Il negativo come positivo

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Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:20 am
Location: Dover, NH

Il negativo come positivo

Post by Stephen » Sun Mar 08, 2015 6:21 pm

Ciao tutti,

I have encountered several cases in my reading of Italian literature where sentences are constructed using the negative, but are meant in the positive. I was hoping somebody could explain this behavior to me, and what the rules are / how to recognize this.

For example, here are two sentences where I have bolded the negative form which translates to a positive sentence:

Example 1
Non verrò meno ai suoi desideri.

English counterpart:
I shall remain with her wishes.

Example 2
Dinin presiedeva alle preparazioni tattiche dell'incursione, mostrando carte dei lunghi tunnel attraverso i quali il gruppo sarebbe dovuto passare, sottoponendo più e più volte i compagni a severi interrogatori, finché non ebbero memorizzato perfettamente la strada.

English counterpart:
Dinin presided over the raid’s tactical preparations, displaying maps of the long tunnels the group would travel, grilling them over and over until they had memorized the route perfectly.

I have found this in other places as well, these are just the most recent. Any explanation is appreciated!
Italian attempt: Ho trovato questo in altri luoghi anche, queste sono proprio i piu' recenti. Ogni spiegazione e' apprezzato!

Grazie mille!

Posts: 251
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:55 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Il negativo come positivo

Post by Geoff » Fri Mar 13, 2015 12:55 am

Non venire meno à is an idiomatic expression meaning to fail to fulfill. Therefore, I would translate the sentence as I will not fail to fulfill her wishes, or perhaps in more idiomatic English, I won't let her down.

In the second case we have an example of the use of the pleonastic non. This means that it technically doesn't need to be there but is present anyway and can change the meaning, which it does here with finchè. Without the non it means as long as/while whereas finchè non means until.

Another example of the pleonastic non is a sentence like Lui è meno intelligente che non pensassi. - He is more intelligent than I thought. It is idiomatic - you just have to learn it and not try to translate word for word into English.

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