l'imperfetto contro stare + gerundio

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flat9
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l'imperfetto contro stare + gerundio

Post by flat9 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:21 pm

Ciao a tutti,

Capisco che l'imperfetto traduce a 'used to' o 'was...' in inglese. Per esempio, si può traduce 'pensavo' come 'was thinking'.
Ma cosa è la differenza tra 'pensavo' e 'stavo pensando'?

Grazie,
Frank

Carlo
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Location: Salerno, Italy

Post by Carlo » Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:23 pm

Basically "pensavo" can mean "I thought":

Pensavo che tu fossi Italiano
I thought you were Italian

"I used to think":

Un tempo pensavo solo a divertirmi

"I was thinking"

Pensavo di trasferirmi a Londra
I was thinking of moving to London

- Non mi ascolti?
- Scusami. Pensavo al colloquio di domani
- Aren't you listening?
- Sorry! I was thinking about tomorrow's interview

"Stavo pensando" can only mean "I was thinking". It can replace "pensavo" in my last example. Compared to "pensavo", it emphasizes the continuous aspect:

Non stavo pensando! Mi ero addormentato!

But most of the time they're interchangeable in the "I was thinking" sense:

A che pensavi?/A che stavi pensando?
What were you thinking about?

Geoff
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Post by Geoff » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:44 am

To add to Carlo's typically excellent response, I believe it is also used to indicate that the subject was right in the middle of doing something (please correct me if I am wrong Carlo). For example:

Stavo buttando giù la pasta quando ho sentito bussare alla porta.
I was in the middle of putting the pasta on when I heard a knock at the door.

In other words, it is just the past tense equivalent of stare + gerund in the present.

Carlo
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Location: Salerno, Italy

Post by Carlo » Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:58 pm

Good point, Geoff! In your example you definitely need the continuous form, as the emphasis is on some ongoing activity which is contrasted with something that happens suddenly.

Geoff
Posts: 251
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Post by Geoff » Thu Apr 10, 2008 6:29 am

It is also my understanding that if you want to stress that whatever it was was going on for some time, you would use andare rather than stare.

Andava leggendo per ore e ore.

flat9
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Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 2:07 pm
Location: Kennett Square, PA USA

Post by flat9 » Thu Apr 10, 2008 5:57 pm

Thanks Carlo & Geoff!

That certainly clears that up for me, although the andare + gerund is a new one to me! :?

Frank

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

Post by Geoff » Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:30 am

Further to andare + gerund, my grammar reference book says that it is fairly elevated in style so you probably wouldn't normally use it in normal conversation. My previous example wasn't a very good one because it is apparently especially used where there is stress on the cumulative effect of what has been going on. For example:

I bacini si andavano riempiendo.
The reservoirs became more and more full.

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