Monday, October 26, 2009

Italian phrase of the week- voler bene

Listen up, folks this is important. And interesting.
Most of you who have studied Italian (or Latin) know that the word amare means "to love," and our three little words in English are the two little words ti amo. However, the most common form of the verb is not amare: it is voler bene, literally, to wish well, to have good-will toward someone. The related phrase is ti voglio bene.

Now. When is "I love you" ti amo and when is it ti voglio bene? I'm glad you asked. Ti amo is stronger and is usually said in a romantic relationship. Ti voglio bene can also be used romantically, but is more watered down and non-committal. What this means for you, ladies, is that the male's classic reluctance to speak the magic words applies especially to ti amo. If they say ti voglio bene, that's also nice, but they can say that to their mom, too (and they may well love their mom more than you, being Italian). However, ti voglio bene is already a great improvement over mi piaci, "I like you." He may like pizza (and being Italian, like it more than you). Unlike amare and piacere, voler bene is almost always used of persons. You would not say voglio bene a Londra for "I love/like London."

The opposite of voler bene is voler male, to hate/dislike/be hostile toward/have it in for someone. Despite the fact that malevolence is more common than benevolence in the world, voler bene is more commonly heard, because people will rarely tell you that they hate/dislike/are hostile/have it in for you.

Little kids often will tell adults ti voglio bene. Except for the tot in the photo, who obviously non ci vuole bene per niente- he has it in for all of us.