What is the particle ne in Italian?
First of all, we need to distinguish between né and ne. They might sound the same in spoken language, but that accent makes all the difference in grammatical terms!
Let’s have a look at some examples of the use of the particle ne:
Io ne ho due.
I have two of those.
Ha avuto un incidente, ma ne è uscito illeso.
He had an accident, but he came out unharmed of it.
Would you like some?
Me ne vado.
I am out of here.
How to use the particle ne?
As you can see, ne usually comes before the verb it goes with.
In the four examples above, the particle ne has three different grammatical functions.
Let’s see what they are:
- It can stand for a pronoun such as di ciò, di questo/a, di quello/a, etc. (of it, this, of that, of those), and can be used to talk about quantities.
In this case, if you do not mention what you’re talking about, it is not optional:
Non ne voglio parlare.
I do not want to talk about it.
Tu quanti anni hai? Io ho 23 anni. = Io ne ho 23.
How old are you? I am 23.
Quanti bicchieri vuoi?
Voglio quattro bicchieri, per favore. = Ne voglio quattro per favore.
How many glasses do you want?
I want four, please.
- It can be used to indicate removal from a place or a situation, standing for da lì (from there).
Ha avuto un incidente, ma ne è uscito illeso (dall’incidente).
He had an accident, but he came out unharmed.
- It can mean some and can be used to substitute a noun that has been mentioned (or is implied in the situation.)
Ho comprato del pane. Ne vuoi?
I bought some bread, would you like some?
Me ne vado.
I’m out of here.
What are the exceptions for using ne?
As we have seen, ne almost always comes before the verb. However, there are some exceptions:
- It comes after the verb when the verb is in the infinitive form (parlare, fare, etc.), and the particle ne joins onto it to form a single word (the same that happens with pronouns):
I want to talk about it.
Mi ha detto di comprarne due.
She told me to buy two.
- It also comes after the verb when it is used with a verb in the imperative form and with a pronoun. In this case, it joins the verb with the pronoun, creating a single word.
Compramene uno, per favore!
Buy me one of those, please!
Dammene tre, grazie.
Give me three of those, thank you.
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