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The text of Mozart's canon V'amo di core is

V’amo di core teneramente, si, si!

Io non vi posso altro amare no, no!

Uh, che dolore, uh che tormento, uh, uh!

Clearly the "V" and the "vi" means "you" here, but what is the exact grammatical role? Is it a single person or several persons? And does the second line indeed mean "I cannot love someone different from you?"?

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"Vi" is a personal pronoun, second person, plural, dative and accusative declension of pronoun "voi". It used to be a common, very formal "pronome allocutivo di cortesia" ("courtesy allocutive pronoun") for the second person, singular. When elision is required "vi" loses the "i" and needs the apostrophe, "v'". This honorific is still valid in extremely formal contexts or very particular settings.

My opinion is that "Io non vi posso altro amare" is not very good Italian, the intention seems to use "altro" as an adverb, with the meaning of "in another way", which is incorrect and also sounds weird (as they would have had to use "altrimenti" instead).

  • I don't think that “thou” has ever been used as a respect form; the respect form for “thou” was ”ye” (then merged with “you”, originally not used in the nominative case). – egreg Jul 17 '14 at 9:22
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    Indeed: “thou” used to be the singular form (“tu”), while “ye/you” was the plural, and then formal one. So, in a sense, nowadays all English-speaking people use with each other a formal, “voi”-like form. – DaG Jul 17 '14 at 9:45
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    About the language: I found no attribution of the lyrics in the Breitkopf-Härtel Mozart's complete work edition. One should remember that Italian was, at the time, the “official” language of music, so also non native Italian speakers produced texts and, often, grammar was not really proper. Even in “Don Giovanni” we can hear egli non merta che di lui ci pensiate, and the libretto was written by a native Italian. ;-) Merta for merita is justified by metric reasons, che di lui ci pensiate has no justification whatsoever. – egreg Jul 17 '14 at 14:25
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    "Io non vi posso altro amare" instead of "...altrimenti amare" is probably a mistake stemming from the fact that in German adjectives and adverbs are told apart only by position and inflection, but are the same words otherwise (with exceptions, of course) – Walter Tross Jul 24 '14 at 23:15
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As you say, it means "you". It refers to a single person: the use of "voi" was a polite way to address to one person similar to the current use of "Lei". The second line means "I cannot but love you".

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