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More Italian Pronouns

1  What are object pronouns?

  • Object pronouns are words such as me, him, us and them used instead of a noun
    to show who is affected by the action of the verb.
Do you like Claire? – Yes I like her a lot.
I’ve lost my purse, have you seen it?
He gave us a fantastic send-off.
Why don’t you send them a note?
  • In English we use object pronouns in two different ways:
  • when the person or thing is directly affected by the action:
I saw them yesterday.
They admire him immensely.
  • In the above examples, them and him are called direct objects.
  • when the person or thing is indirectly affected by the action. In English you often use to with the pronoun in such cases.
I sent it to them yesterday.
They awarded him a medal.
  • In the above examples, them and him are called indirect objects.
  • For both direct and indirect objects there is one form you use on most occasions. This is called the unstressed form.

2  Unstressed direct object pronouns

  • Here are the Italian unstressed object pronouns:
mi me
ti you (familiar singular)
lo him, it
la her, you (polite singular), it
ci us
vi you (plural)
li them (masculine)
le them (feminine)
  • Unlike English, you usually put them before the verb.
Ti amo. I love you.
Lo invito alla festa. I’m inviting him to the party.
Non lo mangio. I’m not going to eat it.
La guardava. He was looking at her.
Vi cercavo. I was looking for you.
Li conosciamo. We know them.
TipRemember that you use ti only when speaking to someone you know well.

3  Lolali and le

  • You need to pay particular attention to how lolali and le are used in Italian.
  • To translate it you need to choose between lo or la. Use lo if the noun referred
    to is masculine, and la if it’s feminine.
Ho un panino, lo vuoi? I’ve got a roll, do you want it?
Ho una mela, la vuoi? I’ve got an apple, do you want it?
  • To translate them you choose between li or le. Use li if the noun referred to is masculine, and le if it’s feminine.
Sto cercando i biglietti. I’m looking for the tickets, have
Li hai visti? you seen them?
Dove sono le caramelle?
Le hai mangiate?
Where are the sweets? Have you
eaten them?
  • When lo and la are followed by hohaihaabbiamoavete and hanno, they drop the vowel and are spelled l’.
Non l’ho visto ieri. I didn’t see it yesterday.
L’abbiamo portato con noi. We took it with us.
L’hanno cercato tutta la giornata. They looked for it all day.
Grammar Extra!When you are talking about the past and using the pronouns lolali and le you must make the past participle agree with the noun being referred to. Past participles are just like adjectives ending in –o. You change the –o to –a for the feminine singular, to –i for the masculine plural, and to –e for the feminine plural.
Il suo ultimo film? L’ho visto. His new film? I’ve seen it.
Silvia? L’ho incontrata ieri. Silvia? I met her yesterday.
I biglietti? Li ho già presi. The tickets? I’ve already got them.
Queste scarpe? Le ho comprate anni fa. These shoes? I bought them years ago.
Key points
  • You generally use the unstressed direct object pronoun.
  • Unstressed direct object pronouns usually come before the verb.
  • You need to pay special attention when translating it and them.

4  Unstressed indirect object pronouns

  • In English some verbs have to be followed by an indirect object pronoun – explain
    to himwrite to him – but other similar verbs do not: you say tell him, phone him.
  • In Italian you have to use indirect object pronouns with verbs such as dire (meaning to tell) and telefonare (meaning to phone).
  • As with direct object pronouns, there are unstressed and stressed indirect
    object pronouns.
  • You will generally need to use unstressed pronouns rather than stressed ones.
  • Here are the unstressed indirect pronouns.
mi to me, me
ti to you, you (familiar singular)
gli to him, him
le to her, her; to you, you (polite singular)
ci to us, us
vi to you, you (plural)
gli, loro to them, them
  • Unlike English, you usually put these pronouns before the verb.
  • Just as in English, when you are telling somebody something, giving somebody something and so on, you use an indirect pronoun for the person concerned.
Le ho detto la verità. I told her the truth.
Gli ho dato la cartina. I gave him the map.
  • Indirect pronouns are also generally used with verbs to do with communicating with people.
Gli chiederò il permesso. I’ll ask him for permission.
(literally, I’ll ask to him)
Gli ho telefonato. I phoned him. (literally, I phoned to him)
Le scriverò. I’ll write to her.
Se li vedi chiedigli di venire. If you see them ask them to come.
(literally, …ask to them…)
  • You use indirect object pronouns when you are using verbs such as piacereimportare, and interessare to talk about what people like, care about or are interested in.
Gli piace l’Italia. He likes Italy.
Le piacciono i gatti. She likes cats.
Non gli importa il prezzo, sono ricchi. They don’t care about the price, they’re rich.
Se gli interessa può venire con me. If he’s interested he can come with me.
TipIt is worth checking in your dictionary to see if a verb needs a direct or
an indirect object. If you look up the verb to give, for example, and find the example to give somebody something, the a in the translation (dare qualcosa a qualcuno) shows you that you use an indirect pronoun for the person you give something to.
Gli ho dato il mio numero di telefono. I gave him my phone number
Key points
  • You generally use the unstressed indirect object pronoun.
  • Unstressed indirect object pronouns are used with many verbs in Italian which do not use them in English such as chiedere (meaning to ask) and interessare (meaning to interest).
  • Unstressed indirect object pronouns usually come before the verb.

5  Stressed object pronouns

  • You use stressed pronouns for special emphasis. They generally go after the verb.
Cercavo proprio voi. You’re just the people I was looking for.
Invitano me e mio fratello. They’re inviting me and my brother.
  • They are exactly the same as the subject pronouns, except that me is used instead of io and te is used instead of tu.
  • You use the same words for stressed direct and indirect objects. When you use them as indirect objects you put the word a (meaning to) before them.
me me
te you (familiar form)
lui him
lei/Lei her, you (polite singular)
noi us
voi you (plural)
loro them
a me (to) me
a te (to) you (familiar form)
a lui (to) him
a lei (to) her, you (polite singular)
a noi (to) us
a voi (to) you (plural)
a loro (to) them
  • You use stressed pronouns:
  • when you want to emphasize that you mean a particular person and not somebody else, and for contrast:
Amo solo te. I love only you.
Invito lui alla festa, ma lei no. I’m inviting him to the party but
not her.
Non guardava me, guardava lei. He wasn’t looking at me, he was
looking at her.
Ho scritto a leia lui no. I wrote to her, but not to him.
Questo piace a me, ma Luca
preferisce l’altro.
I like this one but Luca prefers the other one.
  • after a preposition
Vengo con te. I’ll come with you.
Sono arrivati dopo di noi. They arrived after us.
  • For more information about Prepositions, see Prepositions.
  • after di when you’re comparing one person with another
Sei più alto di me. You’re taller than me.
Sono più ricchi di lui. They’re richer than him.
Key points
  • Stressed object pronouns are nearly all the same as subject pronouns.
  • You use them for emphasis, after prepositions and in comparisons.
  • You generally put stressed object pronouns after the verb.
  • You use the same words for direct and indirect objects, but add a before them for indirect objects.

6  Before or after the verb?

  • Unstressed pronouns generally come before the verb.
Mi aiuti? Could you help me?
Ti piace? Do you like it?
Ci hanno visto. They saw us.
Vi ha salutato? Did he say hello to you?
  • In some cases, unstressed pronouns come after the verb:
  • when you are using the imperative to tell someone to do something. The pronoun is joined onto the verb.
Aiutami! Help me!
Lasciala stare. Leave her alone.
Daglielo. Give it to him (or her).
Arrivano. Non dirgli niente! They’re coming. Don’t tell them
  • Note that if the verb consists of just one syllable you double the consonant the pronoun starts with, except in the case of gli.
Fallo subito! Do it right away!
Dille la verità! Tell her the truth!
Dimmi dov’è. Tell me where it is.
Dacci una mano. Give us a hand.
Dagli una mano. Give him a hand.
  • when you are using a pronoun with the infinitive (the form of the verb ending in –re in Italian). The pronoun is joined onto the verb.
Potresti venire a prendermi? Could you come and get me?
Non posso aiutarvi. I can’t help you.
Devo farlo? Do I have to do it?
Dovresti scriverle. You ought to write to her.
Luigi? Non voglio parlargli. Luigi? I don’t want to talk to him.
  • Note that the final e of the infinitive is dropped: prendere + mi becomes prendermifare + ti becomes farti and so on.
  • Stressed pronouns often come after the verb.
Amo solo te. I love only you.
Invito lui alla festa, ma lei no. I’m inviting him to the party but
not her.

7  Using two pronouns together

  • In English you sometimes use two pronouns together, one referring to the indirect object and the other to the direct object, for example, I gave him it.
  • You often do the same kind of thing in Italian, and must always put the indirect object first.
  • When you use two pronouns together like this, some of them change:
mi becomes me
ti becomes te
ci becomes ce
vi becomes ve
Me li dai? Will you give me it?
È mia, non te la do. It’s mine, I’m not going to give it to
Ce l’hanno promesso. They promised it to us.
Ve lo mando domani. I’ll send it to you tomorrow.
  • When you want to use gli (meaning to him or to them) and le (meaning to her) with lolali or le, you add an –e to gli and join it to lola, and so forth.
gli/le + lo → glielo
gli/le + la → gliela
gli/le + li → glieli
gli/le + le→ gliele
Glieli hai promessi. You promised them to her.
Gliele ha spedite. He sent them to them.
Carlo? Glielo dirò domani. Carlo? I’ll tell him tomorrow.
  • When you use two pronouns together to give an order or when using the infinitive (–re form of the verb), they join together and are added on to the verb.
Mi piacciono, ma non vuole comprarmeli. I like them but he won’t buy me them.
Ecco la lettera di Rita, puoi dargliela? Here’s Rita’s letter, can you give it to her?
Le chiavi? Dagliele. The keys? Give them to her.
Non abbiamo i biglietti – può mandarceli? We haven’t got the tickets – can you send us them?
  • Note that the final e of the infinitive is dropped: prendere + mi + li becomes prendermelimandare + ti + le becomes mandartele and so on.
Key points
  • When you use two pronouns together the indirect object comes first.
  • Some indirect objects change when used before a direct object.
  • After orders and the infinitive form, the two pronouns are written as one word and follow the verb.
Grammar Extra!In English you and one are used in general statements and questions such as You don’t do it like that; Can you park here?; One has to be careful.Use si and the reflexive form of the verb in Italian for these kinds of statements and questions.
Si fa così. This is how you do it.
Si può nuotare qui? Can you swim here?
Non si sa mai. You never know.

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