"There is nothing serious."
Translation:Non c'è niente di grave.
Peter's sensible question should come first, so please vote him up, because unfortunately the dominant discussion here started on completely the wrong track and stayed there. If the authors are still present, they could kindly help future students by altering their contributions.
Niente di [aggettivo] is a very common example of a rather obscure construction called the complemento partitivo. https://italian.stackexchange.com/questions/5710/why-niente-di-nuovo-not-niente-nuovo should help. To learn from it, read the lot, follow the links and understand the other examples, not just niente.
Basically, where English says "nothing new", Italian says the equivalent of "nothing of [the] new". Nothing is being treated (logically) as an empty subset of the whole set of things described by the adjective. You may grasp this more easily if you substitute "something" for "nothing".
You can also down-vote criscarmi's comment, not because it's bad, but to elevate Peter's comment.
I was wondering the same thing, so I did a little research and I believe the use of "di" here falls into the following category: "LOCUZIONI AVVERBIALI are phrases arranged in a fixed order that function as adverbs: all'improvviso, di frequente, per di qua, press'a poco, poco fa, a più non posso, d'ora in poi. Locuzioni avverbiali are numerous and widely used in spoken language, often with regional variations." http://italian.about.com/od/grammar/a/italian-adverbs.htm If another rule for its use exists please let us know!
Good. I checked this out in my big grammar book:
di botto (suddenly),
di certo (for sure),
di continuo (continuously),
di fresco (recently)
di mezzo (in the way)
di nascosto (secretly),
di nuovo (again),
di rado (seldom)
di notte (by night),
di recente (recently),
di sicuro (certainly),
di solito (usually),
There are lots with
a as well. I liked:
a mano a mano (little by little) which is also
So adverbial phrases simply have to be learned as they are, with no particular rules as to the form they take. How Italian!
but these are adverbial phrases. "There is nothing serious" is an adjectival phrase. Using your examples, how would one say in Italian "there is nothing fresh" or "there is nothing new"? You surely wouldn't include "di". Wouldn't it be "non c'e niente nuovo"?
My big grammar book is A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian M.Maiden & C. Robustelli Hodder Education 2007.
DL: This might be a correct and complete sentence in Italian, but it is super-awkward English.
I agree. In English, we'd say, "It is nothing serious"
"There is nothing serious" sound incomplete, i.e., "nothing serious" about what?
Even though "it is nothing serious" has no more information than "there is nothing serious", somehow using "it" instead of "there" is much better English.