Italian Fact of the Day #75: Italians Speak in the Present, Americans Speak in Present Participles
Have you ever heard an Italian speaking English and you think it’s so cute when he say things like, “I go now” or “Now I drive the car.”
It sounds quaint and a bit strange to an American ear, but he is speaking in English exactly how he would speak in Italian.
In everyday conversation, Italians make present tense statements where an American would make a present participle statement.
Here’s what I mean:
If an American answered a question with “I make pizza,” it’s most likely that the question was something like, “What do you do for a living?” It would not be the answer to “What’s for dinner?”
If an American was asked, “What’s for dinner?” he would answer, “I’m making pizza.” Present participle. An Italian would answer, “I make pizza.”
While in the moment of doing something, or in planning to do something in the near future, Americans almost always use a statement starting with “I am” followed by a verb with the “-ing” ending: Present Participle. Italians are more likely to speak straight-up present tense.
American: “I am going to the store. Do you need anything?”
Italian: “I go to the store. Do you need anything?”
American: “I am driving you home tonight.”
Italian: “I drive you home tonight.”
American: “I am standing in line.”
Italian: “I stand in the line.”
Of course Americans also speak in the present tense, but it’s usually used for a general statement of time, not for that specific moment. “I eat too much” would mean that that person eats too much a lot of the time. “I am eating too much” would signify that that person is eating too much right there and then at the table.
Italians have the Gerundio tense that translates into the present participle, but it’s not used very often in regular conversation.
If you are shopping at a store and a sales assistant asks if you need help, an American would say, “I’m just looking.” While an Italian could say, “Sto guardando” he’s more likely to say, “Io guardo” — “I look.”
I write for a living. But I am writing this blog post now. Are you reading it now? Or do you read it now? Your answer tells me whether you are an Italian or an American.