"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".
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
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.
Thank you for the first two comments that I came to. The first asking the only question that was raised in my mind and the second answering it! This is not the first time that we have seemingly been expected to just know sentence/phrase construction and I note where they're always positioned (for me at least) in the lesson.