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ashamed of doing vs. ashamed to

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by Flaviano Martello, Feb 15, 2007.

  1. Flaviano Martello

    Flaviano Martello Senior Member

    English, USA
    In English there is a difference between

    to be ashamed to do something

    and

    to be ashamed (in) doing something

    In the first case, you feel a sense of shame that prevents you from acting. In the second case, you have done (or are in the process of doing) something, and you feel shame about it.

    To give more concrete examples:

    1. I was ashamed to leave the house in tears.
    2. I was ashamed (in) leaving the house in tears.
    3. I was ashamed of/for having left the house in tears.

    In the first case, you usually imply that you didn't leave the house. You were ashamed of crying and so you didn't leave. This is particularly true if you add too:

    I was too ashamed to leave the house in tears (... so I hid in my room for an hour).

    In the second case, you assert that you did leave the house, but you were crying and that made you ashamed while you were leaving.

    In the third case, you assert that you did leave the house, but only that you were ashamed of having been crying. It remains ambiguous whether you were ashamed while you were leaving.

    These are rather subtle distinctions, but they are very real ones nonetheless.

    How do you say these things in Italian? I think the third one would be

    3 =?= Avevo vergogna di essere uscito la casa in lacrime.

    But with the first two, what would be correct?

    1/2 =?= Avevo vergogna di uscire la casa in lacrime.

    Vuol dire che sono uscito o non??

    Grazie!!

     
  2. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Hi, FM. I'll try...
     
  3. Siberia

    Siberia Sibermod

    UK-Wales - English
    My try
    1. I was ashamed to leave the house in tears - Mi vergognavo di uscire di casa in lacrime.
    2. I was ashamed leaving the house in tears (although this sounds a tiny bit strange to my ears) - Mi vergognavo delle lacrime che avevo quando uscì di casa.
    3.I was ashamed for having left the house in tears - Mi sono vergognato di essere uscito dalla casa in lacrime.
     
  4. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    I hope you don't mind... :)
     
  5. Siberia

    Siberia Sibermod

    UK-Wales - English
    Thanks Necsus. I wouldn't try if I didn't want to be corrected. That's how I learn. :)
    Siberia
     
  6. Poianone

    Poianone Senior Member

    Udine, Italy
    Italian, Italy
    Hello! these are my versions!
     
  7. Flaviano Martello

    Flaviano Martello Senior Member

    English, USA
    Thanks everyone, especially necsus, for the explanations!!

    I get the impression that in fact Italian is not so different from English.

    If you say

    I was ashamed to leave the house in tears

    it is actually ambiguous, although I think the more salient interpretation is that you did not leave the house because shame prevented you. But I think the other interpretation — that you did leave the house and it was shameful — is not in fact excluded. From what necsus said, it seems that in Italian

    Mi vergognavo di uscire di/da casa in lacrime

    has the same range of meanings. (If that's not true, please correct me! :) )

    I find it odd that in English when you add 'too' the implication is suddenly that you did not leave:

    I was too ashamed to leave the house in tears.

    But I don't think this has anything to do with 'ashamed' per se, because it's true with lots of adjectives:

    I was too happy to ...
    I was too sad to ...
    I was too drunk to ...


    But you can also say

    I was all too happy to ...

    which implies that you did do what followed. How confusing!
     
  8. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    You're welcome, FM.
    I don't know exactly how it works in English, but in Italian we use a quantitative adverb like troppo, poco, troppo poco in the main clause of a consecutive clause where the subordinate clause begins with perché + subjunctive or with per + infinitive, to express the fact that the consequence is not realized (è troppo furbo perché lo si possa imbrogliare; costa troppo poco per essere autentico). ;)
     
  9. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    Actually in Italian we would use different tenses to convey whether we did or did not do what what followed:

    Imperfect:

    Ero troppo felice per (poter) vedere la situazione con obiettività
    I was too happy to see things dispassionately

    Present perfect:

    Sono stato (fin troppo) felice di poterlo aiutre
    I was only too happy to (be able to help) him

    I think using the imperfect vs the present perfect can also convey different meanings with the "was ashamed" examples:

    Dopo che la mia storia era finita sui giornali avevo vergogna di uscire di casa
    (this means that you were ashamed to leave the house over a period of time)

    Quel giorno ho avuto vergogna di uscire di casa (so I didn't)

    Quel giorno ho provato una grande vergogna uscendo di casa (I did leave the house)
     
  10. Auno Senior Member

    Australia - English
    Flaviano,

    Mi dispiace ma non hai ragione.

    I will continue in English, even though this must have confused Italians no end:

    "Ashamed" is an adjective. Ecco -

    Main Entry: ashamed
    Pronunciation: &-'shAmd
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, from Old English Ascamod, past participle of Ascamian to shame, from A- (perfective prefix) + scamian to shame -- more at [SIZE=-1]ABIDE[/SIZE], [SIZE=-1]SHAME[/SIZE]
    1 a : feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace b : feeling inferior or unworthy
    2 : restrained by anticipation of shame <was ashamed to beg>

    Change your second example to:

    "to be SHAMED when (better than "in" also, although okay you can say that) doing something".

    That is in fact what you mean there.

    "Shamed" is a verb -

    Main Entry: shame
    Function: transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s): shamed; sham·ing
    1 : to bring shame to : [SIZE=-1]DISGRACE[/SIZE] <shamed the family name>
    2 : to put to shame by outdoing
    3 : to cause to feel shame
    4 : to force by causing to feel guilty <shamed into confessing>

    Yes there is a difference, but not as you put it, and from what I'm now seeing it seems to have caused a few furphies in the Italian.




     
  11. Flaviano Martello

    Flaviano Martello Senior Member

    English, USA
    As far as I am concerned the existence of a separate verb to shame is beside the point and in fact confuses matters even more, as it does nothing to settle my original question and sheds no light on the semantic difference at hand.

    As it turns out, since posting this thread I have discovered that the ambiguity that I inquired about is discussed in John Kinder and Vincenzo Savini, Using Italian, a Guide to Contemporary Usage, 2004, Cambridge University Press, p. 384. They provide the following examples:

    avevo paura/vergogna di chiedergli i soldi che mi deve
    'I was afraid/ashamed to ask him for the money he owes me'

    avevo paura/vergogna a chiedergli i soldi che mi deve
    'I was afraid/ashamed as I asked him for the money he owes me'

    According to these authors, the two senses which I was interested in hinge on the choice of di vs. a.

    I would be curious to know if these judgments can be corroborated by Italian speakers here.

    As Necsus pointed out in an earlier response, the same disambiguation can be achieved by using nel +infinitive, which seems in most cases to emphasize the simultaneity of the main verb and the infinitive in the same way that in + gerund may do so English.

    As Giovannino pointed out, the simultaneity that
    in + gerund can express in English can also be achieved with a present participle in Italian:

    ho provato una grande vergogna uscendo di casa



    A similar ambiguity -- logically -- should arise with verbs having a range of meanings such as 'to wait to, to hesitate to' or verbs implying that envisioning OR taking an action may result in a certain emotional state.

    In English

    I was reluctant to answer

    is ambiguous, at least in my judgment, since what is asserted is the act of hesitation: no commitment is made as to whether an answer was subsequently given.



    Returning to the question of 'ashamed' in English:

    if, as Auno has pointed out, the adjective ashamed can mean 'feeling shame, guilt or disgrace' then there is nothing exceptional about a sentence

    I was ashamed (in) leaving the house

    and, I insist,

    I was ashamed to leave the house

    is ambiguous, implying, most typically,

    (1) that one has not left the house, i.e. following definition 2 of 'ashamed' that Auno provided, viz. 'restrained by anticipation of shame'

    or

    (2) that one has left the house, following definition 1, viz. 'feeling shame, guilt or disgrace.'

    Again, if Kinder and Savini are correct these can be disambiguated by the choice of a vs. di after vegogna.

    Maybe the difference is one between American English and other varieties. People rarely use to shame with a direct object here, and the most typical use of the verb is in the passive with complement into + gerund:

    I was shamed into leaving

    This would be unusual in spoken language, although perfectly grammatical of course.


     

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