Italian Language/fermare / fermarsi

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QUESTION: Dear Maria,  

Would you please help me to understand the difference between the intransitive verb – “fermare” and the intransitive pronominal verb – “fermarsi”.

I think that I understand how to use the transitive form (fermare) of this verb, but I do not understand how to decide when I should use the intransitive form (fermare)and the intransitive pronominal form (fermarsi) of this verb.

For example, if I wanted to say – “I stopped to say hello”  , can you please tell me if I should use the intransitive verb form (fermare)  and say –“Sono fermato a dire ciao” ,  or should I use the intransitive pronominal verb form (fermarsi)    and say – “Mi sono fermato a dire ciao”.

For example, if I was on a bus, should I address the bus driver using the intransitive verb form (fermare)   or should I use the intransitive pronominal verb form (fermarsi).  Should I say - “Non ferma?” (Aren’t you stopping?)   or should I say - “Non si ferma?”  (Aren’t you stopping?)    Should I say -  “Ferma, per favore” (Stop, please)  or should I say – “Si ferma, per favore” (Stop, please)

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

ANSWER: Dear Rich,

Apart from the the transitive form “fermare” as in “Fermò l’auto vicino a casa” ( he stopped the car  near his house ), the intransitive verb – “fermare” as in “L’autobus ferma laggiù” ( the bus stops over there)  and the intransitive pronominal verb – “fermarsi” as in “Si fermò a cena da un amico” (He stayed for dinner at a friend’s) must be used as follows:

1) if you wanted to say – “I stopped to say hello”, you  should use the intransitive pronominal verb form (fermarsi)  and say –“Mi sono fermato a salutare”   or  “Mi fermai a salutare”.

2) if you were on a bus, you should address the bus driver using either the intransitive verb form (fermare)   or  the intransitive pronominal verb form (fermarsi) and then you  should  say - “Non ferma?” (Aren’t you stopping?)   or - “Non si ferma?”  (Aren’t you stopping?) .

Also, you should  say -  “Fermi, per favore” (Stop, please)  or– “Si fermi,  per favore” (Stop, please) where the correct form of the verb  is “Fermi” or “Si fermi” in the 3rd person singular (courtesy pronoun), not “Ferma, per favore” / “Si ferma, per favore” where the 2nd person singular is wrong as we use it when we are familiar with somebody.

Best regards,

Maria


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

QUESTION: Dear Maria,  

Thank you again for your great help with this question.

Can you please tell me if I would be correct to think that the intransitive pronominal form - “fermarsi” and the intransitive form - “fermare” can be used interchangeably.

If this is so, would the following then be correct:

Mi fermerò a dormire da un amico.
I will stop to sleep at a friend’s.
Or  
Fermerò a dormire da un amico.
I will stop to sleep at a friend’s.


Il treno si fermò.
The train stopped.
Or
Il treno fermò.
The train stopped.


Mi sono fermato a salutare.
I stopped to say hello.
Or
Sono fermato a salutare.
I stopped to say hello.

  
L’autobus si ferma laggiù.
The bus stops over there.
Or
L’autobus ferma laggiù.
The bus stops over there.


If, the intransitive and the intransitive pronominal forms are not interchangeable, can you please tell how to decide which form is needed.   Thank you so much.

Very Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

Actually the intransitive pronominal form - “fermarsi” and the intransitive form - “fermare” can be used interchangeably only in the following  cases:

a) when you are  on a bus and are  addressing the bus driver saying - “Non ferma?” (intransitive verb form)   or - “Non si ferma?”  (intransitive pronominal verb form) .

b) when the intransitive pronominal form - “fermarsi” and the intransitive form - “fermare” refer to a train or a bus as in “Il treno si fermò”/ “Il treno fermò” and in  “L’autobus si ferma laggiù”/” L’autobus ferma laggiù”.

But “I will stop to sleep at a friend’s” must be translated as “Mi fermerò a dormire da un amico” (intransitive pronominal form) , not “Fermerò a dormire da un amico” (intransitive form).
The same happens with: “Mi sono fermato a salutare” (I stopped to say hello) [ not “Sono fermato a salutare”].

In short, the interchangeable use of the intransitive pronominal form - “fermarsi” and the intransitive form - “fermare” depends on the noun  they are related to, and then you can  decide which form is needed with reference to such a noun which is usually a train or a bus.


Hope this helps.

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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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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