Buying metro tickets in Italy


Well, continuing with my Italian theme, here are some additional phrases and vocabulary for buying tickets on the metro, tube, subway or underground depending on where you are from.

Or la metropolitana or la metro if you are in Rome (and il metro if you live in Milan).

Phrase number 1:

Vorrei un biglietto per tutto il giorno

I’d like an all day ticket

And as we arrive at number 2, I have realised that I don’t fully understand how it is used but the key words are:

con dieci corse

with ten journeys (runs)

This is used to buy multi journey tickets (or ten to be precise). A ticket with ten journeys (which sounds clunky in English) is:

un biglietto con banda magnetica valido per 10 viaggi according to StartRomagna.

If you can be bothered to wade your way through the pages there is more information and no doubt relevant vocabulary.

Having glanced at StartRomagna, I’ll try asking for …

Carnet 10 corse

… and see where it leads.

In fact, there are macchinette so it’s unlikely to be necessary to actually talk to someone, but you never know.

Besos, Baci et Pax.


Posted in Specific Situations | 2 Comments

The Italian Future tense


I suspect (if you are learning Italian) that you are expecting dormiro, dormirai and so on. But no, you will have to go somewhere else for that.

I ‘m writing about how to use the future, or more accurately about how not to use the future. In part, dear reader, it is to help you, but mainly as is so neatly encapsulated because Qui docet discit and also Qui scribit bis legit.

Honestly, who said Latin was going out of fashion;) It’s so easy to be pompous, and in this heathen age, very few people will have the nerve to correct you.

Back to Italian, if you have planned to do something, or are about to do something in Italian, how do you express yourself?

You could use the future tense.

But it is more usual to use the present tense:

Vado a Roma.

I’m going to Rome


Vado a Roma domani

I’m going to Rome tomorrow

In fact, the future tense is not that frequently used in Italian to talk about what you are *definitely* doing.

It is used when there is a doubt of some sort.

Domani, andrò al cinema se …

Tomorrow I’ll go to the cinema if …

Tomorrow, I’l go to the cinema *if*, it isn’t raining or if you will come with me, and so on. I.e. It isn’t certain.

Domani, andrò al cinema se vieni anche tu

Tomorrow, I’ll go to the cinema if you come as well.

Note that there is no messing about with the subject, conditional or any other tense. The present tense is used all the way through. Sweet.

That is the first use covered.

Using the future to express doubt

The future (and by the I mean the *real* future tense) is used to express doubt in Italian.

An easy example is:

Che ore sono?

What time is it?

If you have looked at your watch or more likely at your phone, and know the time, you might reply with:

Sono le sei

It’s six o’clock.

What happens if you aren’t sure of the exact time. In English, we might say, it’s about six, or I think it’s about six o’clock.

In we are speaking Italian, we use the future tense.

Saranno le sei

It’s about six

Here is another example, C’e can be used to check if someone is somewhere, so

C’e il tuo figlio qui?

Is your son here?

If you don’t know, you can answer

Ci sarà qui

He’ll be here

It sort of means, he’s probably here somewhere. He could be somewhere else.

Maybe he is at the swimming pool?

Sarà in piscina.

He could be there. He could be somewhere else.

Sarà in piscina has the same meaning as:

Forse è in piscina.

Maybe he is in in the pool?

I’ll add to this as further examples spring to mind.

Besos etc.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poner a prueba


And today a little Spanish for all of you multilingual types out there.

I sometimes have difficulty remembering which preposition to use with certain Spanish phrases having a different preposition to the one we use in English.

And I happened to use poner a prueba earlier today, and wondered whether a was the correct preposition.

It was and knowing this:

poner a prueba

to put to the test

isn’t a particularly good example as the preposition a is the same as we use in English. It doesn’t take much remembering.

In the same sense, a picture is worth a thousand words, an example is worth a thousand explanations.

The example I found for you is:

Y la historia de hoy es de cómo esa mente racional de Johanna se puso a prueba.

This was from Radio Ambulante and from a tale entitled El Hotel Embrujado (food for thought if you can understand Spanish).

Se puso a prueba makes poner a prueba look like a reflexive verb. It isn’t. It is in fact a passive, or at least that is my understanding.

Besos, baci et Pax,


Posted in Spanish | Leave a comment

Free writing


Writing every (week) day is surprisingly difficult. I always think that I have a lot to say (or maybe just talk to much).

The concept of free writing is one where you just bang out whatever comes to mind, and needs some practice.

I’ve discovered that two types of freewriting exist.

We have Type 1 where you write continuously about subject without stopping. We also have Type 2 where you write continually without stopping while focused on a specific topic.

Type 2 appears more relevant to me.

Additionally, you are not meant to stop and correct grammatical errors, and should set a timer for an arbitrary time. I’ve chosen 15 minutes, and will correct grammatical errors when finished – see below.

My Blog in general isn’t visited by large numbers of people – unlike Surfacelanguages itself which has around 500,000 monthly page views. Most the ‘hits’ as it were come from specific and niche entries either to do with Latin parsing or the occasional Spanish phrase.

Other than that the most recent entry is generally read by reasonable numbers of people. I’m guessing that they (you) have clicked on one of the references to this blog from Surfacelanguages.

There are enough of these random visitors, that I will be checking for grammar!

Let’s see how the writing flows:)

Sometimes, I will still write about language related topics which grab me. I’ve got one in mind about Italian islands. Generally, islands in Italian are referred to using a unless they are big, in which case in is used.

Besos, baci et Pax.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I make wicked Jerk Chicken

It’s true.

I was taught by someone who knows about these things. The problem with people who know about these things, in this case cooking something regularly is that they do it by instinct.

You have to get a feel for the ingredients and how they go together before you can guarantee success.

The original recipe will vary depending on what is in the house, the mood of the cook and size of the teaspoon. It is only in books that recipes are static, boring things set in concrete.

So for jerk chicken:

Just add a teaspoon, or maybe a teaspoon and a half of black pepper.

Thyme is very important.

And pimiento peppers. Pimiento peppers? Any particular type?

And so on.

Despite the detailed instructions, it took me at least ten attempts to make it taste as it should. I was adding too much thyme. Thyme has a disproportionate effect on the overall flavour. This is counter intuitive considering the numerous cloves of garlic needed.

I also make a similarly good lamb or goat curry. The ingredients are similar and I finally have a feel for the quantities needed. No accurate measuring for me.

Rice and peas have so far eluded me.

I might give that a go next week.

Besos, baci et Pax.


Posted in Food | Leave a comment

Gluten free in Italian


Today, my friends, I want to talk to you about going gluten free in Italy, or more accurately about a few Italian phrases that will help you avoid gluten when eating.

I have a strong intolerance to Gluten. I am not a coeliac but I suffer consequences if I eat gluten, and it doesn’t take much for me to suffer.

This is inconvenient.

Anyway, as it happens, and Covid permitting, I will be visiting Italy at some point next year. This struck me as a good a reason as any to work on my Italian. I booked a lesson with an iTalki lesson teacher.

I’d decided before my lesson that I wanted to know more avoiding gluten, and how to avoid eating it when ordering food.

And so with an accommodating teacher I spent some time pretending to order food. My teacher became a waiter and I became a hungry gluten intolerant customer.

All of us coeliacs or people with a gluten intolerance, who visit Italy, know (or really should know) sensa glutine means ‘without gluten’.

And it works, you can travel far with these two words.

You can say sensa glutine, point and smile and with a bit of luck you will get a gluten free pizza base or gluten free spaghetti. You can also try Impasto senza glutine ‘gluten free dough’.

Now to add a dollop of metropolis sophistication, the absolute basics you will need are:

Sono celiaco/celiaca 

I’m a celiac (masculine and feminine versions).

Sono intollerante al glutine  

I’m gluten intolerant

But we want a smidge more sophistication and precision. And so my babers, for your delight and delectation, this is what I learnt through my restaurant role play experience.

After Sono celiaco, you can continue with:

Quali  piatti  mi  consiglia?

Which dishes would you recommend?

And then if you are lucky you will be recommended various gluten free options. Gluten free pizza, pasta and so on with some sort of lush Italian source.

Unfortunately, and this is something that I have discovered through bitter experience over time, you might still be poisoned.

Let’s take pizza for an example.

Having explained your intolerance, you might well get a gluten free base, but people often don’t realise that the most unlikely toppings may contain wheat. Examples being sausages or the casing (if that is the correct word) of salami or chorizo.

And this has caught me out on more than one occasion.

Until now.

Using the following phrase …

mi  piacciono  molto  le salsicce  ma …

I like sausages a lot but …

… split into two for emphasis …

Se  hanno  farine  dentro   o  fuori   non  posso  mangiarle

If they have wheat inside or outside I can’t eat them

.. I can bring this fact to the attention of the waiter or waitress.

I can also say:

Devo  saperlo per  la  mia  allergia

I need to know (it) because of my allergy

I don’t have an allergy, and if you do, don’t rely on these phrases to keep you safe!

And for extra emphasis:

Non  posso  mangiare nulla,  anche  le  tracce mi  fanno  male

I can’t eat any, even a trace makes me feel ill

I’ve taken the liberty of translating farsi male as ‘makes ill’. It more accurately means ‘to hurt’ which doesn’t sound quite right in this context to my English ears.

Hopefully we will still be able to travel next year.

Fingers crossed.

This is Day 2 of the Post a Day series. How long will it last?

Besos, Baci and Pax.


Posted in Italian | Leave a comment

One Post a Day. Intro


I read somewhere , sometime about someone (this is vaguer than I would like), and I don’t mean Mr Pepys, who writes a thousand words a day and uses this as a means to practice writing.

I take my metaphorical hat off to this person.

As to me, well I’m not intending to write 1000 words a day, but I’m going to write something from Monday to Friday and see if it becomes a habit. I’m not setting myself a specific number of words as a goal, only to write something each weekday and see how it comes out.

It might be to do with languages if I have something particularly pressing to mention, or it might be totally unrelated.

For example, I made a totally wicked jerk chicken the other day. True:)

Or the government partied over Christmas while the rest of us didn’t.

You get the picture.

This is Day 1 of the Post a Day Series:)

Besos, Baci and Pax,


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Terra autem erat inanis et vacua, et tenebrae erant super faciem abyssi

Sup y’all?

The weather is bad, a new variant of Covid is rife and we all need a bit of cheering up. So it’s time to parse some Latin.

And if that doesn’t cheer you up, or at least focus your mind, then I don’t know what will;)

As I have mentioned before, I have a copy of the Vulgate (a real paper copy) and have even made a frequency list containing the 100 most frequent words used.

And as maybe you already know, terra autem erat inanis and so on above crops up at the beginning of Genesis, so I haven’t had to look far for suitable parsing material.

The Vulgate has punctuation, so let’s make use of it and parse :

Terra autem erat inanis et vacua, et tenebrae erant super faciem abyssi


Terra autem erat inanis et vacua


et tenebrae erant super faciem abyssi.

Terra ‘earth’ is a first declension feminine noun.

It looks like a nominative, so without even worrying about declining it, let’s assume that is it is in the nominative and the subject of the sentence. I’m guessing nominative because it makes sense and the Vulgate *wasn’t supposed* to be complicated. Terra could be an accusative but would that work with erat? No it wouldn’t, so let’s ignore that possibility.

Erat ‘he/she was’ is the third person singular imperfect of the verb ‘to be’.

Autem ‘but, moreover, also’ is a conjugation.

Inanis, inanis, inane is an adjective with various meanings. It will come as no great surprise to you to learn that one of these meanings is ‘inane’. There is another which is ’empty, void’.

I’m going to leave the declension of Inanis, inanis, inane for the interested reader;) It might help you to know that back in the day, the model adjective that we used was tristis, tristis, triste, and that these are in the nominative case. In other words, they agree with and describe terra.

Vacuus, vacua, vacuum ’empty, vacant, unoccupied ‘ is a (I think) a first declension adjective. I don’t want to mislead anyone with this, so if you think it is something else, you are likely correct.

However, vacua is a feminine nominative singular, and I am certain of that, meaning that it agrees with terra.

And finally, I’m reasonably certain that the correct grammatical term for the use of vacua and inanis in this context is a predicative adjective. They describe the noun terra and have the verb ‘to be’ in between the two. You don’t need to know that, but it might come in useful when you have to impress the cool kids.

And so we have something like , ‘But the earth was empty and unoccupied …’

Ok. That’s part one complete, and now onto:

tenebrae erant super faciem abyssi

Tenebra, tenebrae ‘darkness, gloom, night and so on’ is a first declension feminine noun.

Tenebrae is the plural form of tenebra which explains why the version of esse ‘to be’ used is the third person imperfect plural. It has to ‘agree’ with the noun in number and gender.

‘Darkness was … ‘

Super ‘over, above’.

‘Darkness was over …’

Facies, ei ‘shape, appearance, aspect’ is a fifth declension feminine noun. Crucially for us followed by the accusative case, and faciem is a very standard accusative singular ending, but let’s decline facies to be sure;)

Facies, facies, faciem, facei, facei, face


‘Darkness was over the face …’

Abysssus, abyssi ‘abyss, sea, chaos’ is a second declension feminine noun. This gives us various possibilities as Abyssi is either a genitive singular or a nominative plural. Abyssi ‘of the abyss’ as a genitive singular seems the more plausible option to me.

And so we can translate:

Terra autem erat inanis et vacua, et tenebrae erant super faciem abyssi


But the world was empty and unoccupied and darkness was over the face of the abyss.

Besos, baci and pax.


Posted in Latin, Parsing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A summer language project


One thing that I have learnt about myself, is that (in general) I am very, very, very bad at doing more than thing at once.

This applies to most areas of my life.

So, as an example, if I’m learning Croatian and at the same time actively trying to improve my Italian, it stresses me out. Or actively trying to learn a new computer language, it stresses me out. Or actively trying to …

And with the language example, as this is something that I do for fun, this kind of defeats the object of learning languages. I also don’t actually achieve very much of whatever that I have set out to do.

I have also belatedly discovered that I am much better at doing one thing for a short period of time.

And so for the next ten weeks (or so) I have decided on a summer language project. I won’t do anything else – actively 😉

As a slight aside, in case you were wondering, and despite my brave talk of having ‘given up Croatian due to the pandemic and lack of travel possibilities’, I miss it! And so after the next ten weeks are up, I will return to my Croatian. It is without doubt my favourite language.

So my ten week project will be to learn as much German as I can over the next ten weeks, bringing me roughly to mid October.

I am a false beginner. I have attempted to use Assimil German, and played at learning German. At one point I even decided that German would be one of the five languages that I would learn. This hasn’t materialised. I have now all but forgotten the German that I learnt with Assimil. But still, I would like to learn a little more, and so it beckons as my perfect summer language project.

I came across a language app called Speakly. It is, I think, really good, so good that I paid to become a lifetime member.

I like the basic premise behind it, which is that you learn words in the order of frequency of use.

Obviously, in reality there is no such thing as absolute word frequency list. It will change depending on context. There will however be a large overlap between all frequency lists.

I have been using Speakly for about ten days, and the app tells me that I now know 215 words. I’m aiming to learn approximately twenty a day, which would give me a respectable end figure of somewhere over 1000 words learnt by the end of the ten weeks.

My maths isn’t bad, and I’m fully aware that twenty multiplied by seven and then again by ten gives 1400.

I’m assuming that I will end up using the app five days a week.

The second cool feature I like about speakly is there is an emphasis on listening to a series of monologues three or so times a day. This is cool. Comprehension is important.

There is more which I will mention over the coming weeks, along with the number of words that I have learnt and the progress that I have made.

Beso, baci and pax.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is the Croatian word for bird?


So there I was sitting in the garden enjoying the fruit of my labour. Birds were cheeping, the sun was shining and the only thing disturbing me was the occasional cloud.

In short, I was pretty chilled when all of a sudden this thought popped into my head:-

What is the Croatian word for bird?

It was totally random, and maybe if I practised mindfulness this wouldn’t have happened. My internal monologue would have been non-existent and instead I would be focused on the sun beating down on me, the sound of the aforementioned birds, leaves rustling and the general relaxing vibe.

I’ll leave out the sound of traffic, and the sound of rocks being smashed for the purposes of this bucolic scene.

But it happened.

I couldn’t remember the (Croatian) word for bird, and that was despite having recently proudly declared myself as having a B1 level in Croatian.

I could remember it in Spanish, Italian and French (pajaro, ucello and oiseau) but not in Croatian.


It’s not exactly a disaster, but it brought home a rather unpleasant fact, and it left me feeling distinctly dechuffed.

My basic Croatian vocabulary is starting to drift away.

Like the clouds.

Croatian isn’t a straight-forward language for numerous reasons. One of these is vocabulary acquisition. I am not trying to improve the Croatian that I know (for the now), nevertheless I definitely do not want to forget the vocabulary that I have so painfully learnt.

Of course, I immediately looked up the Croatian for bird which is ptica with and for the sake of completeness a plural of ptice.

The act of looking the word up (as I didn’t have a phone, dictionary or access to the internet) to hand, disturbed my tranquil state and also made me consider language maintenance. My comfortable period of loafing about in the garden brought abruptly to an end.

My Croatian is most definitely not at the level where I can read, listen to the radio or carry out any of the fun, accessible and obvious ways of maintaining a language.

For example with Spanish, I read the news, listen to the radio and occasionally chat with friends. Ditto with Italian. I learnt most of my French at school many moons ago, and it has remained firmly entrenched in my skull (as has Latin) ever since. Perhaps a passing neuroscientist could explain why this is so?

But Croatian!

My most recent and favourite of all languages is disappearing fast.

I need to halt this slide – especially as at some point I want to continue learning and improving.

So in essence I’m talking about language maintenance. This would have made a better title for SEO purposes but is too obvious for my liking.

The slightly tangential link appeals to me.

So how am I going to do maintain my Croatian?

And crucially do so without spending too much time on it.

I don’t know.

I have various ideas, which I will outline in my next post.

By the way, if you read Spanish I thought this article was interesting. It can be summed up by ‘stop looking at your phone the time kiddos!’.

And finally, if you are in the UK and are an EU citizen who hasn’t applied for pre-settled status, do it now!

The deadline for this expired on June the 30th 2021 but the government is likely to be lenient with late applications. Apparently.

Besos etc.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment