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Selina Pascale

Selina Pascale


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About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!

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Formal and Informal

Formal and Informal

In Italian, you can address people formally or informally depending on the situation and how much you know the person. ‘Tu’ and ‘Lei’ both mean you but ‘Tu’ is used informally, when you know someone well or are friends whereas ‘Lei’ is used formally when you first meet someone or someone is older than you. When you are in a shop, at the doctor’s, in a business meeting or any formal situation where you meet new people you should always address them with ‘Lei’ which means ‘she’ – regardless if they are male or female.  ‘Tu’ is known as second person singular whereas ‘Lei’ is third person singular as you can see below:


Io – I

Tu – you

Lui/ lei/ esso – he/ she/ it

Noi – We

Voi – you

Essi, esse - they


This means that you can ask the same question in two different ways depending on whether you want to be formal or informal. So you can ask your friend or someone your age ‘Tu come ti chiami?’, meaning what’s your name, and you can ask the same thing to someone you don’t know by saying ‘Lei come si chiama?’. After you address the person with ‘Lei’ you may be invited to address them informally if they say ‘Diamoci del tu?’.  The choice of word does effect the ending of the verb linked to ‘tu’ or ‘lei’, even when you omit the ‘tu’ or ‘lei’ (see my previous article on verbal tenses for more information).

When addressing more than one person you use ‘voi’ for both formal and informal; e.g. ‘Voi come vi chiamate?’ or simply ‘Come vi chiamate?’ means ‘what’s your name? when asked to multiple persons.


•Complete and translate the following dialogue.

Martino: Ciao Elisa!

Elisa: ………, Martino! Cosa fai oggi pomeriggio?

Martino: Gioco a Pallone con I miei amici, ………….?

Elisa: Ah che bello, io invece vado in piscina. Ti piacerebbe andare in montagna domain per un picnic?

Martino: Certo! Possiamo invitare anche Luca e melania?

Elisa: Si Si, a domani. allora1

Martino: A domani.


•Translate the following dialogue which takes place in a shop.

Elena: buongiorno.

Silvio: buongiorno. Posso esserle d’aiuto?

Elena: sì, sì grazie, sto cercando una nuova giacca...

Silvio: Cosa ha in mente?

Elena: Vorrei una giacca leggera ed elegante… Ah, questa giacca é molto bella...

Silvio: Mi fa piacere che ti piaccia, é una giacca di Armani.

Elena: il colore é molto natural, mi piace.

Silvio: é un modello nuovo della collezione autunno 2015.

Elena: quanto costa? Forse é troppo cara per me...

Silvio: costa solo 400 (quattrocento) euro, é economica!

Elena: mamma mia, 400 euro! Non é possibile! Purtoppo per me costa troppo.

Silvio: abbiamo anche il modello dell'anno scorso. Il modello vecchio costa meno: 250 (duecentocinquanta) euro. •

Elena: per me anche questa costa troppo, ma magari torno un altro giorno con mia madre.. domani é aperto questo negozio?

Silvio: domani é chiuso, ma mercoledì é aperto.

Elena: Perfetto, allora arrivederci a martedì!

Silvio: arrivederci!

Question time:

•Where are Martino and Elisa going tomorrow?

•Who is going with them?

•What is Elena looking for in the shop? Does she like anything there?

•Why doesn’t she buy the item?

•When is the shop closed?

•Will she go back to the shop; if so when and with whom?


Did you notice?

Notice how in the first dialogue Martino and Elisa address each other in second person singular (tu) whereas in the second dialogue the shop assistant and the client address each other as ‘she’. This is because in the first exercise the two speakers are friends and can therefore use informal language with each other whereas in the second exercise the two speakers are strangers so they address each other in third person as a sign of respect and politeness.



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