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In what context is rendere most commonly used?

I found the definitions "to render" and "to make" which are very different in my mind. I could think of "Il computer rende l'immagine" as an easy one. Would it ever be used like "Io ho reso una pittura"? Or would that be "Ho fatto una pittura" instead?

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As an Italian, I wouldn't understand what Io ho reso una pittura means. If you mean “I made a painting” or something like this, it's Ho dipinto un quadro (or, colloquially, Ho fatto un quadro).

The verb rendere has two main, distinct meanings:

  1. Several shades, both literal and figurative, of “to give”, especially “to give back”: Gli ho reso il libro che mi aveva prestato = “I gave him back the book he had lent me”. This has something in common with some of the meanings of “to render”; for instance, you may say rendere un servizio for “to render a service”. (So, Io ho reso una pittura would seem to mean more or less “I have given back a can of paint”.)
  2. To make (something some way): Questo regalo lo renderà felice = “This gift will make him happy”. I believe that English has a similar use too: “the rains rendered his escape impossible” = le piogge gli resero impossibile la fuga.

Generally, rendere has not the meaning of “to render” as used in the field of computing (“to render an image” etc.), but it is quite possible that some Italian technician or computer scientist uses it. Such (lazy) calques are quite frequent in technical and scientific Italian.

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    In IT we would actually say renderizzare (e.g. "Ho renderizzato l'immagine a partire dai dati"). – moonwave99 Dec 11 '18 at 11:54
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The most common context in which the word rendere is used is definitely the second one, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

The main contexts in which the verb is used are the following.

Rendere as in giving something back to somebody (used in similar ways as the verbs ridare/restituire, the former being somewhat more quaint)

Mia sorella mi ha reso il mio libro.

As you pointed out, there is also a context referring to the action of causing to be or to become.

Mi stai rendendo la vita impossibile.

As for your example, there is a context in which the verb rendere would be used in the way in which you pointed out, but in a different way.

Il computer rende bene l'immagine

would not formally be incorrect, and I would use it for example when praising a PC with good rendering power, in a somewhat more technical connotation.

However, since you are talking about most common contexts, I would add that the most common way rendere is used in this context is when referring to certain characteristics of an artwork and whatnot.

In questo dipinto, ho cercato di rendere l'idea di amicizia fra i popoli.

Verga, nelle sue novelle, rende bene la vita dura dei contadini siciliani.

Personally, I would not say "ho reso una pittura", but I would instead say "ho fatto una pittura" or "ho fatto un dipinto".

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Rendere means:

(1) to give something back (ho reso il libro in biblioteca)

(2) to give somebody an idea/impression/sense that (questo report rende un accurato resoconto della vita nelle periferie). Also used as non-figurative language, relating to technical/optical performance (quel filtro rende brillanti i neri)

(3) to give income (questo investimento rende bene)

(4) to be, to become (used as a reflexive verb) (rendersi conto, rendersi certo)

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Another common use of the word "rendere" is in the idiomatic expression "rendersi conto", which translates to "to realize". In this case it is a reflexive verb.

Mi rendo conto che tu sei... Mi sono reso conto che...

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