What are pronouns?
Using pronouns correctly is essential if you want to be able to express yourself clearly in Italian; they are some of the most commonly used words, and knowing them will take you a step closer to sounding like a native.
A pronoun is a short word that replaces one or more nouns. For example, in English, you might refer to “my friend” with “he” or” him”.
The same happens when you refer to yourself as “me” or “I” instead of saying your full name, etc.
There are lots of different types of pronouns. In this post, we will look at the 4 main kinds of Italian pronouns that you will need to get by in all kinds of situations.
We will look at:
- subject pronouns
- direct object pronouns
- indirect object pronouns
Subject pronouns in Italian
Subject pronouns, as the very name tell you, are those that replace the subject in a sentence. You are most likely already familiar with these, even if you might not have known they were called subject pronouns:
- Io (I)
- Tu (you)
- Lui (he)
- Lei (she)
- Noi (we)
- Voi (you – plural)
- Loro (they)
Let’s see an example of how these are used:
Giacomo e Roby vogliono andare al cinema stasera.
Giacomo and Roby want to go to the cinema tonight.
Loro vogliono andare al cinema stasera.
They want to go to the cinema tonight.
In Italian, subject pronouns are often omitted, as the conjugation of the verb will provide enough information on the subject of the sentence.
Thus, we can also say:
Vogliono andare al cinema stasera.
They want to go to the cinema.
You can, of course, decide to keep the subject pronoun if you want to emphasize it, if you need it for clarity, or if it follows the word anche (also).
Remember, the personal pronoun used to address someone formally in Italian is lei.
Signor Bianchin, lei è molto gentile.
Binachin, you are very kind.
Direct object pronouns
Direct object pronouns replace a direct object in the sentence. A direct object is the direct recipient of the action of a verb, and it usually answers the question Cosa? (what?) or Chi? (whom?).
Let’s look at some examples:
Io leggo (cosa?) un libro.
I read (what?) a book.
Un libro is a direct object in the sentence above.
Let’s now replace the direct object with a direct object pronoun:
I read it.
Io lo leggo.
Lo, which stands for il libro (the book), is the direct object pronoun.
Direct object pronouns in Italian are:
|ti||you (familiar singular)|
|la||her, you (polite singular), it|
Where to place direct object pronouns
Unlike in English, direct object pronouns are placed before a conjugated verb in Italian.
Tu ami Daniela. – Tu la ami.
You love Daniela. – You love her.
Mangiamo il pane che ho comprato? – Lo mangiamo?
Shall we eat the bread I bought? – Shall we eat it?
If the verb is in the infinitive (infinito) or in the imperative form (imperativo) the pronoun links to the verb become one word:
Non volete bere il succo? – Non volete berlo?
Don’t you want to drink the juice? – Don’t you want to drink it?
Chiama i tuoi genitori. – Chiamali.
Call your parents. – Call them.
Be careful; some verbs require a direct object in Italian that might come with a preposition in English, and vice versa, so always make sure you check how to use it!
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
Indirect object pronouns
As you might have guessed, indirect object pronouns replace a noun with the function of 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; 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)|
As with the previous ones, these pronouns often go before a conjugated verb:
Hai parlato a Mario? – Gli hai parlato?
Have you talked to Mario? – Have you talked to him?
Again, this does not count if the verb is in the infinitive or imperative form, with which it will join onto the end verb to form one word.
Ricordati di dare i soldi a Greta. – Ricordati di darle i soldi.
Remember to give the money to Greta. – Remember to give her the money.
In the third person plural, you can either use loro after the verb or gli before the verb:
- Hai detto miei che arriverò tardi? – Gli hai detto che arriverò tardi? – Hai detto loro che arriverò tardi?
Loro is more grammatically correct, but gli is far more common.
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.
Ci interessa il cinema internazionale.
We are interested in international cinema.
Non gli importa niente.
He does not care.
Stressed object pronouns
Object pronouns have a stressed version, which is used when we want to emphasize the direct object within the sentence.
Ha chiamato me, non te.
He called me, not you.
L’abbiamo dato a te, non a loro.
We gave it to you, not to them.
Here are their forms. You will notice that they look like normal subject pronouns except for me (me) and te (you).
|te||you (familiar singular)|
|lei||her, you (polite singular), it|
I hope that this will help you understand and use Italian personal pronouns correctly.
Do not hesitate to come back to this page when you are in doubt… In bocca al lupo!
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