If you’ve never studied a foreign language before, you may not know exactly what pronouns are… And that’s ok.
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Pronouns are short words that replace one or more nouns. For example, in English you might refer to “my friend” with “he” or” him”. These are pronouns and refer back to a noun that was already mentioned, or to the whole content of the sentence.
There are many different types of pronouns in Italian.
In this post, we will look at the difference between direct and indirect pronouns.
Italian direct pronouns
As you can tell from their name, direct object pronouns replace a direct object in the sentence. And “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:
I am reading (what?) the newspaper.
Io sto leggendo (cosa?) un giornale.
Un giornale is a direct object in the sentence above. Let’s now replace the direct object with a direct object pronoun:
I am reading it.
Io lo sto leggendo.
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|
Indirect object pronouns
As you might have guessed, indirect objet pronouns replace an indirect object in a sentence. Indirect objects answer the questions A chi? (to whom?) A cosa? (to what?).
These pronouns are actually 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)|
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? – Gli hai detto che arriverò tardi? – Hai detto loro che arriverò tardi?
Have you told my parents I will be late? – Have you told them I will be late?
Loro is more grammatically correct, but gli is far more common.
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
Pronouns: where to place them
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 finished it?
Hai parlato a Mario? – Gli hai parlato?
Have you talked to Mario? – Have you talked to him?
This does not count if the verb is in the infinitive or imperative form, with which pronouns join onto the end of the verb to form one word.
Compra il pane. – Compralo.
Buy the bread. – Buy it.
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.
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.