30 Minute Italian

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Total honesty here, I tend to forget that I should be using the formal version of Italian with people that I should and sometimes I make people my age feel old when I accidentally use the formal on them.

One day though, I shall get it right.

And I look forward to that.

For now, I'm going to outline the differences between the formal and informal version of Italian so you have a leg up and hopefully never get them confused like me.

This isn't an exhaustive lesson though.

I'm just going to tell you exactly what you need to know to be conversational with informal and formal Italian.

So first.

Yes, there are two forms.

Formal is used for people like teachers, elders, strangers, and acquaintances.

So, it's like when I met an older gentleman last week and should've used 'Lei' instead of 'Tu', but alas, we can't win all of the time.

Informal is used with friends, family members, children and peers your age.

Here's the first thing that you need to know about the difference.

When you address people, you often use io, tu, lui, lei, noi, voi, e loro to say, respectively, I, you, he, she, we, you all, and they.

Io - I

Tu- You

*Used for the informal tense!

Lui/lei/Lei/egli: He/she

*Also the formal tense!

Noi: We

Voi: You all

Loro: They

So, when the gentlemen asked me, "Hai dormito bene?" - Did you sleep well?

I should've answered. "Si, e lei?" But I answered "Si, e tu?"

Shame. Shame.

Here's the 2nd thing.

Arrivederci - Good-bye (informal)

ArrivederLa - Good-bye (formal)

Here's the 3rd thing.

Di dove sei? - Where are you from? (informal)

Di dov'è Lei? - Where are you from? (formal)

Here's the 4th thing.

Come stai? - How are you? (informal)

Come sta? - How are you? (formal)

Here's the 5th thing & the overall rule.

This is a conjugation table for the verb 'essere'.

Conjugation table for verb essere

Whatever verb form is in the third row down, the lui/lei/Lei/egli row, that's the verb that you use for formal Italian.

Any verb form in the second row, the tu row, that's the verb form that you use for informal Italian.

That's it for now!

In the comments below, ask me any question that you have about informal and formal forms of Italian.

[photo credit: John Picken]

Resources mentioned:

The Florentine article

Direct download: ICE_EP_50.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 9:58pm PDT

Click play on the player at the bottom to listen to this podcast or listen to it on Stitcher or iTunes.

Maybe it was just me, but when I learned the "would" tense in Italian (the present conditional), I felt like I could finally express myself in a more fluid and flexible way.

It was exciting.

I felt like the whole tense made me seem more competent in the language.

Learn it, put it to use, and let me know if you feel the same way.

Cominciamo! (Let's start.)

What is the "would" tense?

1.) The "would" tense expresses just that.

In English, we say "I would do this", "I would go there," "What would you like to eat?" It's the same here.

2.) If we're going by the book definition, it "expresses an intention, a preference, a wish, or a polite request." (1)

And how do you actually use it?

There are 4 guidelines for using this tense.

1.) Here are the major endings for the regular verbs.







2.) The endings for verbs ending in -ARE are as follows:

* Verbs that end in -are change to -ere when conjugated.
For example, parlare --> parlerei

Conjugating -are verbs in Italian for present conditional

Verbs ending in -EREare conjugated as follows:

Conjugating Italian verbs ending in -ere for the present conditional

Verbs ending in -IRE are conjugated as follows:

Conjugating verbs ending in -IRE in Italian in Present Conditional

3.) Here are the irregular verbs that you should be aware of:

Andare --> andrei, andresti, andrebbe, andremmo, andreste, andrebbero

Avere --> avrei, avresti, avrebbe, avremmo, avreste, avrebbero

Bere --> berrei, berresti, berrebbe, berremmo, berreste, berrebbero

Cadere --> cadrei, cadresti, cadrebbe, cadremmo, cadreste, cadrebbero

Dare --> darei, daresti, darebbe, daremmo, dareste, darebbero

Dovere --> dovrei, dovresti, dovrebbe, dovremmo, dovreste, dovrebbero

Essere --> sarei, saresti, sarebbe, saremmo, sareste, sarebbero

Fare --> farei, faresti, farebbe, faremmo, fareste, farebbero

Potere --> potrei, potresti, potrebbe, potremmo, potreste, potrebbero

Sapere --> saprei, sapresti, saprebbe, sapremmo, sapreste, saprebbero

Stare --> starei, staresti, starebbe, staremmo, stareste, starebbero

Vedere --> vedrei, vedresti, vedrebbe, vedremmo, vedreste, vedrebbero

Venire --> verrei, verresti, verrebbe, verremmo, verreste, verrebbero

Vivere --> vivrei, vivresti, vivrebbe, vivremmo, vivreste, vivrebbero

Volere --> vorrei, vorresti, vorrebbe, vorremmo, vorreste, vorrebbero

4.) Verbs ending -care and -gare have a change in spelling when conjugated.

Cercare --> cercherei, cercheresti, cercherebbe, cercheremmo, cerchereste, cercherebbero

*Adds a H between C and E

Pagare --> pagherei, pagheresti, pagherebbe, pagheremmo, paghereste, pagherebbero

*Adds a H between G and E

Not so bad, right?

Once you have the endings down and remember that you should change the ends of -are to -ere, you're basically golden and all you need is practice.

So let's get some while you're here.

Gli esempi (some examples):

1.) Vorrei un cappuccino - I would like a cappuccino.

*You'll use 'vorrei' a lot when ordering food or asking for things. It's much more polite than just saying 'Voglio' or I want.

2.) Compreremmo una Tesla. - We would buy a Tesla. (aka the best car on earth)

3.)Vivreste in Cina. - You all would live in China.

4.) Io al tuo posto cercherei un lavoro. - If I was in your place, I would look for a job.

If you're looking for some more practice,visit this site to do some exercises and talk to your language partner this week about this tense so you can practice it with them!

(1) Reference from page 300 of the Sixth Edition of Ciao! by Carla Larese Riga

Direct download: ICE_EP_49.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 12:34pm PDT

Indefinite Pronouns in Italian (or words that will help you be vague)

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They're called indefinite for a reason.

Once they're used, you can't be sure what that person is speaking about exactly.

Which works marvelously if you want to say broad sweeping statements like "Oh yes. I know someone in Rome. We vacation together a lot."

Or "Everybody I know has some houses along the Southern French border."

On a more serious note, they're used to describe:

  • Some
  • Everybody
  • Someone
  • Anything
  • Something
  • Everyone
  • Everything
  • Any

You get the picture.

They're pretty easy to use in actual conversation, give or take a few tweaks, and once you put them in your Anki and study them for a couple of days, you'll be good to go.

Here are the most popular indefinite pronouns:

  • Dovunque (do/voon/qway) - Everywhere, anywhere (used more often in conversation)
  • Ovunque (oh/voon/qway) - Wherever, anywhere (seen more often in literature)
  • Chiunque (key/oon/qway) - Whomever
  • Qualunque (kwal/oon/qway)- Any, whatever, whichever
  • Ogni (own/yee) - Each
  • Qualche (qwale/kay)- Some
  • Ognuno (own/yoo/no)- Everyone, each one
  • Qualcuno(qwal/koo/no) - Someone, anyone
  • Alcuni/e(ahl/koo/knee)- Some
  • Qualcosa (qwal/ko/za) - Something
  • Tutti/e (two/tee-eh) - Everybody, all
  • Tutto (two/toe) - Everything

Here is how they're used in actual conversation

  • Ogni giorno - Every day
  • Qualcosa da bere - Something to drink
  • Qualcosa da mangiare - Something to eat
  • Poi, alcune persone mi hanno detto che gli uomini italiani fischiano alle donne e le infastidischono. - Then some people told me that Italian men whistle at the women and bother them.
  • Prima di arrivare, ho anche imparato qualche parola in italiano. - Before arriving, I learned some words in Italian.
  • Tutte le persone del sud Italia sono simpatiche. - All of the people in Southern Italy are nice.
  • E che tutti gli stereotipi sono sbagliati. - And that all of the stereotypes are wrong.
Direct download: ICE_EP_48.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 10:02am PDT

Between life, classes, and too many or not enough dates, it's easy to forget all of the rules that you learned in your first year or two of Italian.

Fear not though as I've compiled a list of the top 10 rules that you might have forgotten but need to remember if you're going to continue learning it and becoming conversational.

1.) In Italian, you're not just hungry, but you have hunger. So you use the expression 'avere fame' instead of 'essere fame'.

Conjugation: Ho fame, hai fame, ha fame, abbiamo fame, avete fame, hanno fame

2.) The majority of nouns that end in -zione, -gione, -sione, -tà, -tù, -udine, -i, and -ie are feminine.*

Per esempio, la stazione, la crisi, l'abitudine, e l'università

3.) Lots of verbs are irregular in the past tense. Some common ones are listed below.

Per esempio, chiudere = chiuso, dire = detto, fare = fatto, leggere = letto, scrivere = scritto, e prendere = preso.

4.) When referring to places/locations, you use 'a' with cities and small islands.

You use 'in' when referring to regions, countries, or states.

Per esempio, vivo in Italia. Vivo a Las Vegas.

More detail on this + exceptions are talked about in this post: Pesky Prepositions 'A' and 'In' (&when the hell do you use them?)

5.) There is a grand difference between direct and indirect objects. Although they often make me upset, they are necessary to understand if you want to sound fluid while speaking Italian.

Read this post if you want to fit in and use direct and indirect objects like the rest of the Italians: The Grand Difference Between Direct & Indirect Objects (& yes, you have to know them)

6.) When you're describing a job that you have, you would describe it using the verb 'fare' = to do, to make.

So, faccio la segretaria, or using 'essere' - sono una segretaria.

7.) La classe is not used to describe a class that you attend or a classroom.

L'aula is used for classroom, and la lezione is used for the class that you're attending. If you're taking a class, you can call it il corso.

8.) The entire trapassato prossimo tense. Like, was I sleeping during this lesson?

Anyway, apparently you use the imperfect tense with 'avere' and 'essere' and then tack on the past tense of whatever verb has the action.

It's used when two actions occurred at different points in the past.

But since I'm no expert when it comes to this lovely tense, I'm sending you over here to get reliable advice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pd6Zz2kuhYE

9.) When nouns begin with 'z' or 's + consonant', then the (definite) article will be 'lo'.

Per esempio, lo zaino o lo studente

Following that, the plural form of 'lo' is 'gli'

Per esempio, gli zaini o gli studenti

With a feminine noun, the article will remain feminine like with la zia, le zie, or la zaffata.

CPF (cocktail party fact): 'Gli' has this really interesting throat sound to it.

Make a mini mission of 2-3 days for mastering this sound using this Youtube video as a guide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtlU3pMRHbU

10.) You know how usually you would put the article 'il' or 'la' before showing possession?

Here's some good news that you might've forgotten.

You don't have to use the article before the word when you're showing possession with a family member.

Per esempio, mio zio, mia sorella, e mio fratello.

In the comments below, tell me one thing that you're still fuzzy on when it comes to picking Italian back up.

*referenced In Viaggio: Moving Toward Fluency

[photo credit: gnuckx]

Direct download: ICE_EP_47.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 11:20am PDT

Loving Italian is no easy feat. It's like any other relationship. You fall in love. You fight. You feel hurt.

It takes dedication and whole lotta' passion to stay committed. When you know this and you see someone else going through it, it's instant friendship (even if the other person doesn't know it yet!).

Studentessa Matta Iceberg ProjectWhen I saw all of the love Melissa had for Italian over on her blog Diario di una Studentessa Matta, I knew I had to speak with her to hear all about her journey and how she maintains her Italian.

What you'll hear in this episode is a lady having a 14-year affair with one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

If you want to hear first-hand from her about her journey, you'll love this guest post she wrote about just that.

You'll learn:

  • What got Melissa past her 'proverbial language learning wall'

  • One key quality Melissa has that has truly accelerated her language learning ability

  • How much time she spends per day learning Italian

  • The spark that led Melissa from studying Italian alone to finally speaking with other people

  • How her Italian literally unlocked doors with people

  • Which experience you might fall in love with to take you to the next level of Italian


Connect with Melissa

Blog: www.studentessamatta.com

Twitter: @italiamelissa

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/studentessamatta

Direct download: ICE_EP46.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 11:33pm PDT

Today we're looking at the grand difference between direct & indirect object pronouns, which are two topics that have been giving me hell in Italian for as long as I can remember.

Click play on the player at the bottom to listen to this podcast or listen to it on Stitcher or iTunes.

I imagine them as the ninjas of the language because they're so small, easy to miss in conversation, and stealthy.

I pronomi diretti (direct object pronouns) are these 4 two-letter ninjas:

  • Lo (masculine)
  • La (feminine)
  • Li (masculine plural)
  • Le (feminine plural)

*Don't know what the difference between masculine and feminine nouns are? Read this post to find out.

These are their 2 purposes:

  • They answer the questions 'What?' and 'Whom?'
  • They replace the nouns that answer those 2 questions to make conversation more fluid & smooth.

As much as they torment me, they're pretty useful in conversation.

How many times do you want to say a noun over and over again when you've already referenced it once?

Then you just sound repetitive and silly.

For example, in English:

Person 1: I went to the museum yesterday. When I went to the museum, it was fun. At the museum, I saw three pictures. The pictures were great. The pictures had people in them.

Person 1 revised with I pronomi diretti: I went to the museum yesterday. When I went there, it was fun. I saw three pictures there. They were great. They had people in them.

The second example has more of a natural fluidity to it. Hence the important of I pronomi diretti has been displayed.

Let's dive deeper into how to use them in Italian.

1.) When using I pronomi diretti, they ALWAYS go before verb that's being conjugated.

This is the most important rule to remember with these, and you'll get used to doing that as we practice more, and you become more familiar with common expressions.

Per esempio,

- Chiami il cameriere?

- No, non lo chiamo. Or Sì, lo chiamo.

Chiamo is the conjugated verb, and lo is the direct-object pronoun.

*Note that when 'no' is used to show the negative, it goes BEFORE the direct-object pronoun.

2.) Combine the direct-object pronoun (i pronomi diretti) with the next word if it starts with a vowel or the letter 'h'.

Per esempio,

- Inviti Alessandro?

- Sì, l'invito.

*It's still before the conjugated verb & an apostrophe is used to show that it's been shorted. Unfortunately, this rule isn't set in stone (sigh, what is in life?), so you'll learn the exceptions as we go.

Another example:

- Apro la porta. --> L'apro.


- Prendo le fragole dal frigo --> Le prendo dal frigo.

- I took the strawberries from the fridge --> I took them from the fridge.

3.) Tack them on the end of the full verb.

I haven't been completely honest with you. Those 4 up there are the i pronomi diretti, but that's not all. There are four more.

Here are they are:

  • mi (me - first person singular)
  • ti (you - second person singular)
  • ci (us - first person plural)
  • vi (you - second person plural)

Not so bad, right?

Here are some more examples:

1.) - Dobbiamo chiamare Leonardo? (Should we call Leonardo?)

-Sì, dobbiamo chiamarlo. (Yes, we should call him.)

*Take away the 'e' at the end of the infinitive & add the 'lo' because Leonardo is masculine.

*Exception to the rule!

With the verbs potere, volere, dovere & sapere, i diretti pronomi can go before the conjugated verb or tacked onto the end of the infinitive.

2.) Non ti posso vedere --> Non posso vederti

3.) Vi posso vedere? --> Posso vedervi?

4.) Ecco!

The expression 'ecco' or 'Here', 'There', 'Here you are', 'There you are', and 'That's what I meant', which are all used ALL OF THE TIME in Italy.

Eccola - Here she is! There she is!

Eccomi - Here I am!

CPF (cocktail party fact): The expression 'ecco fatto' means 'That's done!' or 'That's that!'

Hey! We're halfway through.

First, congratulate yourself on finishing the direct object pronouns portion of this post.

You can come back later, read this funny post for a quick break, or continue on to learning about indirect object pronouns if you want to challenge yourself a little bit.

Indirect Object Pronouns (i pronomi indiretti)

Here's the secret.

Well, not really a secret.

But, here's the grand difference between i pronomi diretti and i pronomi indiretti.

1.) While i pronomi diretti answer the questions 'What?' or 'Whom?', i pronomi indiretti shows TO whom an action is affecting.

Like I'm writing a letter to Sara.

Or I am speaking to him.

Per esempio,

-Ti posso parlare? (May I speak to you?) --> Posso parlarti?

- Scrivo una lettera a Sara --> Le scrivo una lettera.

2.) The 2-letter ninjas are different! Now, they're 3-letter & 4-letter, too!

  • mi
  • ti
  • gli
  • le
  • ci
  • vi
  • gli or loro (gli is used far more often, but loro is grammatically correct. With loro, you have to put it after the conjugated verb)

*CPF: You'll see a ton of books that capitalize 'Le' and 'Loro' when it's formal. There really is no reason for it besides them wanting to be clear about what's formal and informal.

Note that the differences between i pronomi diretti & i pronomi indiretti are in:

lo --> gli

la --> le

li/le --> gli/loro

3.) Indirect object pronouns are used for verbs that have to do with giving.

These are verbs like: to give (dare), to offer (offrire), to send(mandare), to deliver (portare), to gift (regalare), to return (restituire), to lend, and to loan (prestare).

4.) They're also used for communication, written and by mouth.

These are verbs like: to talk (parlare), to say (dire), to question (domandare), to ask (chiedere), to respond(rispondere), to call (telefonare), to write (scrivere), to teach/to instruct (insegnare), to explain (spiegare), to give advice (consigliare).

*All of these verbs are followed by the little letter 'a'.

Per esempio,

1.) Parlo a Lucia. --> Le parlo.

2.) Offriamo un caffè a Alessandro. --> Gli offriamo un caffè.

3.) - Quando rispondi a Lucia?

- Le rispondo domani.

All done for now!

Seriously, don't be concerned if you're still confused or if you haven't quite grasped the concept yet.

You'll get it eventually, through real conversation practice, and you'll eventually wonder why you ever thought they were trouble.

For more practice with direct object pronouns, check out these exercises.

For more practice with i pronomi indiretti, take ten minutes to do these exercises.

In the comments below, ask me any questions about these two topics that was unclear to you.

Direct download: ICE_EP_45.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 4:35pm PDT

Click play on the player at the bottom to listen to this podcast or listen to it on Stitcher or iTunes.

According to one of Dianne Hale's, the author of La Bella Lingua, Italian teachers, the imperfect tense is "the most Italian of the tenses for unfinished business."
The Imperfect Tense in Italian (or the tense that lets you sweetly reminisce on the old days)

It's the tense you use to describe how you and your friends used to go to the mall every Saturday morning dressed di tutto punto(to the nines) to impress every person who might see you.

The tense you use when you say, "Well, when I was 8, we used to..."

Or in a more practical tense, you can l'imperfetto (the imperfect) to describe:

  • Weather in the past (Windy, rainy, etc.)
  • A specific time in the past (7 AM)
  • How someone was feeling or thinking (Worried, happy, sad, etc.)
  • An action that someone was doing while another action had been completed or was still happening (Eating while she left)

And lucky for you (&me!) all of the endings for -are, -ere, and -ire verbs ARE THE SAME!

Sometimes I'm just so pleased with conformity.

Understand though that this isn't how it's typically taught. You're supposed to take the entire ending off and end up with just the root (Cantare --> Cant) in order to make the conjugation. But for my memory's sake, this way is easier for me. You just keep keep the letter before the -RE on and add the same endings.

Endings for -ARE, -ERE, and -IRE verbs:



-VA (makes me think of va-va-voom ;])




And I would never leave you hanging without some examples to make sure you really understand the concept.

Gli esempi (examples)

Cantare (to sing) --> Cantavo, Cantavi, Cantava, Cantavamo, Cantavate, Cantavano

Avere (to have) --> Avevo, Avevi, Aveva, Avevamo, Avevate, Avevano

Divertire (to amuse, entertain) --> Divertivo, Divertivi, Divertiva, Divertivamo, Divertivate, Divertivano

Gli esempi

1.) Ci abitavamo da sette anni. (chee ah/bee/ta/vah/mo da set/tay ah/knee) - We have been living there for 7 years.

2.) Da bambina, leggevo tutti i giorni.(da bam/bee/na ledge/eh/vo two/tee ee jor/knee) - When I was a kid, I read everyday.

3.) Ero stanca. (air/oh stahn/co) - I was tired.

4.) Mentre mangiava, Justin Bieber cantava. (men/tray mahn/ja/va Justin Bieber can/tah/va) - While she was eating, Justin Bieber was singing.

But what about the irregular verbs!?

Essere - to be

Ero - I was

Eri - You were

Era - He/she/it was

Eravamo - We were

Eravate - You all were

Erano - They were

Fare - to do/make

Facevo - I did

Facevi - You did

Faceva - He/she/it did

Facevamo - We did

Facevate - You all did

Facevano - They did

Dire - to say/tell

Dicevo - I said

Dicevi - You said

Diceva - He/she/it said

Dicevamo - We said

Dicevate - You all said

Dicevano - They said

Bere - to drink

Bevevo - I drank

Bevevi - You drank

Beveva - He/she/it drank

Bevevamo - We drank

Bevevate - You all drank

Bevevano - They drank

These are the most important ones for you to know. The others you'll learn later.

Un po' più (a little more)

5.) Il cane aveva sete. (eel ka/nay ah/vay/vah set/tay) - The dog was thirsty.

6.) Erano le nove di mattina. (air/ah/no lay no/vay dee mah/teen/ah) - It was nine in the morning.

7.) Iera sera, nevicava! (ee/air/ee sare/ah nev/ee/ka/va) - Last night, it snowed!

Some phrases you'll hear with this tense

There are some phrases that you'll hear always preceding the imperfect. In order to get used to using and hearing the imperfect, take a look at them.

  • Ogni tanto (own/yee tah/n/toe) - Once in a while
  • Sempre (sem/pray) - Always
  • Tutti i giorni (two/tee ee jor/knee) - Every day
  • Continuamente (cone/teen/you/ah/men/tay) - Continuously
  • Mentre (men/tray) - While

Your task

Do some detective work for vocabulary, and tell me what you always used to do when you were 7 years old (aveva sette anni).

Skiing? Skateboarding? Rollerblading?

Use this setup:

- Quando avevo sette anni, ....

My example:

-Quando avevo sette anni, scrivevo le storie tutti i giorni. (qwan/doe ah/vay/vo set/tay ah/knee, scree/vay/vo lay store/ee/ay) - When I was 7 years old, I used to write stories everyday.

Your task from the podcast episode

Conjugate the verb Essere in the Imperfect tense


Have you heard of the 31 Day Learn Italian Challenge yet!? Starting October 1st, there will be a 31 day challenge on the blog to help you take your Italian to the next level - whether you're an absolute beginner or intermediate learner. Learn more about it here: 31 Day Learn Italian Challenge

Direct download: ICE_EP_44.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 5:34pm PDT

[Podcast 43] 10 Ways to Use the Italian Verb Stare in Conversation

Click play on the player at the bottom to listen to this podcast or listen to it on Stitcher or iTunes.

1.) Stai zitto. (sty zee/toe) - Be quiet.

2.) Non sto più nella pelle. (no/n sto pew nel/la pel/lay) - I'm so excited! I can't wait!

*Literally - I can't stay in my skin.

3.) Potrei stare meglio. (po/tray star/ay mel/yee/oh) - It could be better/I've seen better days.

*Typically used with the imperfect subjunctive tense + conditional tense

Gli esempi

  • Se avessi un buon lavoro, potrei stare meglio. - If I had a better job, it would be better.
  • Come stai? - Potrei stare meglio. - How are you? I've seen better days.

4.) Stare con le antenne alzate.(star/ay cone lay ann/ten/ay el/za/tay) - Keep alert (in case of danger)

5.) Ci può stare. (chee pwo star/ay) - It's possible.

6.) Sta a casa. (sta ah ka/za) - She/he is staying at home.

7.) Sta da solo. (sta da so/low) - She/he is alone. (In the sense of actually being alone and being single.)

8.) Sta con i suoi. (sta cone ee swoy) - He/she lives with his/her parents.

9.) Come stai? (ko/may sty) - How are you?

10.) Sta a te decidere. (sta a tay dee/chee/da/ray) - It's up to him/her/you (formal) to decide.

Your task

Conjugate the verb 'Stare' in the present tense.

Connect with me

Tweet me @icebergproject


Direct download: ICE_EP43.mp3
Category:Italian -- posted at: 8:04pm PDT