cosa fai or cosa facevi?

swinginscot

Senior Member
English, UK/US
Ciao a tutti,
Mi dispiace ma ho un altra domanda.

I recently learned that to ask someone what they did you say "cosa facevi ...?" but I just read a sentence that said "cosa fai per le vacanze di Natale?" Shouldn't it be "cosa facevi per le vacanze di Natale?" or can you use either? Probably a stupid question but would like to know if there's a reason.

Grazie mille ancora una volta :)
 
  • Elisa68

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Cosa hai fatto per le vacanze di Natale? (past)
    Cosa fai/farai per le vacanze di Natale? (future)
     

    swinginscot

    Senior Member
    English, UK/US
    So does that mean that if you were writing this sentence in the past tense you would never use the imperfect, ie, always "cosa hai fatto .." and never "cosa facevi ..."

    Grazie :)
     

    Nijan

    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy - Salerno
    You can use "Cosa facevi" in this kind of sentences:
    "Cosa facevi quando eri piccolo?" <- what did you use to do ...
    "Cosa facevi la notte del 20 Agosto" <- What were you doing...
     

    gibernau

    Member
    Italian
    swinginscot said:
    So does that mean that if you were writing this sentence in the past tense you would never use the imperfect, ie, always "cosa hai fatto .." and never "cosa facevi ..."

    Grazie :)
    yes, in italy, at least in the north, we often use PASSATO PROSSIMO (ie "cos'hai fatto"), even if we're talking abourt somethig that happened long ago.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    swinginscot said:
    So does that mean that if you were writing this sentence in the past tense you would never use the imperfect, ie, always "cosa hai fatto .." and never "cosa facevi ..."

    Grazie :)
    Yes, you can use "facevi" but only if you're talking about what you used to do at Christmas, for example, when you were a kid:

    Cosa facevi a Natale quando vivevi negli Stati Uniti?

    EDIT: Good point, Nijan and Paul. I forgot about "cosa facevi?" = "cosa stavi facendo?". I do sympathize with English natives trying to master the use of the imperfect:)
     

    Nijan

    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy - Salerno
    "Cosa facevi quando eri piccolo?" <- what did you use to do ...
    as woody said, to express a past habit

    "Cosa facevi la notte del 20 Agosto?" <- What were you doing...

    I think this form is used only if someone is asking you about something happened at that time and both the speakers know that at the same something else happened elsewhere. In fact I want to underline that we use the imperfect only if we're asking about an action happened in the past while another were in progress. In the example is not expressed. This is because this form is used for example by policeman, detective and in a situation in which both speakers that know something has happened.

    However we'd rather use
    "Cosa stavi facendo l'altro ieri mentre stavo cucinando?"
    If we express the actions that were in progress.

    I'd like to read the opinions of others native too about this use of imperfect.
     

    Nijan

    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy - Salerno
    Paulfromitaly said:
    Definitely "cosa hai fatto". If You say "cosa facevi" it sounds like "cosa stavi facendo" :
    "Cosa fecevi or stavi facendo con il mio pc? what were you doing with my pc?"
    I think this is:
    What have you been doing...?
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Nijan said:
    I think this is:
    What have you been doing...?
    I would have said What were you doing? as Paul said in his examples ("Cosa fecevi or stavi facendo con il mio pc? what were you doing with my pc?").

    But it raises the question... if you walk in and catch your child in flagrante, writing on the walls and breaking dishes and carrying on, you'd say What have you been doing (while I was not here watching)?" Is it the same?
     

    Nijan

    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy - Salerno
    Actually is really fuzzy,
    I'm an English student and I've never spent any time in a anglophone country, so for me is really hard to say something that is not grammar.

    lsp, what you're saying is that if there's a sort of surprise factor you use the present perfect continuous instead of the past continuous?

    For example, if you find you're girlfriend with her sister you say:
    "What were you doing?"

    But if you break into your bedroom and catch your girlfriend with another man you say:
    "What have you been doing!?"

    Is this different use common for all English speaker or belong only to a particular language variation?
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    Nijan

    This is indeed a tricky issue concerning tense usage. It is made more complex by the lack of an equivalent of the present perfect progressive in Italian.

    While waiting for native speakers' opinions I'll venture a guess.

    Apart from the use of the present perfect progressive followed by "for" or "since" there is another usage of this tense which is sometimes hard to render into Italian. For example you get home and find muddy footprints all over the floor. You then say to your kids: "(What have you been doing?")"Have you been playing in the garden again?". It is used to refer to a recent activity whose results you've just witnessed. You didn't see the kids playing outside. You only saw the mud on the floor.

    If on the other hand you saw your kid in the neighbour's garden, you could say to him when he comes home: "What were you doing in the Smiths' garden? You weren't by any chance chasing their cat again, were you?".

    This is just a guess.
     

    Isapaola

    Senior Member
    Italian Italy
    I would say:
    Cosa facevi is the same as What were you doing...(and in this case you can also say "cosa stavi facendo" ) or it may be what did you use to do
    and it means and you don't any longer.
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Nijan, both your explanation and Carlo's are better than anything I could have articulated. I hope some other anglophones will weigh in. Sorry for such an inadequte reply! :eek:
     
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