Italian word of the day: ‘Aiuto’

It's a simple word, but you might need some help using it.

It's a simple word, and maybe one of the first you'll learn in Italian. But it can still cause a bit of confusion.

Aiuto is a masculine noun meaning help, aid or assistance.

“Aiuto!” simply means “help!” and is used just like in English – mostly in emergencies.

Aiutare is the verb form: to help.

– Aiuto, affogo!

– Help, I’m drowning!

Sometimes people get confused because the noun aiuto looks the same as the first-person conjugation of aiutare: (io) aiuto

– ti aiuto

– I'll help you/Let me help

Much like in English, Italian speakers might use either the noun or verb to say similar things.

– Ringraziamento per tutto l'aiuto

– Thank you for all the help 

– Grazie per avermi aiutata con i compiti

– Thanks for helping me with my homework

What about when you want to ask for assistance politely, in a non-life-threatening situation?

– puoi/potresti aiutarmi

– can you/could you help me?

The pronoun mi becomes a suffix of the verb – apparently just because that rolls off the tongue more easily than puoi aiutare mi.

Be careful though. This is the informal way to ask for help, which you'd use with friends and family, but maybe not somewhere like the town hall or doctor's office.

In more formal situations, use potrebbe aiutarmi? (for addressing one person) / potreste aiutarmi? (when speaking to more than one person.)

To be extra polite, you can add a per favore either at the beginning or at the end.

– Mi scusi, potresti aiutarmi per favore?'

– Excuse me, could you help me please?

Use these and you'll definitely be the politest person in the anagrafe.

And in shops, you'll often hear this:

– Posso aiutarti/la?

– Can I help you? (formal/informal)

To which you could always reply,

– No grazie, do solo un'occhiata

– No thanks, I'm just looking

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Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

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