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Ciao a tutti!

I have a question. I know that “to stop doing something” is smettere di fare qualcosa. Nevertheless I’ve heard Italian speakers add the pronoun la when using the verb in the imperative mood. So instead of

Smetti di fare questo!

I hear instead

Smettila di fare questo!

Is there a reason why the la should be there? It doesn’t seem to be doing anything. And why is it feminine (la) rather than masculine (lo)?

Grazie in anticipo!

  • Welcome to Italian.SE, @George! – Charo May 8 '16 at 15:29
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    This question and I.M.'s answer to it is relevant. – DaG May 8 '16 at 18:14
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The feminine pronoun la can be found with several verbs. Its purpose can go from an emphasis of the verb to a complete change of meaning (like in English phrasal verbs).

Smetterla, finirla and piantarla belong to the first case: they are synonyms and they all mean to quit or to stop with a strong emphasis. The pronoun stands for a generic quella cosa (= that thing), which is feminine.

On the contrary, there are verbs that change their meaning when la (with other pronouns) is appended. The following are some examples that come to my mind now:

  • prendersela = to get offended
  • avercela con qualcuno = to be angry with s.o.
  • farcela = to succeed
  • tirarsela = to boast
  • sentirsela = to feel confident (to do s.t.)

In these cases, the pronouns have no own meaning. This is to underline that the case you asked is specific, i.e. it depends on the underlying verb.

  • And cavarsela? – George Law May 22 '16 at 9:19
  • Cavarsela belong to the second category, and it means "to make it through a tricky situation". – FstTesla May 22 '16 at 13:22
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Maybe because:

smettila = smetti di fare quella cosa (stop doing this)

which is related to "la cosa" that is feminine in Italian.

The lo at the end is used rarely, and it mostly changes the meaning, for example:

If you see two guys fighting and you say to the one of them:

"Finiscila!"

He understands that he has to stop fighting.

But if you say:

"finiscilo!"

He understands that he has to kill (or just to knock-out) the other guy.

EDIT: according to Treccani (in Italian),

(23) smetti di mangiare

(24) smettila di mangiare

The phrase (24) expresses a higher degree of involvement of the speaker. compared to the main form of the verb "smetterla" emphasizes the imperative, conveying even a negative connotation.

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    So, if someone said to me smetti di fumare they would be telling me to quit smoking over a period of time, whereas if they said smettila di fumare that would be telling me to stop smoking right now, put my cigarette out immediately. Am I right? – George Law May 8 '16 at 16:14
  • not exactly, "smettila di fumare" implies a higher degree of involvement, for example a child say to it's mom: "smettila di fumare, ti prego!" (please stop smoking), it's colloquial language. – Arcsn May 8 '16 at 20:04
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The difference is in its generality: smetti di is very generic, whereas smettila di is more specific because of the definite article la that represents the object involved.

Let us analyze smoking.

Smetti di fumare

Here, it largely depends on the situation; for example:

Smetti di fumare (in generale, nella tua vita) - quit smoking
Smetti di fumare (perché in questa stanza è vietato) - stop smoking here, it's forbidden her
Smetti di fumare (la pipa, la sigaretta, il sigaro ecc.)

While Smettila di fumare:

Stai fumando la sigaretta? Se sì, smettila (di farlo is implicit).


Smetti di parlarmi! (generic; can't use smettila)

  • I don’t get why smetti di parlarmi is generic. What’s the difference between generic and specific? – George Law May 8 '16 at 19:03
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    @GeorgeLaw It's pretty much the same as the example about smoking. It sounds odd; I would either say smetti di parlarmi or smettila, but not smettila di parlarmi because it's a bit repetitive. (you're mentioning the act twice) – edmz May 8 '16 at 19:34

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