Seven songs that will help you learn Italian

If the subjunctive just won't stick and you're fed up of the future simple, we've got the playlist for you. Here are seven songs that show sometimes the best way to learn Italian is to sing it.

Seven songs that will help you learn Italian
Lorenzo Baglioni and his 2018 hit about the subjunctive. Photo: screengrab/YouTube

The alphabet: A come Amore – Wilma De Angelis

OK, so admittedly this only goes up to E – but it'll teach you some crucial vocabulary (amore, bacio, cuore), as well as helping to nail down pronunciation of the Italian C (“chi”, not “cee”) that can prove so confusing to English speakers.

Infinitives: Nel blu dipinto di blu – Domenico Modugno

We'll bet you already know at least one of the many verbs in the infinitive featured in this 1958 classic: volare, the name it's better known by. The famous song has some catchy examples of them for beginners to memorize (as well as some juicy uses of the imperfect tense for those a bit further ahead). 
Prepositions: Sapore di Sale – Gino Paoli
Prepositions, those pesky little words like di and del and dei that have to agree with the word that follows them, are in abundance in this 1960s summer hit. Listen carefully and you'll hear just about every variation – hopefully, the right one will be “sulle labbra” (on your lips) in no time. 

The present continuous: In bicicletta – Riccardo Cocciante

This early '80s jam about falling in love during a Sunday morning bike ride for two demonstrates all sorts of verbs in the present continuous (the ~ando, ~endo forms). Also, the video is rad.

The perfect versus the imperfect: Un Raggio di Sole – Jovanotti

Get an introduction to one of Italy's most famous living singers and a tutorial in describing the past all in one go. Spot the difference between the perfect (“ha fatto”) and the imperfect (“faceva”) as Jovanotti sings the story of a relationship that is far from – ahem – perfect. 

The future tense: Un Anno d'Amore – Mina

Ready for the future? Mina the diva will help you learn it (at least the second-person singular) as she warns her lover that he'll miss her when she's gone. Give the chorus a few listens and we promise you “ricorderai” (will remember) and “capirai” (will understand) just fine. 

The subjunctive: Il Congiuntivo

This one goes out to anyone who's ever struggled with the subtleties of the subjunctive. The hit of this year's Sanremo Festival, this tongue-in-cheek tutorial is a reminder that's it's not only foreign students who can't get the congiuntivo quite right. Lorenzo Baglioni's conjugation of the present, perfect, imperfect and past perfect subjunctive are a grammar teacher's delight.

READ ALSO: Italy puts 200,000 classic Italian songs online for free


Italian word of the day: ‘Inchiodare’

You'll nail this word in no time.

Italian word of the day: 'Inchiodare'

What do a carpenter, a detective, and a bank robber screeching to a halt in their getaway car all have in common?

In English, not much – but in Italian, they could all be said to inchiodare (eenk-ee-ohd-AHR-eh) in the course of their professional activities.

In its simplest form, inchiodare simply means ‘to nail’ (chiodo, ‘kee-OH-do’, is a nail) – a picture to a wall, or a leg to a table.

Ha trovato questo cartello inchiodato alla sua porta.
She found this notice nailed to her door.

Inchioderò la mensola al muro più tardi.
I’ll nail the shelf to the wall later.

But like ‘to nail’, inchiodare has more than one definition.

You can use it to describe someone or something being ‘pinned’ in place, without actually having been literally nailed there.

Mi ha inchiodato al muro.
He pinned me to the wall.

La mia gamba è inchiodata al terreno.
My leg is pinned to the ground.

You can be metaphorically inchiodato to a place in the sense of being stuck there, tied down, or trapped.

Dovrei essere in vacanza e invece sono inchiodata alla mia scrivenia.
I should be on holiday and instead I’m stuck at my desk.

Don'T Forger You'Re Here Forever GIF - The Simpsons Mr Burns Youre Here GIFs

Siamo inchiodati a questa scuola per altri tre anni.
We’re stuck at this school for another three years.

Sono stati inchiodati dal fuoco di armi.
They were trapped by gunfire.

Just like in English, you can inchiodare (‘nail’) someone in the sense of proving their guilt.

Chiunque sia stato, ha lasciato tracce di DNA che lo inchioderanno.
Whoever it was, they left traces of DNA that will take them down.

Ti inchioderò per questo omicidio.
I’m going to nail you for this murder.

Thomas Sadoski Tommy GIF by CBS

Senza la pistola non lo inchioderemo, perché non abbiamo altre prove.
Without the gun we’re not going to get him, because we have no other proof.

For reasons that are less clear, the word can also mean to slam on the brakes in a car.

Ha inchiodato e ha afferrato la pistola quando ha visto la volante bloccando la strada.
He slammed on the brakes and grabbed the gun when he saw the police car blocking the road.

Hanno inchiodato la macchina a pochi passi da noi.
They screeched to a halt in the car just a few feet away from us.

Those last two definitions mean that you’re very likely to encounter the word when watching mystery shows or listening to true crime podcasts. Look out for it the next time you watch a detective drama.

In the meantime, have a think about what (or who) you can inchiodare this week.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.