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To manage to/to be able to: Italian grammar lesson 185

Expressing ability and success

The Italian verb riuscire expresses ability. It can be translated as “to manage to“, “to be able to” or just as “can“, depending on the context. However, unlike the verb potere, riuscire has a connotation of success (or lack of success). Keep this in mind when you read the examples later on.

Riuscire: conjugation

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Riuscire is an irregular verb. Remember irregular verbs don’t follow the usual pattern of regular verbs. In this case, riuscire behaves like the verb uscire. Let’s have a look at its conjugation:

io riesco – I manage

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tu riesci – you manage

lui/lei riesce – he/she manages

noi riusciamo – we manage

voi riuscite – you manage

loro riescono – they manage

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If you’re speaking in the past, you’ll need the auxiliary verb essere + the past participle which is: riuscito/riuscita/riusciti/riuscite. Here are some examples:

  • Siamo riusciti ad arrivare in tempo.
    We managed to arrive on time.
  • Sei riuscita a trovare il posto?
    Did you manage to find the place?

Riuscire + a + (verb)

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As you probably already noticed, riuscire is usually followed by the preposition “a” and a verb. Here’s the structure: riuscire + a + (verb). Have a look at the examples below:

  • Riesci a dormire con quel rumore?!
    Are you able to sleep with that noise?!
  • Lei riesce a scrivere bene con la mano sinistra.
    She manages to write well with her left hand.
  • Sono troppo stanca, non riesco a guidare.
    I’m too tired. I cannot drive.
  • Anna non è riuscita a venire alla festa.
    Anna didn’t manage to come to the party.

“Ci”: avoiding repetition

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However, if we already know what we’re talking about or if we want to avoid repetition, we can use the pronoun “ci” before the verb riuscire. Here are some examples:

  • Ci sono riuscita!
    I managed to do it!
  • Riesci a fare la doccia in 3 minuti?
    Can you take a shower within 3 minutes?
  • No, non ci riesco. È impossible. 
    No, I can’t. It’s impossible.

Non riuscire: giving up

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Sometimes, when we use riuscire in the negative, we’re implying that we’re giving up because we’re not being successful in doing something. Have a look at the sentences below:

  • Alice deve scrivere sei articoli in due ore ma non ci riesce.
    Alice has to write six articles within two hours but she can’t.
  • Devi correre più velocemente.
    You have to run faster.
  • Non ci riesco. Mi fa male il piede.
    I can’t. My foot hurts.
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