Italian direct object pronouns can be very tricky to understand.
The pronoun is a variable part of speech in linguistics that has the following functions:
- To replace a part of the previous text;
- To replace a portion of the subsequent text;
- To refer to an implied aspect of the context in which the discourse takes place.
What Are Direct Object Pronouns?
Pronouns are words that refer to and substitute nouns, usually expressed in a previous sentence or implied in the context.
Direct object pronouns (pronomi complemento oggetto) are pronouns that substitute for nouns that serve as the direct object which receives the action of the sentence verb.
Direct object pronouns are used in English as well.
Do you like apples?
Yes, I love them.
Have you met Sarah?
No, I don’t know her.
As you can see from the examples above, direct object pronouns change according to the nouns they are referring to.
For example, in the sentences above, “her” refers to Sarah and indicates a singular feminine entity, while “them” indicates a plural noun.
Learn more about when to use indirect object pronouns.
For simplicity, this lesson only discusses direct pronouns.
For now, keep in mind that a direct object is a noun or pronoun receiving the action.
A trick for identifying direct objects is that they answer the question “what?”.
For example: in the sentence “Louis threw Monica the baseball”, the action is the verb “threw”. What is being thrown?
The “baseball” is being thrown, and therefore the baseball is the direct object.
When To Use A Direct Object Pronoun In the Italian Language?
You may have come across Italian words like mi, tu, lo, ci, and so on.
These are known as direct object pronouns (pronomi diretti). Direct object pronouns are always used with transitive verbs to substitute the sentence’s object.
This frequently occurs when the context makes the thing evident or when it has already been mentioned.
For a comparison between Italian and English pronouns, please see the table below:
|Direct Object Pronoun
|he / she / it||lui / lei||him / her / it||lo / la|
How to use Direct Object Pronouns
The most important rule to keep in mind about Italian object pronouns is that they usually appear before the verb, while in English they follow the verb.
The word order in Italian is:
Subject (if expressed) + direct object pronoun + verb.
Conosci Mattia e Alberto? Do you know Mattia and Alberto?
Sì, (io) li conosco. Yes, I know them.
|Subject||direct object pronoun||verb|
See the following examples:
Hai visto Lucia? – No, non la ho vista.
Have you seen Lucia? – No, I haven’t seen her.
Ti piace la pizza? – Sì, la mangio tutti i giorni.
Do you like pizza? – Yes, I eat it every day.
Vuoi invitare Marco alla tua festa? – No, non lo voglio invitare, perché non andiamo d’accordo.
Do you want to invite Marco to your party? – No, I don’t want to invite him, because we don’t get along.
Scusami, non ti avevo riconosciuto!
Sorry, I didn’t recognize you!
Italian Direct Pronouns – LO , LA , LI , LE
As you can see from the examples above, la (her/it), lo (him/it), le (them), and li (them) can refer both to people and objects.
Gendered nouns are used in the Italian language, which means that nouns can be masculine or feminine, even if they relate to inanimate objects, locations, or abstract ideas.
In Italian, there is no such thing as a neuter gender and this can be a strange concept to English speakers.
If the noun referred to is male, you should use lo (him/it), and if it is feminine, you should use la (her/it).
The plural counterparts of lo (him) and la (her/it) are li (them) and le (them).
Ho un biglietto omaggio per il concerto, lo vuoi?
I’ve got a free ticket for the concert, do you want it?
Because is masculine singular, un biglietto becomes lo.
Hai visto la mia collana? La cerco da mezz’ora!
Have you seen my necklace? I’ve been looking for it for half an hour!
Because la collana is a feminine singular pronoun, the direct pronoun to use is la.
Ho preparato le polpette. Le vuoi assaggiare?
I made meatballs. Do you want to taste them?
Le polpette is feminine plural, the direct object pronoun is le.
Mario, hai comprato i fiori? Sì, li ho comprati stamattina
Mario, did you buy the flowers? Yes, I bought them this morning.
I fiori is masculine plural, the direct object pronoun is li.
NON and Direct Object Pronouns
When an affirmative sentence is turned into a negative one, the word non (not) comes before the direct object pronoun.
Take a look at the examples below.
Non mi interrompere quando parlo.
Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.
Non lo sapevo!
I didn’t know!
Perché non le hai avvertite?
Why didn’t you warn them?
Before an “h” or a vowel, the pronouns mi (me), ti (you), la (her), and lo (him) can remove their vowels and be simplified to m’, t’, and l’.
Chi l’avrebbe mai detto!
Who would ever have thought it!
Gli inquirenti non m’avrebbero creduto.
Investigators wouldn’t have believed me.
Keep in mind, however, that the plural forms li (them) and le (them) never drop the vowel.
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
There’s a lot to take in here, but I hope you’ve gained a solid foundation for using different types of pronouns in a lot of situations.
Practice a little every day and learning how to use them will be a piece of cake!
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