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I'm confused by something that appears in Pimsleur's Italian course. At this point (6 minutes into lesson 25 of level 3), we're in the role of an American man speaking with the wife of his colleague. He tells her he likes to play golf in his spare time. And then in the audio that follows it seems to me they use 'possono' when 'potete' should be used. Am I missing something?

Here's the audio, and here's my transcription:

English Narrator:
"She says,'Maybe you and my husband can play golf together soon'"

Italian speaker:
"Forse Lei e mio marito possono giocare a golf insieme presto"

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    She's using a respect form which is nowadays quite uncommon except in very formal writing: “potete” would be the common form. A better form would be “Forse lei può giocare a golf con mio marito uno di questi giorni.” – egreg Jul 10 at 14:56
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    This has somewhat been covered in this anwser and discussed in the comments to this question. – Charo Jul 10 at 17:21
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    I've changed the title of the question: it seems to me that in this way the question would be more useful to other users. But, of course, everyone is invited to improve my proposal. – Charo Jul 10 at 17:21
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The common respect form is “lei” for a single person and the verb in the third person singular. It used to be “loro” for more people and the verb in the third person plural, but in current Italian it's only used in very formal writing or when the speaker wants to emphasize their condition of inferiority.

Something like “Che cosa desiderano?” can be heard from a waiter in a high price restaurant.

The common form for more people is nowadays “voi”. In the case of the sentence you show, the lady wants to use the (obsolete) respect form so the plural has to be in the third person, even if she doesn't use “lei” with her husband. However “lei” is more than sufficient to show respect.

Forse lei e mio marito potete giocare assieme a golf, uno di questi giorni

I'd not translate soon with presto in this case, but it's a detail.

Working around the problem: Forse (lei) può giocare a golf con mio marito uno di questi giorni, is even less clumsy. In this case “lei” would not normally be used, because Italian mostly drops personal pronoun subjects when the verb is clear about who/what the subject is.

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    Reviews commonly criticize Pimsleur for putting too much stress on formal language. Previously, I thought this meant too much time was spent teaching formal vs. informal verb forms. But your answer sheds new light on this for me: maybe it's not just a matter of time spent, but a matter of using outdated language. This is a pity because I have found no other language program which forces speaking practice as well as Pimsleur. In fact, I wonder why there aren't more programs like it. It makes so much sense to be repeatedly forced to speak what you've just learned if you want to learn to... speak – Tony M Jul 10 at 17:18
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    @TonyM, while this usage of the plural formal second person is outdated, "dando del lei" (using formal singular second person) is still very common. For example, a young person would "dare del lei" to a stranger who is older. Doctors and patients "si danno del lei" (i.e. they both use lei to one another). Same in high school and university between teachers/professors and students. In a few places in the South they use 'voi" instead of "lei" as the formal singular second person. One time in Basilicata a guy addressed me this way. – Ross Shulman Jul 11 at 2:01
  • @RossShulman Right! I didn't want to say that the “lei” is not in current usage; only the plural form “loro” is rarely used nowadays. For instance I always use “lei” with my students. – egreg Jul 11 at 8:05

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