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Italian Language/translation and use of "possedere"

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Question
Dear Maria,

My question is about the following sentence:
“Lei possiede una macchina rossa.”

Can you please tell me if these is any way to know for certain if this sentence should be translated as: “You own a red car” or if it should be translated as:   “She owns a red car”.

In the past, I have learned that when “lei” is capitalized - as in “Lei” - that the correct translation is “you”.   But, when not capitalized,   “lei” means “she”.

Since “lei” is the first word in this sentence, it would need to be capitalized for this reason.  So, I don’t know if “Lei” means “you” or “she”.   

I am thinking that in verbal communication that the context would indicate “you” or “she”, but is there any way to know for certain in written communication?

Can you also please help me with the verb “possedere”.   Once again, I am wondering about the conjugation forms that use the double gg as in:

Present indicative:1st person singular (io posseggo); 3rd person plural (essi/esse/ loro posseggono)

Present subjunctive: 1st person singular (che io possegga); 2nd person singular (che tu possegga), 3rd person singular (che egli/ella possegga), 3rd person plural (che essi/esse/ loro posseggano)

Present imperative:3rd person singular (egli/lui possegga), 3rd person plural (loro posseggano).

These forms are listed as alternate forms on my conjugation chart for the verb “possedere”.  Can you please tell me if these forms are used, or if they are archaic forms that are no longer used.  (The conjugation chart does not provide this explanation)   If they are used, is this just a speaker’s choice as to which form to use?

Can you also please tell me if I should also apply this to the following verbs that are conjugated as “possedere”   - presiedere, risedere, risiedere, sedere, sedersi, and soprassedere.

Thank you very, very much for your help.   

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

the sentence:“Lei possiede una macchina rossa” must be translated as: “She owns a red car” because the pronoun “Lei”, which is capitalized for it is the first word in this sentence, cannot be the  “courtesy/formal pronoun “Lei” that we use  when speaking to someone we don't yet  know well enough to use informal pronouns with, so that “Lei”  (‘you’, in English) is seen as a sign of respect just because it shows more respect than does the familiar pronoun "tu".

In fact, if  “Lei” in “Lei possiede una macchina rossa” was used as a   “courtesy/formal pronoun”, the sentence should have been “Lei possiede una macchina rossa?” (Do you own a red car?) as a question clause addressed to someone you don't yet  know well enough.

On the contrary, “Lei possiede una macchina rossa” is a simple statement where “Lei”, which is capitalized for it is the first word in this sentence, is nothing but the feminine  subject pronoun meaning “she”.

To sum up,  the way to know for certain in written communication if “Lei possiede una macchina rossa” should be translated as: “You own a red car” or if it should be translated as:  “She owns a red car”, could be the fact that in such a sentence there is or not a question mark.
See also:”Lei può aiutarmi” (She can help me) vs. “Lei può aiutarmi?” (Could you help me?).

Anyway, there are some examples where it would be quite difficult to know for certain  in written communication if “Lei”, used as the first word in a sentence,  would indicate “you” or “she”.
See e.g. :”Lei mi è stata di grande aiuto” where “Lei” could mean both “she” and “you”, depending on whether I am addressing to a person I’m talking to and I don't  know well enough ( You helped me much) or I simply say that a female person has helped me much (She helped me much).
In this case it is the context of the sentence that clarifies the sense of the pronoun “Lei”.

As for the verb “possedere”, the  forms that you mention and  are listed as alternate forms on your  conjugation chart for the verb “possedere”  are  commonly used, as they  are not archaic forms that are no longer used.
In short, it is just a speaker’s choice as to which form to use, i.e for example “Io possiedo” or “Io posseggo”, though some grammars state that  the forms with “gg” are used especially  in a literary style.
To conclude, you must also apply this rule to the following verbs that are conjugated as “possedére”, i.e.:  presièdere, risedére (meaning” to sit down again”), risièdere (meaning “to reside/to live”), sedére, sedérsi, and soprassedére.

Hope all is clear enough.

Have a nice day,

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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