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Italian word of the day: 'Beccare'

The Local Italy
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Italian word of the day: 'Beccare'
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The range of uses for this verb could fill a list as long as your...beak?

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Used literally, beccare (pronunciation available here) just describes one thing: the action of a bird pecking at something (becco = beak).

Le galline beccavano le briciole per terra.

The hens pecked at the crumbs on the ground.

This literal definition is just the tip of the iceberg however because, when used metaphorically, beccare is a chameleon of a verb that can change to mean a whole plethora of things.

These include to catch, run into, meet up with, get bitten (by a bug), bicker, boo, 'bag' yourself something good, or get landed with something bad. Phew.

Got all that? No? Don't worry, we'll look at them in turn.

One of the most common metaphorical uses of beccare is to catch or get caught by anyone from the police to your mum:

Se la polizia ci becca di nuovo saremo nei guai.

If the police catch us again we're in trouble.

Ho beccato il mio fidanzato con un'altra.

I caught my boyfriend with another girl.

Si è fatta beccare con le mani nel sacco.

She got caught red-handed.

In the same vein, you can use the verb to talk about getting bitten ('caught') by an insect or mosquito:

Una zanzara mi ha beccato la gamba.

A mosquito bit my leg.

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Or running into ('catching') someone unexpectedly.

Ho beccato Elisa in centro, abbiamo fatto una bella chiacchierata.

I ran into Elisa in town, we had a nice chat.

Mi fa piacere che ci siamo beccati.

I'm glad we ran into one another.

When used in the reflexive form (beccarsi), the verb can mean either to land yourself something desirable, or get stuck with something undesirable (it's understood from context which of the situations you're in):

Brava, ti sei beccata la fila più veloce.

Good job, you picked the fastest queue.

Vi siete beccati un viaggio gratis!

You got yourselves a free trip!

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Mi sono beccato l'influenza durante un viaggio in Inghilterra.

I got the flu on a trip to England.

Grazie a te ci siamo beccati tutti una punizione.

Thanks to you we all got ourselves a detention.

The reflexive form can also be used informally to mean to bicker or squabble:

Giacomo e Francesca si beccano in continuazione, non ne posso più delle loro liti.

Giacomo and Francesca argue constantly, I'm sick of their fights.

Or to mean to meet up or catch up with someone: 

Ci becchiamo stasera per fare due chiacchiere?

Shall we meet up this evening for a chat?

Ci becchiamo dopo!

Catch you later! (lit., 'we'll catch each other later').

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Finally, to beccare a person can mean to show disapproval of someone or even boo them, usually in the context of a musical or theatrical performance:

Quando gli attori hanno finito lo spettacolo, il pubblico li ha beccati senza pieta.

When the actors finished the show, the audience booed them without mercy.

With all that newfound knowledge, the world's your oyster: see if you can go out and beccare a friend, a criminal, or a winning lottery card (but not a cold or a booing).

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