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How to Say Dad in Italian

How to Say Dad in Italian

With Father’s Day (Festa del Papà) quickly approaching, this is a good time to learn how to say “Dad” and other family members in Italian. “Dad” is “papà.” The accent on the a is very important, because without it, you would be referring to the pope. The word for “father” is “padre.”

Mia figlia

Depending on where you are in Italy, you may hear different words for “Dad.” In the Tuscany region, “Babbo” is also used for “Dad,” and “Babbino” is used for “Daddy” like in the famous song, “O Mio Babbino Caro.” To hear the song and read the lyrics, you can check out my post about it.

The following are other members of la famiglia: madre (mother), mamma (mom), sorella (sister), fratello (brother), figlio (son), figlia (daughter), cugino/a (cousin), nipote (niece, nephew, grandson, or granddaughter), nonno (grandfather), nonna (grandmother), zia (aunt), and zio (uncle).

We can’t forget about the in-laws and step-family members: suocero (father-in-law), suocera (mother-in-law, and my favorite family word because it sounds like sorcerer, coincidence?), cognata (sister-in-law), cognato (brother-in-law), patrigno (stepfather), matrigna (stepmother), figliastro (stepson), figliastra (stepdaughter), sorellastra (stepsister), and fratellastro (stepbrother).

Thanks for stopping by and for all the padri out there, “Buona Festa del Papà!”

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L’incontro Fortuito

L’incontro Fortuito

On my way home from work recently, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant in a small town called Traver. Traver is in California’s Central Valley, between Tulare and Fresno. Although I pass it almost everyday, I rarely stop in Traver, because there is not much there except for a restaurant and a couple of gas stations. For some reason, I stopped this time, and I’m glad I did.

I placed my order and waited for my food. While waiting, I noticed a man and a woman in their mid-to-late twenties in line to place their order. I sensed they were foreign tourists because of their European fashion and the backpack the man was wearing. When I heard them speak Italian to each other, my suspicion was confirmed.

When my food was ready, I moved to a table near them and asked them if they were Italian. They confirmed they were, and I told them that I speak a little Italian. They were surprised and pleased, and we started talking in their language.

The couple was from Milan and had just spent two days camping in the Sequoia National Forest. They were headed to San Francisco for the weekend, before flying back to Italy. They explained that the people they encountered in America, especially in California, were friendly, which pleased me, having been a tourist in a foreign country. They enjoyed American barbecue, and even had a friend in Milan who recently started barbecuing for his friends. I told them about my time in Italy, and how much I liked the language and culture.  We spent a half an hour talking to each other before I wished them a “buon viaggio” and continued home.

I admit I was nervous speaking with them. Although I have studied Italian for a few years, a sense of anxiety creeps over me when I talk to native speakers. It is one thing to do grammar drills on a computer program. It is a completely different experience to engage a fluent speaker in his native tongue. Making sure the verbs are correctly conjugated and the adjectives match the nouns in gender and number can send my head spinning. I did it, though, even if I may have stumbled over my sentences and sounded like a child at times. It was rewarding experience, one that I will remember for many years.

This was not the first time I have encountered Italians in random places. Seven years ago, I met an Italian couple at a burger stand in Big Sur. These chance encounters add a serendipitous richness and excitement to life. Even though I had never met these people before, I was able to connect with them and establish instant rapport. That is the beauty of learning another language. Italian provided an instant social glue with people who live thousands of miles away. Grazie ai miei amici italiani per la bella esperienza.

If you have had any chance encounters with people who speak a foreign language you are learning, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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Italian Lullabies

Italian Lullabies

I’ve been in baby mode for the past few weeks due to the recent birth of my daughter (mia figlia). During this time, I learned two Italian lullabies that I think you will enjoy: “Brilla, Brilla La Stellina” and “Stella, Stellina.” I was going to write about “Ninna Nanna, Ninna Oh,” but it is about giving your baby to an old witch and a mysterious dark man (uomo nero), so my wife told me it was too creepy to put on the website. She’s probably right, but if you are curious you can check out the song and somewhat disturbing cartoon here:

“Brilla, Brilla La Stellina” is the Italian version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The lyrics are different, but the melody is the same.

Brilla, brilla una stellina

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Su nel cielo, piccolina.

So small in up in the sky.

Brilla, brilla sopra noi

Twinkle, twinkle over us.

Mi domando di che sei?

How I wonder what you are.

Brilla, brilla la stellina

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Ora tu sei più vicina.

Now you are closer.

(Repeat above verse.)

Brilla, brilla la stellina

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Ora tu sei più vicina.

Now you are closer.

“Stella, Stellina” is about farm animals getting ready to sleep, and it is a great way to teach your child the Italian words for popular animals.

Stella, stellina

Star, little star

La notte si avvicina

The night is coming.

La fiamma traballa

The flame flickers.

La mucca è nella stalla.

The cow is in the stable.

La pecora e l’agnello

The sheep and the lamb

La vacca col vitello

The cow with the calf

La chioccia coi pulcini

The hen with the chicks

La gatta coi gattini.

The cat with the kittens.

E tutti fan la nanna

And everyone goes to sleep

Nel cuore della mamma.

In the mother’s heart.

Vocabulary and Grammar Notes

Since “Brilla, Brilla La Stellina” is about a star, here are some other objects you may see in the sky:

  • Cloud: nuvola                                                                                                  
  • Sun: sole
  • Plane: aeroplano
  • Bird: uccello
  • Moon: luna

“Stella, Stellina” teaches your child about different farm animals. Here are some more animals that you may find on a fattoria:

  • Dog: cane                                                                                                          
  • Bird: uccello
  • Horse: cavallo
  • Goat: capra
  • Fish: pesce
  • Donkey: asino
  • Duck: anatra
  • Goose: oca
  • Pig: maiale

The second to last phrase of “Stella, Stellina” is “E tutti fan la nanna.” This is a shortened version of the phrase “tutti fanno la nanna” which translated literally means “Everyone does the nighty-night,” or “Everyone does the sleep.” In its colloquial form, it means “Everyone goes to sleep.”

The verb “fare” means “to make or to do.” It is conjugated as follows:

Io faccio

Tu Fai

Lui/Lei Fa

Noi Facciamo

Voi Fate

Loro Fanno

Fare is a multi-functional verb that can be used to convey diverse meanings from “Lo faccio” (I’ll do it) to “Fai lo scemo” (You play the fool.) Fare is also used to describe the weather, hearkening to Italy’s Catholic roots. “Fa caldo” means “It’s hot,” and “Fa freddo” means “It’s cold.” Translated literally, these phrases suggest that someone (God) is making it hot or cold.

I hope you enjoy singing the above lullabies to your children. I’d love to hear about your favorite Italian lullaby in the comments below.


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Geico’s Marco Polo Commercial

Geico’s Marco Polo Commercial

My favorite commercial on tv right now is Geico’s Marco Polo commercial. In it, a few kids are playing “Marco Polo” in a pool as Marco Polo stands in the background confused as to why they keep saying his name. Not only is it funny, it also uses Italian, which is always great to hear on American television.

Below the video, I’ve provided a translation of the Italian Marco Polo uses and a few grammar pointers based on the commercial.



Sì                                                                                      Yes. 

Scusa.                                                                             Excuse me.

Ma, io sono Marco Polo.                                          But, I am Marco Polo.

Ragazzini, io sono Marco Polo!                             Kids, I am Marco Polo!

Sì, sono qui.                                                                  Yes, I am here. 


The subject pronoun is not normally used in Italian, because the conjugation of the verb already conveys the subject. One of the most frequently used verbs in Italian is essere, meaning “to be.” Essere is conjugated as follows:

  • I am: sono
  • You are: sei
  • He/she is; You (form.) are: è
  • We are: siamo
  • You (pl.) are: siete
  • They are: sono

To say, “I am Marco Polo,” Marco Polo only needs to say, “Sono Marco Polo.” He uses “io,” the pronoun for “I” to emphasize that he is Marco Polo. He does this because he thinks the kids are confused about who Marco Polo is.

Another example: In response to the question, “Chi è pronto (Who is ready)?” you and your friend could emphatically respond, “Noi siamo pronti (We are ready) !” even though you could just say “Siamo pronti.”

Marco Polo also calls the kids “ragazzini.” “Ragazzi” means guys, in the sense “Hey, you guys.” He changes it to “ragazzini” because they are kids. If it were a group of girls, he would have said, “ragazzine.” For more examples of using ino/ini to shrink something or to make it more endearing, check out my previous post on O Mio Babbino Caro. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you know of more fun uses of Italian on tv, leave them in the comments below.


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Venice Italy Grand Canal View
Image by KEK064, courtesy of

Welcome to Italian Your Way! Here you will learn about different programs, podcasts, books, and other tools to help you with your adventure in learning Italian. Everyone has a different learning style. My goal is to give you options so you can tailor your learning program to your style. I’ll tell you about approaches that have worked for me and strategies from language experts.

Explore and experiment, but most of all have fun. Whether you are learning the language for work or for pleasure, you are embarking on a rewarding adventure that will enrich and expand your life.

In bocca al lupo!



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