A meno che

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by Alxmrphi, Sep 4, 2006.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    lo spettacolo avrà luogo, a meno che piova
    lo spettacolo avrà luogo, a meno che non piova

    Which one translates:

    The show will take place, unless it rains

    ??

     
  2. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
     
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    So the first one is wrong?
     
  4. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    Well..the first one is maybe even more logical than the second one, Alex, but the point is that we use the double negative in Italian.
    Although everybody would understand what you want to say also with the first sentence, it sounds odd and not natural.
     
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    So, with "a meno che" .. I should put a "non" before the verb, (the opposite in English) ?
     
  6. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    Yeah: I'm not gonna talk to you unless you beg me: non parlo con te a meno che tu non mi supplichi. (girlie fit:D )
     
  7. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    And how would you say "the show will take place unless it doesn't rain" (ok not a very likely thing to want to say, but there would be more likely sentences of the same form - "I won't call the gardener in this week unless it doesn't rain").
     
  8. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    Yes. Like you would if you said "The show will take place, at least if it doesn't rain."
     
  9. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Actually, answering my own question, I suppose you would change the sentence around to "I will only call the gardener in if it doesn't rain"?
     
  10. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Il mio gatto mangerà il suo cibo a meno che non abbia fame.
    My cat will eat its food unless it isn't hungry.

    How do I fix this? because I've matched up "is not hungry" and "non abbia fame" and they need to be opposite, to work.
    What do I do?
     
  11. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    "I won't call the gardener in this week unless it doesn't rain" i.e. "I'll call the gardener this week only if it rains " = Questa settimana chiamerò il giardiniere solo se piove.
     
  12. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    No need to fix it, it's correct.
     
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Il mio gatto mangerà il suo cibo a meno che non abbia fame.
    My cat will eat its food unless it isn't hungry.

    Il mio gatto non mangerò il suo cibo a meno che abbia fame.
    My cat will not eat its food unless it is hungry.

    And the second one is correct, as well?
     
  14. Stiannu

    Stiannu Senior Member

    Torino (Turin), Italy
    Italy, Italian
    That is the problem! As an Italian speaker, I've always wondered. You use "non" as a particle after "a meno che" (=unless), with no meaning, just as a grammatical form; but what if the sentence which follows is already negative?
    1. Your wife will leave you, unless you accept the new job.
    2. Your wife will leave you, unless you don't accept the new job.
    I would translate n. 1 as follows:
    1. Tua moglie ti lascerà, a meno che tu non accetti il nuovo lavoro.
    For n. 2... uhmmm... I guess someone, especially in the oral language, could even use exactly the same words! But I think it's wiser to change to form of the sentence, like in
    2. Tua moglie ti lascerà, a meno che tu non rifiuti il nuovo lavoro.
    or
    2. Tua moglie ti lascerà, a meno che tu non decida di non accettare il nuovo lavoro. (a bit heavy, though)
    So, basically, turn the sentence that follows the "unless" from negative to affirmative, in order to avoid ambiguities!
     
  15. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    No - "I won't call the gardener in this week unless it doesn't rain" means "I will only call the gardener in this week if it doesn't rain" (eg to water the garden with a hose), but I can see from your answer that you would therefore say "Questa settimana chiamerò il giardiniere solo se non piove".
     
  16. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    Both correct to me, just not very natural.
    The point is that Italians would likely say:
    Il mio gatto non mangerà il suo cibo a meno che non abbia fame.
    My cat will eat its food only if it's hungry.
     
  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    God this is so confusing!
    Can someone give me really simple sentences, simple verbs, simple nouns, please please please?
     
  18. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    That's how we'd say it.

    Does "I won't call the gardener in this week unless it doesn't rain" have 3 negatives?
     
  19. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    I'm sorry to be confusing you, mate...
    You write some simple sentences in English and i'll translate them for you.
     
  20. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Haha, I'm not sure now, I'm getting confused myself. I think, actually, in English it would be more natural to say "I'll only call the gardener in if it doesn't rain" anyway just like the Italian, reserving the "unless" for a positive verb following.
     
  21. Snowman75

    Snowman75 Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Australia (English)
    Alex, I think the point is that Italians never say "unless" + negative. They only say "unless" + positive, in which case they add the redundant "non".

    Instead of saying "unless" + negative it's much easier and clearer to just say "if" + positive, or "only if" + positive.

    So:

    Il gatto non mangerà il cibo a meno che non abbia fame.
    The cat won't eat its food unless it's hungry.

    Il gatto mangerà il cibo solo se ha fame.
    The cat will eat its food only if it's hungry.
     
  22. Stiannu

    Stiannu Senior Member

    Torino (Turin), Italy
    Italy, Italian
    I was searching in some websites about Italian grammar, but I didn't found any clue about the unless+negative form. Only references about the unless+positive form, where a "non" (with no meaning) is added in Italian.

    So I guess Snowman is right! Unless+negative is too ambiguous in Italian, better to change the sentence.
     
  23. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    In English: unless it rains = if it doesn't rain;
    In Italian: a meno che non piova = se non piove.

    You could also say "a meno che piova", but "a meno che non piova" sounds more natural to my ears.
    Other Italian speakers' opinion urgently needed.. ;)
     
  24. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    You've saved me from making myself a fool about this tricky matter! :D
     
  25. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    The simple examples for you Paul... are

    I won't go to the park unless you give me some money
    The cat is here, unless it is over there
    Food is good, unless it smells bad (puzzare)
    I will die unless you help me understand (how relevant?!!?)
    Fish swim together unless they are bored

    Ok, try these!
    Thanks Paul.
     
  26. vikgigio Senior Member

    Italia
    Italian, Italy
    Ok, cerchiamo un attimo di mettere ordine...
    Questa qui: My cat will not eat its food unless it is hungry.
    io la traduco così: Il mio gatto non mangerà il suo cibo a meno che non abbia fame. (ovvero aggiungendo quel 'non')

    Quest'altra: My cat will eat its food unless it isn't hungry.
    la tradurrei così: Il mio gatto mangerà il suo cibo solo se ha fame.

    (oppure semplicemente userei la stessa frase di prima: Il mio gatto non mangerà il suo cibo a meno che non abbia fame, rimettendo la negazione nella principale, per rispettare la regola della doppia negazione.)
     
  27. Cnaeius

    Cnaeius Senior Member

    Verona
    Italian, Italy
    Vorrei solo far notare una cosa:

    A meno che non piova
    Unless it rains


    Forse puo' essere utile
     
  28. virgilio Senior Member

    English UK
    Alex,
    I'm only guessing, of course, as a non-native, but it seems to me that the "meno" and the "non" corroborate each other. Or - to put it another way - that the " che non piova" clause of your original sentence is a kind of direct request clause - or even a "fearing" clause -"let it not rain".
    Maybe the original thinking behind a sentence like:"
    lo spettacolo avrà luogo, a meno che non piova" would have been something like:
    "The show will take place (less true in the event of rain so "let it not rain")

    After all,what about the "un-" in "unless". The "less" bit is plainly the "meno" but the "un" seems to negate it. So perhaps the problem lies in the English after all.
    From the point of view of symbolic logic, "un-less" is not the same thing as "more", course!

    If you aren't confused now, you're simply not trying!

    All the best
    Virgilio

    PS Isn't the English conjunction "lest" in the same boat? "(the) les(s tha)t
    e.g.
    I was afraid lest we should miss the train = I was afraid (thinking)"let us not miss the train".
    This construction is common in Latin
     
  29. tempesta1980 New Member

    English - American
    Hello all.

    First, I must apologize reopening this thread because it seems like this topic often causes headaches. I had read through this thread a couple of months ago when I first started studying Italian and it caused me so much trouble that I just put it on the back burner. This week, however, we started studying conjunctions that take the subjunctive and this one came up (as well as others from the eccettuativa group). It seemed like a bad acid flashback (or so I've heard). I bailed on class out of frustration and suddenly a good English translation came to mind.

    The antiquated word "lest" seemed to fit the bill.

    My cat doesn't eat its food unless it's hungry.
    My cat doesn't eat its food lest it's not hungry.
    Il mio gatto non mangia il suo cibo a meno che non abbia fame.

    "Lest not" can be translated to "unless" in my opinion. I think this is where the problem with "a meno che" was for us English speakers because "a meno che" doesn't mean "unless". The word "unless" contains the negative prefix "un" while "a meno che" does not have such an equivalent, therefore one must add the "non" after "a meno che" for it to translate to "unless". The only issue I find is that you can add another negative to a phrase with "unless" ("unless you don't want to") but can't do it with "a meno che" ("a meno che tu non non(?) voglia"). Then again, I guess you could just say "a meno che tu voglia".

    I'm hoping that a) I'm correct and that b) this contributed rather than complicated the situation. It helped me anyway. Let me know what you think. Ciao.

    EDIT: I just read the above post and he mentions "lest", rendering my post almost completely useless! Oh well...
     
  30. federicoft Senior Member

    Italian
    Just to add that "a meno che non abbia fame" and the likes are fundamentally ambiguous phrases. You can't really tell if the cat is or is not hungry. You have to infer it from context.
     
  31. Dott.ssaNAL New Member

    American English
    I know this thread is 5 years old, but I just have to respond because it's a subject that has always caused me a bit of trouble as well. The problem definitely lies in the translation of the phrase "a meno che", which to me (and others, as posted previously) does NOT MEAN "UNLESS". Whoever decided on this translation and published it in every Italian-English dictionary from that point forward made a huge mistake and has caused a never-ending head spin amongst speakers of these two languages.

    I have therefore decided to think of "a meno che" as meaning "AS LONG AS". I'm not sure if it works in every case, but so far it seems to be serving me well...with much less confusion. The only remaining problem (as with the italian usage of "a meno che"), is that it must be followed by a negative expression, so you must always form the sentence in such a way. But at least it makes sense, unlike using "unless", which always sounds like you're saying the opposite of what you want. The previous posts suggesting "lest" is another reasonable explanation, however I have never in my life used that word in spoken english, so "as long as" sounds much more natural to me.
     

Share This Page