Ciao, tutti! Perdonatemi per favore, ma la mia conoscenza dell' Italiano è molto limitata quindi devo fare questa domanda in inglese.
I believe this is a very basic -- maybe even ignorant -- question, but as someone relatively new to the Italian language, I have a need to ask it.
I understand the words che, cosa and che cosa to mean "what or which". My question is, are these words completely interchangeable? Or although they may be interchangeable, is the use of one of the words preferred over the use of the others depending on the question? Conversely, are there instances that call for the strict use of one of these words over the others?
For example, I believe it is acceptable to ask "Cosa fai?", "Che cosa fai?" or "Che fai?", but is one way of asking the question preferred or more common than the others? If so, are there rules of thumb that guide one's choice of words?
Are there questions that call for the use of one of these words to the exclusion of the others? I think I read that only "che" can be used in front of a noun when one means to ask "which"; e.g., "Che lavoro fa?" Is this true? Do any such rules apply to "cosa" or "che cosa"?
I'm probably way over-analyzing this, but my curiosity has gotten the better of me.
Grazie mille dell'aiuto!
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>I understand the words che, cosa and che cosa to mean "what or which". My question
>is, are these words completely interchangeable?
"Cosa fai?" is wrong, although universally used here.
"Che fai?", "Che cosa fai?" are correct.
If you change "thing" into "action", or something like that, asking "Cosa fai?"
would be like asking "Action you are doing?". This is wrong, of course.
The adjective "che" is mandatory: "Which action are you doing?". Or simply with the
pronoun "che": "What (che) are you doing?".
They are interchangeable in practice.
>Or although they may be interchangeable, is the use of one of the words preferred
>over the use of the others depending on the question? Conversely, are there instances
>that call for the strict use of one of these words over the others?
>For example, I believe it is acceptable to ask "Cosa fai?", "Che cosa fai?" or "Che
>fai?", but is one way of asking the question preferred or more common than the
>others? If so, are there rules of thumb that guide one's choice of words?
>Are there questions that call for the use of one of these words to the exclusion
>of the others?
Can't think of any objective situation in which the use of one of them in place of
the others is strictly required. The use is subjective and the difference is minimal.
"Che fai?" is lighter and generic. If you meet a friend of yours you haven't seen for
years, you could exclaim "Ehi! Che fai?", "Hey! How do you do?" (but "how are you?",
"come stai?" is more common). Notice, however, that "how do you do", as far as I know,
should mean "how are you", or, anyway, should embed some reference to your friend's
health. Instead, the "fai" in "che fai" does really mean "What are the things you are
doing at the present time in your life?".
"Che cosa fai" is a little more specific: "Which is the thing you do (are doing)"
This question is asked when you refer to a specific action/thing.
But, in the end, you could use "Che fai?" and "Che cosa fai" both in (a) and (b)
If a friend of your is removing the security to a weapon, you will ask "Ehi! Che cosa
stai facendo?", "Hey! What are you doing?". The continuous present tense is only a
question of emphasis in Italian. In facts, if you revert to "Che cosa fai?" this works
also in the weapon's case.
>I think I read that only "che" can be used in front of a noun when one means to ask
>"which"; e.g., "Che lavoro fa?" Is this true?
That's not true. You can ask as well "Quale (which) lavoro fa?".
>Do any such rules apply to "cosa" or "che cosa"?
"Cosa" does not differs from "lavoro". If they seem differ, it's only because
"cosa" has a great (say enormous) success here. It can replace any other noun in the
spoken language. Also, it duplicated and changed sex: we have "coso", which is a male
noun, while "cosa" is a female noun (the use of "coso" is a little more particular).
It also generated the verb "cosare" that doesn't exist in English. In colloquial
language, the verb "cosare" can replace any other verb. Forgive me if I use "to thing"
for "cosare" in my example below, but any other solution would make my example vanish.
Let's suppose you are repairing a ricetransmitter rig. Specifically, your are
"replacing" a "valve (vacuum tube)" in the "receiver" section.
You are very absorbed in that work, because it's a difficult one.
A friend of your enters the rooms and ask you: "Che cosa fai?". Your answer should be:
"I'm replacing a valve in the receiver section".
Though you are not so willing to answer, and by the way your mind refuses to find the
words you'd need to build up the proper answer, because, as I said, that work absorbs
you completely. So you could hear answers like this in italy:
"Sto... sto... sto cosando la cosa del... del... come si chiama... del... del coso...
Ma dai, lasciami stare!"
"I am... am... am thinging the thing of the... of the... how is it called... of the...
of the thing. But come on, let me alone!"
"Sto cosando" = "I am replacing"
"la cosa" = "the valve". Valve = valvola, female. Hence "la cosa", female
"del coso" = "of the receiver". Receiver = ricevitore, male. Hence "coso", male.
Such fun answers are common to be heard in Italy, especially in Tuscany. Though we
avoid to speak that way with foreign people.
"Cosa" is often intentionally used to hide real words, to create jokes, on so on.
It may be added to "see you". "see you and good things" = "arrivederci e buone cose"
>I'm probably way over-analyzing this, but my curiosity has gotten the better of me.
I agree with you. This are the things(<-!) near the core of the quantum mechanics
based system called brain. It could be said I'm joking, but _only_ up to a point.
Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus
Edited by 22atropos on 31 March 2011 at 2:45pm
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