italian pronouns

Italian Pronouns

Leonardo da Vinci once said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

But what does simplicity really mean?

In the case of Italian nouns, it means replacing nouns with pronouns to make our sentences crisp and concise.

This post will take a look at three types of Italian pronouns: subject, direct object and indirect object, so let’s dive in!

Contents

Italian Subject Pronouns

The subject pronoun in a sentence replaces the subject, or the “doer,” of the sentence. This is often the noun that is performing the verb.

For example, in the sentence “Io vado al cinema” (I go to the movies), Io (I) is the subject pronoun because it is doing the action of going to the movies.

There are seven subject pronouns in Italian:

ItalianEnglishExample
IoIIo mangio il cibo.
(I eat the food.)
TuYou (informal)Tu sei un ragazzo.
(You are a boy.)
LuiHeLui parla italiano.
(He speaks Italian.)
LeiShe/You (formal)Lei vuole andare al negozio.
(She wants to go to the store.)
NoiWeNoi cantiamo.
(We sing.)
VoiYou (plural)Voi potete venire alle 7.
(You all can come at 7.)
LoroTheyLoro ballano.
(They dance.)

In addition to being able to replace people, luilei and loro can also be used to mean “it” or “they” in order to replace animals and things.

Lui replaces a masculine, singular noun as in:

Lui (il cane) è bianco. 
It [the dog] is white.

Lei replaces a feminine, singular noun as in:

Lei (la macchina) è veloce.
It [the car] is fast.

And loro replaces a plural noun as in:

Loro (i ragazzi) fanno i compiti.
They [the kids] do their homework.

Additionally, the pronoun Lei is used to mean “you” in formal situations (when used in this way, it is always written with a capital letter). For example, when speaking formally, one could say:

Lei va con noi? 
Are you [formal] coming with us?

Lastly, Italian is also a language that allows speakers to drop the subject pronoun.

For example, instead of saying, “Tu vedi il libro” (You see the book), you can simply say, “Vedi il libro.”

This dropping is heavily dependent on context, so be sure this is clear before dropping a subject pronoun from the sentence.

Italian Direct Object Pronouns

In addition to subject pronouns, Italian also has pronouns for direct objects: nouns that get acted upon by the verb.

For example, in the sentence “bevo il caffè” (I drink coffee), il caffè is the direct object because it is the noun being impacted by the action of the verb (the drinking).

In Italian, there are two types of direct object pronouns:

  • Unaccented pronouns go before the verb
  • Accented pronouns go after the verb

Depending on their positions (before or after the verb), these unaccented and accented pronouns have slightly different forms.

As with subject pronouns, the direct objects lo, la and li can replace both people and objects.

Check out these examples of unaccented direct objects:

ItalianEnglishExample
MiMeLui mi ha colpito.
(He hit me.)
TiYouIo ti amo.
(I love you.)
LoHim/ItTu lo troverai nel cassetto.
(You will find it in the drawer.)
LaHer/ItIo la porterò al negozio.
(I will take her to the store.)
CiUsLoro ci visitano.
(They are visiting us.)
ViYou allIo vi saluto.
(I greet you all.)
Li/LeThem (masc./fem.)Luigi li finisce.
(Luigi is finishing them.)

Keep in mind that the unaccented direct pronouns mi, ti, lo and la can be shortened to m’, t’ and l’ before a vowel or before an h-:

Lui m’ha colpito.
(He hit me.)

Io t’amo.
(I love you.)

Tu l’hai trovato nel cassetto.
(You found it in the drawer.)

Io l’ho portata al negozio.
(I took her to the store.)

Note that when using a direct object pronoun with a compound verb, the last letter of the past participle must agree in gender and number to that of the direct object pronoun.

For instance:

Li ho letti.
(I read them.)

Le ho lette ieri.
(I read them yesterday.)

Conversely, accented direct objects come after the noun. Let’s look at the sentences above again with accented pronouns:

ItalianEnglishExample
MiMeLui ha colpito me.
(He hit me.)
TiYouIo amo te.
(I love you.)
LuiHim/ItTu troverai lui nel cassetto.
(You will find it in the drawer.)
LeiHer/ItIo porterò lei al negozio.
(I will take her to the store.)
NoiUsLoro visitano noi.
(They are visiting us.)
VoiYou allIo saluto voi.
(I greet you all.)
LoroThemLuigi finisce loro.
(Luigi is finishing them.)

Italian Indirect Object Pronouns

Indirect objects are nouns that are the receiver of the verb’s action.

For example, in the sentence “Do il vino a Maria” (I’m giving the wine to Maria), Maria is the indirect object because she is receiving the action of the verb.

Often, indirect objects are preceded by prepositions such as (to).

Like direct objects, there are also two types of indirect object pronouns:

  • Unaccented pronouns go before the verb
  • Accented pronouns go after the verb with the preposition (to)

Check out these unaccented indirect objects:

ItalianEnglishExample
MiMeIl professore mi dà i compiti.
(The teacher gives me homework.)
TiYouIo ti scrivo ogni settimana.
(I write to you each week.)
GliHim/ItIl cameriere gli dice che non ha il vino bianco.
(The waiter tells him that he doesn't have white wine.)
LeHer/ItSua madre le ha telefonato.
(Her mother called her.)
CiUsNon ci hanno mandato un messaggio.
(They didn't send us a message.)
ViYou allLei vi ha letto il libro.
(She read the book to you all.)
GliThemLo studente gli ha insegnato una nuova parola.
(The student taught them a new word.)

Unlike direct object pronouns, none of the indirect object pronouns shorten before a vowel or an h-.

Now, let’s check out those sentences again with accented indirect object pronouns that come after the verb. Note that each of these includes the preposition (to):

ItalianEnglishExample
A meTo meIl professore da i compiti a me.
(The teacher gives me homework.)
A teTo youIo scrivo a te ogni settimana.
(I write to you each week.)
A luiTo him/itIl cameriere dice a lui che non ha il vino bianco.
(The waiter tells him that he doesn't have white wine.)
A leiTo her/itSua madre ha telefonato a lei.
(Her mother called her.)
A noiTo usNon hanno mandato un messaggio a noi.
(They didn't send us a message.)
A voiTo you allLei ha letto il libro a voi.
(She read the book to you all.)
A loroTo themLo studente ha insegnato una nuova parola a loro.
(The student taught them a new word.)

Where to Practice Italian Pronouns

The best way to become efficient in using Italian pronouns is through practice. Here are some of the best resources you can use for your Italian pronoun practice:

When you’re ready to move on to the other types of pronouns in Italian, feel free to check out these other blog posts:

 

Now you know how to use the most common Italian pronouns. Get ready to speak Italian as elegantly as da Vinci, Italian learner!

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