this ingredient know?”
Well, the verb sapere undoubtedly indicates being aware of something, but very often it can also be used to mean what something tastes like.
- Ho assaggiato il gelato allo zenzero. Davvero? Di che sa? = I tried ginger ice cream. Really? What does it taste like?
- Non mi piace il gorgonzola, per me sa di piedi! = I don’t like gorgonzola, to me it tastes like feet!
As you can see in these two examples the verb sapere is not equivalent to knowing but is used to indicate the taste of something.
(What do you associate ginger with? What flavor does it remind you of? Or I don’t like gorgonzola cheese because it tastes terrible to me).
It is clear that the verb to know can also be used to highlight something more positive, as in the following case:
- Mi piacciono i panni lavati con questo nuovo prodotto. Sanno di pulito! = I like the laundry washed with this new product. They smell clean!
As you have seen from what has been written so far, the Italian language, as well as all other languages, is richer and more complex than it may seem at first glance. When approaching a new language, it is normal to stop at the first meaning that the reference book or dictionary gives us. But as we move forward, as we immerse ourselves in the language we begin to notice the ambiguities, the underlying meanings, and the complexity and richness that the language holds. Only constant practice and in-depth knowledge can bring out all the nuances of language, just as we have seen with the verbs andare, fare and sapere as analyzed today.
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