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QUESTION: Dear Maria,

I have been using my wife's computer, and I am not sure if you received the following question. I am re-sending it just in case.

Can you please help me with the translation of "era" in particular, and the use of the 3rd person singular form of the verb in general.

I had always thought that the bare form (without a subject pronoun) of the 3rd person singular form of the Italian verb is used to express "you", "he", "she", and "it".  In other words,  I thought that the bare 3rd person singular form of the verb (used without a subject pronoun) indicates "you", "he", "she", and "it".

Evidently, this is a misunderstanding that I have had from the very beginnings of my studies in Italian.  Just to make sure that I now understand correctly, would you please tell me if the following is correct.

1- The bare 3rd person singular form (used without a subject pronoun) of the Italian verb indicates "you", "he", and "she".

2- The bare 3rd person form(used without including a subject pronoun)does not indicate "it"

3-  The 3rd person singular form of the Italian verb can only indicate "it" when a subject pronoun is also included with this verb form as in saying - "esso è”  (it is)  or  “essa è”  (it is).

4  - Therefore:
Era =  he was
Era =  she was
“era” does not mean “it was”
Esso era  =  it was
Essa era  =  it was


I was also wondering about the use of “ciò era” to say “it was”.  Can you please tell me if “ciò” is a subject pronoun that means “it”.

Thank you so  much for all of your great help!!

Sincerely,

Rich

ANSWER: Dear Rich,

Actually I've received your question and I've answered it, but you did not receive my answer. So,I am re-sending it.

First of all  the bare form (without a subject pronoun) of the 3rd person singular form of the Italian verb is used to express  ”he”, “she”, and “it”, but NOT “you”, which does not correspond to the 3rd.person singular, but to either the 2nd.person singular or the 2nd.person plural of the Italian verbs, like e.g. in “Eri molto gentile”( 2nd.person singular of the “imperfetto” of “essere”) or “Eravate molto gentili” (2nd.person plural of the “imperfetto” of “essere”), both corresponding in English to :“You were very kind”.

So, please note that:

1-The bare 3rd person singular form (used without a subject pronoun) of the Italian verb indicates - “he”,  “she”, “it”, but NOT “you”.

2-The bare 3rd person singular form (used without including a subject pronoun) of the Italian verb can  indicate “it” as in e.g.: “E’ vero”(“It is true”), “Non era vero”(“It was  not  true”), “Fa  più caldo oggi”(“It is warmer today “), etc.

3-The 3rd person singular form of the Italian verb can only indicate “it”  when a subject pronoun is also included with this verb form as in saying - “esso è” (it is)  or  “essa è”, provided that both the masculine “esso” and the feminine “essa” refer to a thing or an animal, as in : “Ho  appena comprato un cane; esso è un setter inglese” ( I have  just bought a dog; it’s an English setter), “E’un mastice molto resistente. Con esso  si possono incollare tutti i tipi di materiali” ( it’s a highly resistant glue;  you can use it to stick all sorts of things together ),  “L’Italia è una penisola; essa  si estende dalle Alpi al mar Mediterraneo” ( Italy is a peninsula; it stretches from the Alps to the Mediterranean sea), “Qui la strada è in rifacimento; solo una parte di essa  è transitabile” ( the road is being remade here; only a part of it is practicable ),  etc.

If, however, “esso” and “essa” refer to a person, they translate as “he” and “she” respectively, though these pronouns are  quite obsolete today.

4- Therefore:

-Era  =  he was (related to a male person)as in "Era un uomo gentile".

-Era = she was (related to a female person)as in "Era una ragazza gentile".

-Esso era =  it was (related to a thing or animal) as in “Amavo il mio cane. [Esso] era un setter”, “Amavo il mare, anche quando [esso] era in tempesta”

-Essa era  =  it was (related to a thing or animal) as in “Il mio amico ha comprato una pecora. [Essa] era bianca”, “Aveva comprato una barca: [essa] era tutta di legno”.

Please note that I’ve used the square brackets to indicate that “esso” or “essa” are often omitted as they are obsolete forms today.

As for the use of “ciò era” to say “it was”, the word “ciò” is just  a subject pronoun that means “it” as well as “this” or “that” as in “Ciò è molto strano” ( that/this/ it is really strange).

Best regards,

Maria

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Maria,  

I am totally confused as to why you say the third person singular form of the verb is not used to express "you".

I had always thought that the third person singular form of the verb is the formal "you"  (as opposed to the second person singular form of the verb being the familiar "you").

For example  
sei  =  2nd person  you are  (familiar)
è   =   3rd person   you are  (formal)

Thank you

Sincerely,

Rich




Could you please help me with this because I am noe\w really confused.

Thank you,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

to avoid any misunderstanding, I have to tell you that in your previous question you have said :“I had always thought that the bare form (without a subject pronoun) of the 3rd person singular form of the Italian verb is used to express "YOU", "he", "she","it”, and you have related  this  to the GENERAL USE of “the bare 3rd person singular form of the verb (used without a subject pronoun)”.

BUT you did NOT specify that  you meant that such a 3rd person singular form of the verb (used without a subject pronoun) was related to the FORMAL USE of the Italian LEI polite form, i.e.  the 3rd person singularl pronoun that we use when addressing someone we are not familiar with, such as in “Lei è molto gentile” used when we are talking with a person we do not know well or we meet first time.

ONLY in this case  "the 3rd person singular form of the verb is the formal "you"  (as opposed to the second person singular form of the verb being the familiar TU, corresponding to the English “you” again).

Moreover I have to tell you that  the third person singular form of the verb used to express the formal LEI has nearly always  the subject pronoun as in “Lei mi ha aiutato molto.La ringrazio di cuore”, just addressed to  a person I do not know well or I met first time.
Therefore it is not used "without a subject pronoun", as you say, unless it is a part of a context such as e.g."Lei mi è stato di grande aiuto. Venga a trovarmi presto, La prego" where VENGA, the third person singular form of the verb VENIRE in the hortatory subjunctive, is used without a subject pronoun because this subject is related to LEI in the previous phrase and thus is implied.

Hope this can help you in understanding when the 3rd person singular form of  the Italian verb is used to express "YOU" in the sense of "LEI".

Feel free however to ask me again, of course!

Best regards,

Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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