What are pronouns?
If you’ve never studied a foreign language before, you may not know exactly what pronouns are… And that’s ok.
Pronouns are short words that replace one or more nouns. For example, in English, you might refer to “my friend” with he or him.
They refer back to a noun that was already mentioned or to the whole content of the sentence.
How to use Italian direct object pronouns?
As you can tell from their name, direct object pronouns replace a direct object in the sentence.
What is a direct object? you might ask. A direct object is the direct recipient of a verb and usually answers the questions Cosa? (what?) or Chi? (whom?).
Let’s look at some examples:
Io sto leggendo (cosa?) un giornale.
I am reading (what?) the newspaper.
Un giornale is a direct object in the sentence above.
Let’s now replace the direct object with a direct object pronoun:
Io lo sto leggendo.
I am reading it.
Lo, which stands for il giornale (the newspaper), is the direct object pronoun.
Direct object pronouns in Italian are:
|ti||you (familiar singular)|
|la||her, you (polite singular), it|
How to use Italian indirect object pronouns?
As you might have guessed, indirect object pronouns replace an indirect object in a sentence. Indirect objects answer the questions A chi? (to whom?) A cosa? (to what?).
These pronouns are very similar to the direct object pronouns as they only change in their third-person singular:
|ti||to you (familiar singular)|
|gli||to him, it|
|le||to her, you (polite singular), it|
|vi||to you (plural)|
|loro (gli)||to them (masculine/feminine)|
In the third person plural, you can either use loro after the verb or gli before the verb as an indirect object pronoun:
Hai detto ai miei che arriverò tardi? can be Gli hai detto che arriverò tardi? or Hai detto loro che arriverò tardi?
Have you told my parents I will be late? or Have you told them I will be late?
Loro is more grammatically correct, but gli is far more common.
Where to place pronouns in a sentence?
Unlike in English, both direct and indirect object pronouns often go before a conjugated verb:
Hai finito il libro? – Lo hai finito?
Have you finished the book? – Have you finished it?
Compra il pane. – Compralo.
Buy the bread. – Buy it.
Indirect object pronouns are also used with verbs such as piacere (to like), importare (to care), interessare (to be interested in).
Le piacciono i cani.
She likes dogs.
Non gli importa niente.
He does not care.
What are double pronouns in Italian?
You’ve learned how to use Italian direct object pronouns to say:
She brings it (it being a book).
You’ve also learned how to use indirect object pronouns to say:
Le porta il libro.
She brings the book to her.
But how to say, She brings it to her?
It’s easy! By combining the direct object pronoun and the indirect object pronoun into one, resulting in:
She bring it to her. (Literally, to her it she brings)
How to use double pronouns in Italian?
This handy table lists all of the pronomi combinati (combined pronouns) you’ll need.
Direct object pronouns lo, la, li, and le (it and them, male or female) run along the top; indirect object pronouns mi, ti, gli, le, ci, vi, and loro run vertically on the left (to me, to you, to him or her, to us, to you, and them).
|mi||me lo||me la||me li||me le|
|ti||te lo||te la||te li||te le|
|ci||ce lo||ce la||ce li||ce le|
|vi||ve lo||ve la||ve li||ve le|
|loro/gli||glielo/ lo…loro||gliela/ la…loro||glieli/ li…loro||gliele/ le…loro|
A few things to keep in mind:
- The indirect comes before the direct when combining pronouns (mi + la, mi + le, and so on).
- The i‘s of the indirect pronouns transform to e‘s when they’re combined (mi to me, ti to te, ci to ce, and vi to ve), which is known as the forma tonica in Italian.
- The female and male indirect third-person pronouns (to her, to him) are both gli and combine with the direct object pronoun to form a single word. Glielo, gliela, glieli, and gliele, to name a few. The others stay separate.
Double pronouns: examples
Let’s go over two examples one by one, replacing the direct and indirect objects with their appropriate pronouns, arranging them correctly, and then combining them.
Keep in mind that when it comes to pronouns, gender and number are everything.
Do il caffè all’uomo.
I give the coffee to the man.
- Identify the correct direct object pronoun for il caffè: lo.
All’uomo lo do.
To the man it I give.
- Choose the appropriate indirect object pronoun for all’uomo: gli.
Gli lo do.
To him it I give.
- Combine the two in the proper form:
I give it to him.
Diamo i vestiti alla bambina.
We give the dresses to the little girl.
- Choose the proper direct object pronoun for the word I vestiti: li.
Alla bambina li diamo.
To the girl them, we give.
- Identify the correct indirect object pronoun for alla bambina: le.
Le li diamo.
To her them we give.
- Combine the two in the proper form:
We give them to her.
How to use loro o a loro?
Purists believe that the third-person plural indirect object pronoun loro (to them) should not be combined with the direct object pronoun but it should be kept separate especially in writing.
Lo porto loro.
I take it to them.
However, gli is frequently used to replace loro or a loro, and it is widely recognized by grammarians (even the revered Treccani), at least in spoken Italian.
Porto i compiti agli studenti.
I bring the homework to the students.
Li porto loro (in writing).
I bring them to them
Glieli porto (in colloquial language).
I bring them to them.
What is the position of double pronouns?
It’s worth noting that in some verb modes, the pronouns are connected to the verb:
In the imperative form:
Sing it to or for me!
In the infinitive present and past:
Sarebbe meglio portarglieli.
It would be best to take them to them.
You should tell him/ her.
The pronouns can go before or after the infinitive in servile verbs: Potresti dirglielo or Glielo potresti dire.
In the gerund present and past:
Portandoglieli, si sono rotti.
They broke, taking them to him.
Avendoglieli portati, sono tornata a casa.
Having taken them to him, I went home.
Essendomela trovata davanti, l’ho salutata.
Having found her in front of me, I said hello to her.
And the participio passato:
Datoglielo, sono partiti.
Having given it to him, they left.
Cadutogli il portafoglio, si fermò.
His wallet, having fallen, stopped.
Otherwise, the pronouns come first, followed by the verb. The non comes first in negative sentences.
Glieli porterei se avessi tempo.
I would take it to her if I had time.
Te le darei ma non sono mie.
I would give them to you, but they are not mine.
Se non glieli avessi dati, glieli avrei dati io.
If you had not given them to her, I would have.
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
Combining direct and indirect object pronouns is much easier than it appears at first glance.
It will take some practice, but these pronouns will become natural and easy for you, and you will not have to think too much before using them.
Continue practicing, and you’ll get better at it, te lo garantisco!
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