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Italian Pronouns

Italian Pronouns
on March 26, 2017

Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, hers, ours, theirs) share the same forms as the possessive adjectives: the only difference is that they are not followed by a noun. The form needs to agree with the noun being replaced: 

È il tuo it’s yours (il libro the book)

Sono le vostre they are yours (le borse the bags). 

Showing possession

In Italian, possessive constructions (typically formed in English with ‘s or by using an adjectival noun to describe another noun) are constructed using di of:

La bicicletta di mio padre my father’s bicycle

La Fontana di Trevi Trevi Fountain

Personal pronouns

There are several forms of you in Italian: informal singular and plural, and formal singular and plural. In formal address, the verb conjugates in the third-person (singular or plural). However, the formal plural Loro is less common today; voi is often used instead when addressing more than one person in any context. 

Subject pronouns

Subject pronouns

io

I

tu

you (informal sing.)

lui / lei / Lei

he / she / you (formal sing.)

noi

we

voi

you (informal pl.)

loro / Loro

they / you (formal pl.)

 

The use of subject pronouns with a conjugated verb is optional; they are usually left out unless emphasis is necessary: Sono italiana. I am Italian. But: Pago io. I’m paying

The subject pronoun “it” is very rarely used. The subject pronouns for “it” and the non-human “they” are esso (m.) / essa (f.) / essi (m.) / esse (f.), but you won’t come across them often.

Direct object pronouns

Object pronouns are pronouns that are acted upon by the verb. In Italian, some of these change form depending on whether they are direct or indirect objects. So how can you tell whether a pronoun should be direct or indirect? A direct object pronoun directly receives the action of the verb, and so it does not require a preposition to introduce it (ti vedo I see you). (However, keep in mind that the use of prepositions after verbs is not always the same in English and Italian: e.g. guardare to look at - in Italian no preposition is required after this verb. 

Additionally, there are “weak” and “strong” forms of the object pronouns. The weak forms are more common. The strong forms are used only for emphasis:

Perché mi guardi? - Non guardo te, guardo lei! Why are you looking at me? - I’m not looking at you, I’m looking at her!

Direct object pronouns

Weak forms

Strong forms

mi me

mi me

ti you (informal sing.)

te you

lo/la him, it (m.) / her, it (f.)

La you (formal sing.)

lui/lei him/her

Lei you

ci us

noi us

vi* you

voi you

li/le them (m.) / them (f.)

loro them

 

*The object pronouns vi and voi are commonly used in both informal and formal contexts. The formal Loro is rare.

Indirect object pronouns

An indirect object pronoun indirectly receives the action of the verb (I gave it to you). It often refers to a person, answering the question “To whom?”. The strong forms are usually preceded by a preposition, whereas the weak forms are not:

Gli sto parlando. I’m talking to him.

Parlo a lui! I’m talking to him!

Indirect object pronouns

Weak forms

Strong forms

mi (to) me

(a) me to me

ti (to) you (informal sing.)

(a) te to you

gli/le (to) him, it / her, it

Le (to) you (formal sing.)

(a) lui/ (a) lei to him/her

(a) Lei to you

ci (to) us

(a) noi to us

vi (to) you

(a) voi to you

gli/loro* (to) them

(a) loro to them

 

* In speech, gli is often used to mean (to) them, although loro is favoured in writing. The plural vi and voi are commonly used in both formal and informal contexts. The formal Loro is rare.

Reflexive pronouns

A reflexive pronoun indicates that the object of a verb is the same as the subject: that is, the subject is performing the action on itself. There are many reflexive verbs in Italian - these infinitives always end in -si: e.g. chiamarsi to be called (“to call oneself”). The reflexive pronoun cannot be omitted with these verbs: e.g. io mi chiamo my name is.

Reflexive pronouns

mi myself

ti yourself

si himself, herself, itself, oneself, yourself (formal)

ci ourselves

vi yourselves

si themselves, yourselves (formal)

 

Word order with object pronouns

Weak object pronouns usually come before the conjugated verb. However, they are attached to the end of:

- infinitives (after removing the final -e): dirmi to tell me

- affirmative informal commands: parlami! Talk to me!

- present participles (gerundio): ringraziandovi thanking you

Their position is optional for:

- negative commands: Non prenderla! Or Non la prendere! Don’t take it!

- modal verb + infinitive: devo dirgli or gli devo dire I have to tell him

- progressive/continuous forms: Che cosa mi stai dicendo? Or Cosa stai dicendomi? What are you telling me?

(Note that the pronoun is never placed between a modal verb and the infinitive or an auxiliary verb and the participle.)

Strong object pronouns, as well as loro, weak or strong, come after the verb, but are never attached to it.

Pagano noi. They are paying us.

Parliamo loro domain. We’ll talk to them tomorrow. 

When two object pronouns are used together, the indirect object or the reflexive pronoun always comes before the direct object pronoun:

Te lo ha dato. He gave it to you

Me la metto. I put it on. (from mettersi)

In addition, the indirect object or reflexive pronoun changes form replacing the -i with -e (aprt from gli, which adds an -e and the two object pronouns are attached), Here are all the combinations:

 

Direct object pronouns

lo

la

li

le

ne

 

Indirect object or reflexive pronouns

mi

me lo

me la

me li

me le

me ne

ti

te lo

te la

te li

te le

te ne

gli, le*

Le

glielo

Glielo

gliela

Gliela

glieli

Glieli

gliele

Gliele

gliene

Gliene

si

se lo

se la

se li

se le

se ne

ci

ce lo

ce la

ce li

ce le

ce ne

vi

ve lo

ve la

ve li

ve le

ve ne

gli

glielo

gliela

glieli

gliele

gliene

 

* Note that le and the formal Le become gli and Gli when paired with a direct object pronoun:

le + lo -> glielo: Oggi glielo do. I’m giving it to her today. (il regalo the present) (“Today to-her-it I-give”)

Le + lo -> Glielo: Irei Gliel’ho inviato. I sent it to you yesterday (l’invito the invitation) (“Yesterday to-you-it I-have sent”)

Relative pronouns

A relative pronoun is used to introduce a clause that gives more information about something previously mentioned in the main clause (e.g. that, who, which, etc.). The most common relative pronoun in Italian is che:

La persona che parla è Gia. The person who is speaking is Gia.

Il gatto che vedi là è il mio. The cat that you see there is mine.

If the relative pronoun follows a preposition, cui is used:

La persona a/di cui parlo the person to/about whom I’m speaking

L’anno in cui hai scritto il suo libro the year in which she wrote her book

Want to keep learning? Read this post on Italian adjectives next.

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