Direct object pronouns: Italian grammar lesson 61


Key Takeaways

Dive into the world of Italian grammar with our comprehensive guide on Direct Object Pronouns! Master the art of replacing nouns with pronouns to streamline your sentences and sound like a native speaker.

  • Get the Basics: Direct object pronouns like mi, ti, lo, and la are your go-to words for replacing nouns directly affected by the verb. They’re the secret sauce for sounding slick in Italian. 🇮🇹
  • Word Order Wizardry: Unlike English, Italian likes its object pronouns before the verb. Remember, it’s subject (if you even need it) + pronoun + verb. Keep it tight and right! ✨
  • Matchy-Matchy: Italian’s a bit of a fashionista – pronouns gotta match the gender and number of the noun. Lo for the guys, la for the gals, and li or le when you’re rolling with a crew. 👫
  • Negative Nancy: Wanna say no? Slap a non before your pronoun to give it that negative flair. Non lo voglio means “I don’t want it” – simple as that. ❌
  • Trim the Fat: Cut down on vowels before an “h” or another vowel. Mi becomes m’, ti turns into t’, and lo and la slim down to l’. But hey, don’t try this with li or le; they’re already perfect. 🚫👄
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t just sit there – get your hands dirty with these pronouns. Use ’em in sentences, talk to your cat in Italian, whatever it takes. Practice is your BFF here. 🏋️‍♀️

Quick facts

How do pronouns function in a text?

Pronouns replace text portions, refer to context, or imply aspects within a discourse.

When are direct object pronouns used in sentences?

Direct object pronouns replace nouns receiving action from the verb, appearing frequently when the context is clear.

How can you identify direct objects in a sentence?

Direct objects answer "what?" concerning the verb's action, like "baseball" in "Louis threw the baseball."

What is a key difference between English and Italian object pronouns?

Italian has separate sets for direct and indirect object pronouns, unlike English, which uses one set.

How does word order differ for object pronouns in Italian versus English?

In Italian, direct object pronouns typically precede the verb, whereas in English, they follow the verb.

What are some common Italian direct object pronouns?

Common Italian direct object pronouns include mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, and le.

How do Italian direct object pronouns handle gender and plurality?

Italian uses lo for masculine singular, la for feminine singular, li for masculine plural, and le for feminine plural.

How does the word "non" interact with direct object pronouns in Italian?

In negative sentences, "non" precedes the direct object pronoun, e.g., "Non lo sapevo!" (I didn’t know!).

What happens to Italian direct object pronouns before vowels or 'h'?

Pronouns like mi, ti, la, and lo can elide to m', t', and l' before vowels or 'h', but li and le retain their form.

How can one master the use of direct object pronouns in Italian?

Regular practice and applying these rules in daily conversations can make the use of direct object pronouns intuitive and natural.

My Thoughts

What Are Direct Object Pronouns?

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.

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.

For example:

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.

The only difference between English and Italian is that English has only one set of object pronouns, while the Italian language has two different kinds: direct object pronouns and indirect pronouns.

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:





Object Pronoun


Direct Object Pronoun


I io me mi
you tu you ti
he/she/it lui / lei him/her/it lo / la
we noi us ci
you voi you vi
they loro them li

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 AlbertoDo you know Mattia and Alberto?

Sì, (io) li conosco. Yes, I know them.

Sì, (io) li conosco
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).

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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, and 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’.

For example:

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 Quizlet

Here'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!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

What are direct and indirect object pronouns in Italian?

Indirect pronouns differ from direct pronouns in that direct pronouns are used to answer questions such as "what?" or "who?", while indirect pronouns are used to answer questions such as "to whom" or "for whom".

Where do indirect object pronouns go in Italian?

Indirect object pronouns are used to replace indirect objects in a sentence. These pronouns are placed before a conjugated verb, with the exception of loro and Loro, which come after the verb.

How do you identify a direct object pronoun?

To identify the direct object in a sentence, start by locating the verb. Once the verb has been identified, determine if there is a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun that the verb is acting upon. If so, this is the direct object.

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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8 Responses

  1. Hai visto Lucia? – No, non la ho vista.
    La = Lucia (female) = direct object. That comes before the verb, thus the verb takes the feminine form.

  2. Thanks for the grammar tip on direct object pronouns. In your table, isn’t the direct object pronoun for “them” the word “li” and not “gli” as shown in the table? You give the example, “Conosci Mattia e Alberto? Sì, (io) li conosco.” Thanks for clarifying.

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