How to use “cui”: Italian grammar lesson 244


Unlock the secrets of Italian pronouns with our guide! Learn the nuances between che and cui, and master the art of speaking like a native. Say goodbye to confusion and hello to clarity in your Italian conversations.

  • Use che for simplicity: Stick with che when you need a generic pronoun that doesn’t change with gender or number, like “the book that I bought.”
  • Switch to cui with prepositions: When a preposition is involved, cui is your go-to. Remember, “the girl with whom you came” not “with who.”
  • Prepositions matter: Italian prepositions like a, di, and con need cui to form phrases. “The reason for which I love you” uses per cui.
  • One-size-fits-all cui: No stress about matching gender or number; cui is the chameleon of pronouns, never changing its form.
  • Translate with flexibility: Literal translations can sound clunky. “The bed on which I can sleep” is better as “the bed I can sleep on.”

My thoughts

What’s the difference between che and cui in Italian?

Before we talk about the tiny word cui, let’s talk about the pronoun che.

Che means “that” or “who” (among other meanings we don’t need right now).

Here’re some examples:

Il libro che ho comprato mi piace.

I like the book that I bought.

Non conosco quella ragazza che sta ballando.

I don’t know that girl who is dancing.

Che is the easiest pronoun in Italian because it is generic and doesn’t change.

There is no distinction between things and people like in English (that vs. who).

Things get more complicated in Italian when we want to say something like:

  • I like the book about which you talked.
  • I don’t know that girl with whom you came.

This is when cui comes in handy.

Let’s first see what cui means and then when and how to use it in Italian.

What does cui mean in Italian?

Let’s take the examples we saw above with their translations:

Mi piace il libro di cui mi hai parlato.

I like the book about which you talked.

Non conosco la ragazza con cui sei venuto.

I don’t know that girl with whom you came.

As you can see, cui means which and whom.

Cui, like che, is a pronoun, which means it’s a word that refers to something or someone.

When to use cui in Italian?

As you can see in the examples we just saw, we use cui when there’s a preposition referring to which or whom.

Prepositions are those tiny words such as to, of, for, with, and in.

These are the Italian prepositions:

  • a, di, per, con, da, in, su, tra, fra.

So, we cannot say something like a che, di che, or con che. In those cases, instead of che, we have to say cui:

  • a cui
  • di cui
  • per cui
  • con cui
  • da cui
  • in cui
  • su cui
  • tra cui
  • fra cui

It’s the same in English. We wouldn’t say “to that” and “with who”, as in “the girl to whom I’m speaking is nice”, and “the guy with who you came is fun”.

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Instead, we have to say to which and with whom.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

How to use cui in Italian?

Cui is very simple to use as it doesn’t change depending on the gender and number of what it’s referring to.

It doesn’t even change depending on whether we’re talking about a thing or a person. It’s always cui.

Let’s now have a look at some examples with cui preceded by prepositions.

You will see the translations into English sound odd so, we’ll give you a more appropriate translation for each example:

Questo è il motivo per cui ti voglio bene.

This is the reason which I love you.
= This is the reason why I love you.

Non so qual è il paese da cui proviene questa scatola.

I don’t know which is the country from which this box comes.
= I don’t know which country this box comes from.

Il topo è morto nella trappola in cui è caduto.

The mouse died in the trap in which it fell.
= The mouse died in the trap where it fell.

Non mi piacciono gli amici con cui esci.

I don’t like the friends with whom you go out.
= I don’t like the friends you go out with.

La donna a cui ho consegnato la lettera è tua zia.

The woman to whom I gave a letter is your aunt.
= The woman I gave a letter to is your aunt.

Gli studenti di cui dovevi occuparti sono arrivati.

The students about whom you had to worry arrived.
= The students you had to worry about arrived.

Vorrei un letto su cui dormire.

I’d like a bed on which I can sleep.
= I’d like a bed I can sleep on.

Why do Italians say "che"?

Che is a colloquial word that means "perché." This implies that while it is not grammatically accurate to say che instead of perché in principle, it is done frequently in practice.

Is "cui" the only relative pronoun in Italian?

No, "cui" is just one of several relative pronouns in Italian. Others include "che" (who, which, that), "il quale" (who, which), "la quale" (who, which), "i quali" (who, which), and "le quali" (who, which). Each relative pronoun has specific uses and contexts, so it's essential to understand their individual functions.

Italian word of the day
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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