Essential Italian Grammar

5 Italian, Books

October 13, 2013

Author  Olga Ragusa
Series  Dover Essential Grammar
Publisher  Dover Publications
Publication Date  1963
Price  $5.95
Skill Level  Beginner, Intermediate

I have generally adored the Essential Grammar series from Dover Publications, and this Italian one by Olga Ragusa is no exception.

In just 111 pages and for only $5.95, this old-fashioned book (originally published in 1963) provides a petite yet oddly comprehensive summary of the essential features of Italian grammar. Chapters bear what are for me quite seductive titles: “Nouns and Articles,” “Adjectives,” “Adverbs, “Comparisons of Adjectives and Adverbs,” and “Idiomatic Constructions.”

Good stuff!

There is a gigantic chapter (relatively speaking) that systematically proceeds through the dazzling verbal variety of Italian, from progressive and future to imperative and conditional. Its title: “Verbs.” I admire simplicity.

Helpful examples abound throughout the book and bring the various principles to life.

For those who find grammatical approaches to language instruction intimidating, Dover includes in the back a thoroughly readable grammar glossary that explains key terminology. I like this glossary approach because then, for people who do know grammar principles, the foreign language instruction doesn’t get interrupted by discussions of what a noun or preposition is. Everyone wins.

If you are studying Italian, keep in mind what this type of book is and what it isn’t. It is not a workbook; there are no exercises. It is instead a quick portrait of a language. Personally, I like reading things like this alongside whatever workbook I may be using, because doing so helps reinforce some of the more elusive concepts.

In my opinion, this book—which has roughly the same romantic dimensions as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style—would be the perfect holiday or birthday gift for someone who once knew Italian and wishes he or she could know it again.

Italian: A Good Old-Fashioned Grammar Portrait
Italian: A Good Old-Fashioned Grammar Portrait

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