"Do you have a ladder?"
Translation:Hai una scala?
So "scala" can be used for both staircase and ladder? Are there any other words for ladder?
Nope; if needed a ladder can be differentiated with "scala a pioli", "scala portatile", and so on. But there is rarely need for distinction.
I put "Hai un scala?" And it said scala is feminine not masculine. I guess wrong all the time. What is the rule for determining what words are feminine?
Generally (but definitely not always):
feminine words end in "a"
masculine words end in "o"
Feminine plural ends in "e"
Masculine plural ends in "i"
"Scale" has many meanings in English, with many different translations in Italian: the only meaning that can be translated by "scala" is "graduated range of values forming a standard system for measuring or grading something" (Oxford definition). It can be the scale of a map, a musical scale, a mathematical scale or even the scale of an issue; it's the figurative sense of "scala" as a series of steps.
This is nonsense, literally
- c'è l'hai una scala = There is you have him/her/it a ladder
To be fair I believe what he meant was "ce l'hai una scala?", literally "do you have it [on you], a ladder?": it's a slang / dialectal phrasing, quite common in speech, but traditionally avoided in writing, although it's creeping in modern texts as authors try to appeal to the younger generations by using their language. The use of "ci" to reinforce "avere" is similar to the Brit usage of "have got" as a stronger "have": they're also used in pretty much the same contexts, typically possession. Doubling the object with a clitic is also a reinforcement.
that's what i meant indeed. And i've used it a lot while speaking to people in italian. Did not know it was not being used in writing. Thanks for helping! I'll use it while speaking.
We never stop learning ;) I have hard time understanding those pesky ne, ce/ci and possibly ve/vi (I haven't seen them except when meaning "(a) voi"). Do you have any hints how to understand them and also how to use them. For example I now understand that the direct object l' or actually la duplicates "la scala". But how to understand "ce" here? Why is it "on you"?
ce is used to emphasise the verb 'avere'. I believe i learned this sentence from a pocket i got from a friend. I gave it back so i cannot give you the exact explanation from the book. But f.formica explained it well. This is the book; http://www.nl.fnac.be/a8287582/Assimil-ASSIMIL-VOLUME-BOEKJE-ITALIAANS-ZONDER-MOEITE
A part of me is saddened that they'd include it in a language book; I wouldn't want foreigners to learn it, but in reality it's so common that it's helpful to know.
An interesting reading on the topic are the following Crusca opinions: Serianni and Raffaelli. As the latter notes, "ci" in this form is deprived of its original location meaning and it's closer to a context, i.e. "ci ho" = "as for me, I have"; it used to be typical of the Central Italian dialects but it became common everywhere (according to the article due to the Neorealist movies of the 50s).
The discussion on how to write some of those forms is also interesting: like Serianni, I'm also opposed to those writing e.g. "c'ho" (= ho), because according to the Italian spelling rules that would be pronounced "co". But the fact that they're considered slang doesn't help to enforce any kind of spelling, of course.
I am looking for the formal way to ask a question. "Ha voi una scala" was marked wrong. What is the right way?
It would be "(Lei) ha una scala?"; "(voi) avete" is old fashioned to refer to a single person, although it can still be heard in Southern Italy.