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Italian expression of the day: ‘In grado’

Can you make the grade?

Italian expression of the day in grado.
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you overhear yourself being referred to as in grado, you can rest assured that it’s a compliment – or at least, definitely not an insult.

It means that a person or a thing is able to, capable of, or ‘up to’ performing a specific task – either because they have the necessary skills or equipment or because the circumstances make it possible.

Because it refers to the sentence subject’s ability to undertake a particular action, in grado needs to be either explicitly or implicitly followed by the preposition di and the infinitive of a verb, to specify exactly what they’re capable of doing.

Sono in grado di gestire la situazione.
They’re capable of handling the situation.

Se ti avvicini, sarai in grado di vedere meglio.
If you get closer, you’ll be able to see better.

As mentioned above, the di + infinitive doesn’t necessarily have to be articulated:

Ho bisogno di cuochi che sappiano cucinare velocemente. Se non sei in grado, basta dirlo.
I need chefs who can cook fast. If you’re not up to it, just say so.

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Ci piacerebbe molto che il vostro quartetto d’archi suonasse il violino alla fiera della scuola. Se vi sentite in grado, lo metterò nel programma.
We would love for your string quartet to play the violin at the school fair. If you’re up for it, I’ll put it on the programme.

In these examples, the di + infinitive aren’t expressed outright, but they’re implied: we know what specific task is being referred to, and if we wanted we could rework the sentence to add them in:

Se non sei in grado di cucinare velocemente, basta dirlo.
If you’re not able to cook fast, just say so.

Se vi sentite in grado di suonare il violino alla fiera della scuola, lo metterò nel programma.
If you’re up for playing the violin at the school fair, I’ll put it on the programme.

When talking about someone being capable in general, rather than up to a specific task, however, we need to use a word like capace (capable) instead.

Giovanni è molto capace come avvocato.
Giovanni’s a very capable lawyer.

Here in grado wouldn’t work, as there’s no implied di + infinitive: we know that Giovanni’s good at doing his job, but not any one thing in particular.

It follows, then, that ‘a capable person’ would simply be una persona capace. Una persona in grado doesn’t work unless – again – you follow it up with a di + infinitive.

In grado doesn’t just apply to humans – we can also use the phrase to talk about inanimate objects like machines.

La macchina è in grado di guidarsi da sola nella maggioranza delle circostanze.
The car is capable of driving itself in most circumstances.

Il computer è in grado di calcolare anche la velocità, la potenza, e l’energia usata.
The computer is also able to calculate speed, power, and energy usage.

That’s all we have for you today – see if you’re in grado di memorizzarlo (able to memorise it).

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For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

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The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

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The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.