Tag Archives: Translation

Examples

The following are examples of collocations that evoke very clear images, and are thus suited to being depicted in drawings and artwork. Depending on the collocation, the imagery for Italian and German can be different or - in a few cases - also similar or identical:

1) Noun (subject) + verb:
  • il dente balla (also: dondola, traballa) = der Zahn wackelt (lit.: "der Zahn tanzt”); the tooth is loose / wobbly / wiggly (lit.: "the tooth is dancing”)
  • mi si è addormentata la gamba = mir ist das Bein eingeschlafen (the same as in German); my leg has fallen asleep (the same as in English)
  • mi formicola la gamba = mir kribbelt das Bein, ich habe Ameisenlaufen im Bein (lit. [more or less]: “mir ameist das Bein / ich habe Ameisen im Bein”; cf. la formica = die Ameise); my leg is tingling (lit. [more or less]: “my legs are anting / I have ants in my leg”; cf. la formica = the ant)
  • la lezione salta = die (Unterrichts-)Stunde fällt aus / entfällt (lit.: "die (Unterrichts-)Stunde springt”); the lesson is cancelled (lit.: "the lesson jumps”)
  • la malattia esplode (also: scoppia) = die Krankheit bricht aus (lit.: "die Krankheit explodiert”); the illness / disease breaks out (lit.: "the illness / disease explodes”)
  • il malcontento serpeggia (nella popolazione) = Unzufriedenheit macht sich (in der Bevölkerung) breit (lit.: "Unzufriedenheit schlängelt sich (in der Bevölkerung)"; cf. il serpente = die Schlange); discontent is spreading (among the people) (lit.: "discontent slithers / moves like a snake (among the people)”; cf. il serpente = the snake)
  • il motore sfarfalla = der Motor flattert (similar to German; cf. la farfalla = der Schmetterling); the engine / motor is wobbling (lit.: "the engine / motor flutters like a butterfly”; cf. la farfalla = the butterfly)
  • la sedia zoppica (also: traballa) = der Stuhl wackelt (lit.: "der Stuhl hinkt”); the chair is rickety / wobbly (lit.: "the chair is limping”)
  • il sole tramonta = die Sonne geht unter (lit.: "die Sonne verschwindet jenseits der Berge”; cf. il monte = der Berg); the sun sets (lit.: “the sun disappears beyond the mountains”; cf. il monte = the mountain)
  • mi fuma la testa = mir raucht der Kopf (the same as in German); my head is spinning / my brains are fried [in the sense of ‘I am mentally exhausted’] (lit. "my head is smoking / smoldering”)
  • il treno fischia = der Zug pfeift (the same as in German); the train whistles (the same as in English)
2) Verb + noun (direct object):
  • cementare un’amicizia = eine Freundschaft festigen (lit.: "eine Freundschaft einzementieren”); to cement a friendship (the same as in English)
  • cotonare i capelli = die Haare toupieren (lit.: "die Haare mit Baumwolle polstern / zu Baumwollknäueln formen”; cf. il cotone = die Baumwolle); to backcomb / tease one’s hair (lit.: "to fill one's hair with cotton”; cf. cotone = cotton)
  • stirare (also: lisciare) i capelli = die Haare glätten (lit.: "die Haare bügeln”); to straighten one's hair (lit.: "to iron one's hair”)
  • congelare il capitale / i prezzi = das Kapital / die Preise einfrieren (the same as in German); to freeze funds / prices (the same as in English)
  • piantare un chiodo (in qcs.) = einen Nagel (in etw.) einschlagen (lit.: "einen Nagel (in etw.) (ein-)pflanzen”); to hammer / drive a nail (into sth.) (lit. “to plant a nail (into sth.)”)
  • accavallare le gambe = die Beine übereinander schlagen (lit. [more or less]: "die Beine verpferdern”; cf. il cavallo = das Pferd); to cross one's legs (lit. [more or less]: “to horse one’s legs”; cf. il cavallo = the horse)
  • sgranchirsi le gambe = sich die Beine vertreten, die Beine ausstrecken (lit.: "die Beine wie ein Krebs bewegen”; cf. il granchio = der Krebs [Tier]); to stretch one's legs (lit.: "to move one's legs like a crab”; cf. il granchio = the crab)
  • accarezzare un'idea = sich mit einem Gedanken tragenmit einem Gedanken spielen (lit.: "einen Gedanken / eine Idee streicheln / liebkosen”); to toy / tinker with the idea of doing sth. / to be thinking about doing sth. (lit.: "to caress an idea”)
  • inghiottire / ingoiare le lacrime = die Tränen hinunterschlucken (the same as in German); to swallow one's tears (the same as in English)
  • appianare una lite = einen Streit schlichten (lit.: "einen Streit einebnen”); to settle a dispute (lit.: "to plane a dispute”)
  • covare (also: incubare) una malattia = eine Krankheit ausbrüten (the same as in German); to incubate a disease / to be coming down with something (the same as in English, i.e. “to hatch / incubate a disease [like an egg]”)
  • spaccare il minuto = auf die Minute pünktlich sein (lit.: "die Minute spalten / zerschlagen / entzweischlagen”); to be dead on time / punctual to the minute (lit.: “to smash / split the minute into (two) pieces”)
  • pescare un numero = eine Nummer ziehen (lit.: "eine Nummer fischen”; cf. il pesce = der Fisch); to draw a number in a raffle (tombola) (lit.: “to fish a number out of the barrel”; cf. il pesce = the fish)
  • strizzare l’occhio (a qcn.) = das Auge zusammenkneifen, also: (jemandem) zuzwinkern / zublinzeln (lit.: "das Auge auswringen / auspressen”); to squint, also: to wink at sb. (lit.: "to wring one's eye out”)
  • allungare il passo = den Schritt beschleunigen,  schneller gehen (lit.: "den Schritt verlängern”); to quicken one's pace (lit.: "to lengthen the pace”)
  • abbracciare (also: intraprendere) una professione = einen Beruf ergreifen (lit.: "einen Beruf umarmen”); to take up a career / profession (lit. “to embrace / hug a career / profession”)
  • accendere la radio = das Radio einschalten (lit.: "das Radio anzünden”); to turn on the radio (lit.: "to set fire to the radio”)
  • ricucire (also: ricostituire) un rapporto = eine Beziehung wieder herstellen / wieder aufnehmen (lit.: "eine Beziehung wieder zunähen / zusammenflicken”); to re-establish / to mend a relationship (lit.: "to sew a relationship back together / to stitch it up”)
  • custodire un segreto = ein Geheimnis hüten / bewahren (lit.: "ein Geheimnis (wie ein Wächter) bewachen”; cf. il custode = der Wächter); to keep a secret (lit.: "to guard / sentinel a secret”; cf. il custode = the guard, sentinel)
  • ammazzare il tempo = die Zeit totschlagen (lit.: "die Zeit töten / umbringen”); to kill time (the same as in English; in German lit.: "to beat time to death”)
  • perdere il treno = den Zug verpassen / versäumen (lit.: "den Zug verlieren”); to miss the train (lit.: "to lose the train”)
3) Verb + prepositional object:
  • essere inchiodato al letto = ans Bett gefesselt sein (weil man krank ist) (lit.: "ans Bett (fest)genagelt sein”; cf. il chiodo = der Nagel); to be confined to bed [due to illness] (lit.: "to be nailed to the bed”; cf. il chiodo = the nail)
  • fumare (also: ribollire) di rabbia = vor Wut kochen (lit.: "vor Wut rauchen”; ribollire = "nochmals aufkochen" / “überkochen" => similar as in German); to boil / simmer with rage, to be boiling mad (lit.: "to fume with rage”)
  • abboccare a uno scherzo = auf einen Scherz hereinfallen (lit.: "an einen Scherz  anbeißen [wie ein Fisch an einen Köder]”; cf. la bocca = der Mund); to fall for a joke / be taken in by a joke (lit.: "to bite into a joke [like a fish swallowing bait]”)
4) Noun + adjective or prepositional phrase:
  • il caldo soffocante (also: asfissiante) = die brütende / drückende Hitze (lit.: "die erstickende Hitze”, "die Hitze, die einen zum Ersticken bringt"); soffocating heat (the same as in English)
  • un CD / DVD vergine = eine leere / unbespielte CD / DVD; ein CD- / DVD-Rohling (lit.: "eine jungfräuliche CD / DVD"); a blank CD / DVD (lit.: "a virginal CD / DVD”)
  • un cervello da gallina = ein Spatzenhirn (lit.: "ein Hennen- / Hühnerhirn"); a featherbrain / a bird brain [fig.] (lit.: "a chicken brain”)
  • una curva a gomito = eine scharfe Kurve (lit.: "eine Ellbogenkurve"); a sharp curve (lit.: "an elbow curve”)
  • una curva cieca = eine unübersichtliche / scharfe Kurve (lit.: "eine blinde Kurve"); a blind curve (the same as in English)
  • il dente canino = der Eckzahn (lit.: "der  Hundezahn"; cf. il cane = der Hund); canine tooth (the same as in English; lit. "corner tooth" in German)
  • il dente del giudizio = der Weisheitszahn (lit.: "der Zahn des Urteils"); wisdom tooth (lit.: "tooth of judgement”)
  • una domanda a bruciapelo = eine unvermittelte Frage / eine Frage, die jemanden eiskalt erwischt (lit.: "eine Frage zum Fellverbrennen”; cf. bruciare = (ver)brennen, il pelo = das Fell); a sudden / unexspected question (lit.: "a question to burn the pelt”; cf. bruciare = to burn, il pelo = the pelt)
  • una domanda innocente = eine harmlose Frage (lit.: "eine unschuldige" Frage); an innocent question (the same as in English)
  • un dottore in erba = ein angehender oder frisch gebackener Doktor (lit.: "ein Doktor im Gras”); a newly made / fledgeling / green doctor (lit.: "a doctor in the grass”)
  • un dolore martellante = ein hämmernder Schmerz (the same as in German; cf. il martello = der Hammer); pounding pain (lit.: "a hammering pain”)
  • una fantasia sfrenata = eine blühende / lebhafte / ausgeprägte / grenzenlose Phantasie (lit.: "eine ungebremste Phantasie"; cf. il freno = die Bremse); a fertile / vivid / unbridled imagination (lit.: "an unbraked imagination”)
  • una febbre da cavallo = hohes Fieber (lit.: "Pferdefieber"); raging fever (lit.: "horse fever”)
  • la foresta vergine = der Urwald (lit.: "jungfräulicher Wald"); primeval forest / jungle (lit.: “virginal forest”)
  • un freddo pungente = eine schneidende / beißende / eisige / klirrende Kälte (lit.: "eine stachelige / stechende Kälte"); severe / extreme cold (lit.: "spiny / thorny cold”)
  • una giornata storta = ein Tag, an dem alles schief läuft (lit.: "ein schiefer/ krummer Tag"); an off day / bad day [when everything goes wrong] (lit.: “a crooked day”)
  • il letto a castello = das Stockbett (lit.: "das  Schlossbett"); a bunk bed (lit. “castle bed”)
  • una memoria da elefante (also: una memoria di ferro) = ein Bombengedächtnis (lit.: "ein Gedächtnis wie ein Elefant"); an infallible memory (lit.: “to have the memory of an elephant”)
  • il motore truccato = der (auf)frisierte / getunte Motor (lit.: "der geschminkte Motor"; truccare = schminken); a tuned up / souped-up  engine (lit.: "an engine with make-up”)
  • (avere) il naso chiuso = eine verstopfte Nase (haben) (lit.: "eine geschlossene Nase (haben)"); (to have) stuffy nose (lit.: "a closed nose”)
  • un numero verde = eine kostenlose (Ruf-)Nummer (lit.: "eine grüne Nummer"); a (toll)free (phone) number (lit. “a green (phone) number”)
  • gli occhi a mandorla = Schlitzaugen (lit.: "Mandelaugen"); slitted [Asian] eyes (lit.: "almond eyes”)
  • gli occhi sbarrati (also: spalancati) = die (weit) aufgerissenen Augen (lit.: "die mit einem Schranken versperrten / aufgehaltenen Augen"); wide open eyes (lit.: "barred eyes”)
  • i pantaloni a zampa di elefante / a campana = die Schlaghose / Glockenhose (lit.: "die Hose mit Elefantenfüßen / -pranken"; a campana: the same as "Glockenhose" in German); bell-bottoms (lit.: "trousers with the feet / paws of an elephant”; a campana: similar to English)
  • i pantaloni gessati = die Nadelstreifenhose (lit.: "die mit [weißer] Kreide angemalte Hose"; cf. il gesso = die Kreide); pinstripe trousers (lit.: "chalked trousers”)
  • un parente acquisito = ein angeheirateter Verwandter (lit.: "ein erworbener Verwandter"); an in-law (relative) (lit.: "an acquired relative”)
  • prezzi salati gesalzene / gepfefferte Preise (similar to German); steep prices (lit.: "salted prices”)
  • la scala a chiocciola = die Wendeltreppe (lit.: "die Schneckentreppe / schnecken­förmige Treppe"); spiral stairs (lit.: "snail stairs”)
  • un sole da spaccare le pietre = eine gleißende / unbarmherzig brennende / stark brennende Sonne (lit.: "eine Sonne zum Steine Spalten”); a blazing / blistering sun (lit.: “a sun that smashes / splits the stones into pieces”)
  • l’uovo strapazzato = das Rührei (lit.: "das misshandelte / strapazierte Ei"); scrambled eggs (lit.: "a mistreated egg”)
  • il vicolo cieco = die Sackgasse (lit.: "die blinde Gasse"); a dead-end street (lit.: "a blind street”)
  • lo zucchero a velo = der Puderzucker (lit.: "der Schleierzucker"); icing sugar (British) / confectioners' sugar or powdered sugar (American) (lit.: "veil sugar”)

Learner’s dictionary

Book publication: The Italian collocations are being collected in a specially built database and will be published as a learner's dictionary in 2015 with the publisher Verlag Helmut Buske (Hamburg).

Selection of the lemmas and collocations: We have decided to base our choice of which Italian collocations to include in our learner's dictionary on structural criteria: only those collocations with a noun base will be included (i.e. syntactic types 1-4 listed under What we mean by collocation”). The number of bases (which is also the number of lemmas in our learner's dictionary) is currently limited to some 900-1100 nouns that can be found in the basic vocabulary in the Dizionario di base della lingua italiana (DIB) by De Mauro / Moroni (1996). The project team will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a lexical combination is to be classified as a collocation (though in general, in order to qualify a combination as a collocation it must fit into one of the 5 semantic collocation types listed under “What we mean by collocation”).

Reference work and learning tool: The learner's dictionary is meant to be used as a reference book, but is also intended for use as an L2 learning / teaching tool. Since the collocations will be laid out in two parallel columns (with Italian on the left and the German equivalents on the right), learners can use the book to test themselves by covering one half of the page to see what they have already learned / already know.

Illustrations: In order to bring certain collocations to life and make them easier to memorize, we will include drawings produced by children and young adults in the book. These images were drawn in Tyrol during various public relations events and in cooperation with several schools in Tyrol (see “Illustrations”).

Organization of the dictionary: Within an entry, collocations will be arranged by morpho-syntactical type (1-4); within these types, collocations will be sorted alphabetically by collocator. One particular focus is on raising learners' awareness of the differences between the German and Italian collocations, thus maximizing the learning effect:

  • To reinforce the mental image behind an Italian collocation (in the case of a polysemous collocator), a literal translation into German (based on the basic, literal meaning of the Italian collocator) will be included in brackets and quotation marks. This should underline how error-prone trying to translate collocations literally from Italian into German (and vice versa) can be; e.g. il dente balla ‘the tooth is loose / wiggly / wobbly’, lit. “the tooth is dancing”.
  • Each collocation will include an example sentence (with a German translation) to make its use in a concrete context clear. Great care will be taken to ensure that these examples are not artificial or contrived but common, and attractive in terms of content. Authentic examples will be found using Google, checked and modified if need be by our Italian native speaker Erica Autelli, and then translated into German by Christine Konecny.
  • If a collocation can occur in several structural types, these will be merged to form one entry, e.g. otturare (also: piombare) un dente / un dente otturato (also: piombato) ‘to get a filling’ / ‘a tooth with a filling’.
  • If there are several alternative collocators, these will be listed in brackets, e.g. levare un dente ‘to pull a tooth’, also: cavare, estirpare, estrarre, strappare, togliere un dente.
  • In a given entry, dictionary users will not only find the collocators of a specific base, but also references to other bases connected with a specific collocator; e.g. the entry piantare i denti (nella mano a/di qcn.) ‘to bite / to sink one's teeth into (sb.'s hand)’ will have a reference to the entry chiodo, where learners will find the collocation piantare un chiodo ‘to drive / hammer in a nail’.
  • If two (or more) collocators are antonyms (have opposite meanings), these will also be listed under a single entry (with the marker “VS.” for ‘versus’): e.g. il dente aguzzo (also: affilato) VS. il dente ottuso ‘sharp tooth’ VS. ‘blunt tooth’.
  • In certain cases, entries may also include information on the frequency and register of a collocation, e.g. if a certain collocation is rare [selten], particularly colloquial / slangy [ugs.], or used only in a pejorative / derogatory sense [pej.]. However, these annotations are by no means exhaustive or comprehensive.

Preview: Here is a preview of the entry for the lemma dente ('tooth') in our dictionary (click on the entry and zoom in for higher resolution):

Welcome

Italian collocations
Comparing word combinations in Italian and German
A research project

Welcome to our website!  Our homepage provides information on and examples of Italian collocations, compiled as part of a linguistic research project at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). The collection will be published in the form of a learner’s dictionary (Italian-German) in 2017.

What are collocations? Collocations are typical, “semi-fixed” word combinations that are very important in everyday speech, but can be very tricky for foreign language learners if they try to translate them word-for-word from their mother tongue. For instance, a learner of Italian should be aware that in Italian, you don’t pound or hammer a nail into the wall - you "plant" it there (piantare un chiodo nel muro). A lesson or course that is cancelled literally "jumps" (la lezione salta), and a blank CD or DVD is called "virginal" (un CD/DVD vergine).

Why learn collocations? Languages are full of collocations; they are essential for everyday communication. However, since they tend to be very different depending on the language, they are often a stumbling block for language learners. Even very advanced learners of foreign languages are often “unmasked” when they make mistakes because they are unsure in their use of collocations. Native speakers learn and memorize collocations as fixed units from early childhood on; they don’t perceive these word combinations as anything remarkable and intuitively use them correctly. Language learners, on the other hand, see these semi-fixed units as "special" instances of language use that have to be learned and practiced separately. For instance, did you know that when you set the table (American) or lay the table (British) in Italian, you have to say apparecchiare la tavola (literally "equip / prepare the table"), or that when you draw a number in a raffle (tombola) you literally "fish" it out of the barrel (pescare un numero)?