IV. Ten Things to Know about Pronouns in Italian.


In this section we will insert pronunciation guides only for words which may be difficult for the beginner, such as three-syllable words stressed on the first syllable (comprano, lavano). For an explanation of the phonetics of the Pronunciation Guide, click here.


1. Subject pronouns.
The Italian subject pronouns are io, I; tu, you (singular); lui, he; lei, she; noi, we; voi, you (plural); and loro, they. These are normally omitted, unless needed for emphasis or clarity, since the verb inflection usually indicates the person and number of the subject. Examples: compro un libro, I buy a book. Comprano (kohm-prah-noh) due libri, they buy two books. But: Lui compra il libro, non lei, he is buying the book, not her.


2. Familiar vs. formal.
The second person pronouns tu and voi are considered "familiar" and are normally used only when addressing friends, family members, close acquaintances, and children. Otherwise you should employ the "polite" or "formal" address, which is the same as the third person feminine, using the pronouns Lei (singular) and Loro (plural). When lei and loro are used for formal address, they are capitalized. Che cosa compri tu, Gina? What are you buying, Gina?--familiar. Che cosa compra Lei, Signore? What are you buying, sir?--formal.


3. Direct object pronouns.
The direct object pronouns are mi, me; ti, you (singular); lo, him; la, her; ci, us; vi, you (plural); li, them (masculine); le, them (feminine). In Italian the object pronouns are usually placed immediately in front of the verb: non lo capisco, I don't understand him. Gli uomini mi vedono, the men see me.


4. Indirect object pronouns.
The indirect object pronouns are mi, me; ti, you (singular); gli (pronounced lyee), le, him and her; ci, us; vi, you (plural); and loro, them. Like the direct object pronouns, these are placed in front of the verb, except for loro, which immediately follows the verb: gli parlo, I speak to him. Le danno il denaro, they give her the money. Mandiamo loro molte lettere, we send them many letters.
A good rule to help distinguish the indirect from the direct object is that the indirect object can be translated using the English preposition "to": lo vedo, I see him (direct object), but gli do il denaro, I give him the money, or I give the money to him (indirect object).


5. Reflexive pronouns.
There is a special "reflexive" pronoun, si, used for the third person when the object is the same as the subject: lui si lava, he washes himself. Si can be singular or plural: I bambini si lavano (lah-vah-noh), the children wash themselves. 
For the first and second persons, the reflexive pronouns are the same as the regular direct object pronouns: io mi lavo, tu ti lavi (I wash, you wash), etc.
In Italian many verbs are reflexive which are non-reflexive in English, such as ricordarsi, to remember: io mi ricordo bene quel giorno, I remember that day well.


6. Multiple pronouns.
When there are two pronouns in a sentence, the indirect pronoun precedes the direct, and may undergo a change in spelling: mi, ti, si, ci, and vi change the i to e; gli and le both become glie (lyay) and are attached to the direct object pronoun. Me lo danno, they give it to me. Glielo mando (lyay-loh mahn-doh), I send it to him. As always, the indirect object pronoun loro follows the verb: lo diamo loro, we give it to them.


7. Ci and vi as adverbs.
Note that ci and vi are often used as adverbs meaning "here" and "there": Ci arriva oggi, he arrives here today; vi vado, I am going there.


8. The partitive pronoun.
Ne is commonly used as the "partitive" object pronoun meaning "of it," "of them," or "any": ne ho tre, I have three of them; non ne hanno, they don't have any. We also find ne used as an adverb meaning "from there": Ne partono (pahr-toh-noh) stasera, they leave from there this evening.


9. Disjunctive pronouns.
The "disjunctive" pronouns are me, me; te, you (singular); lui, him; lei, her; noi, us; voi, you (plural); loro, them. The disjunctives are used as the objects of prepositions: Il medico (may-dee-koh) con lei, the doctor is with her. Giovanni pi alto di me, Giovanni is taller than me. The disjunctive reflexive pronoun is s: lei lo fa da s, she does it by herself.


10. Disjunctives for emphasis.
The disjunctives are also used for emphasis, and for answering questions: felice lui! Lucky him! Chi l? Me! Who is there? Me! Chi ha il denaro, lui o lei? Who has the money, him or her?


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