Chapter 5 - Pronouns
A pronoun is a word that stands for someone or something. In English, the pronouns are used frequently, and are required in order to indicate who is doing the action described by the verb. For example, we say “I wrote this grammar.” English uses five sets of pronouns; Italian uses seven sets of pronouns. In both languages, the correct pronoun will vary depending on the function of the pronoun.
The Subject Pronouns -- I, You, He, She, It, We, and They
In Italian, because of the fact that the verb ending includes a reference to the person doing the action, the subject pronouns are used less frequently than in English, and it is grammatically correct to omit them. The pronouns are used for clarity or emphasis. The subject pronouns follow.
you tu (familiar, singular)
You Lei (polite, singular)
you voi (familiar, plural)
You Loro(polite, plural)
Some examples of the usage follow.
1. Always with the verb ęssere
Chi è la? Sọno io. Who is there? It is I.
2. For emphasis
Volevi partire anche tu? YOU wanted to leave also?
Lei sempre fa lo che lei voglia. She always does what SHE wants.
3. For clarity
Io lavoro, lui si diverte. I work; He plays.
Mẹntre lui lavora, lei parla. While he works, she talks.
Generally, Italian never uses the pronoun it as the subject of a sentence.
examples: È vero. It is true. Piove. It is raining. È caldo. It is hot.
If it is necessary for clarity or emphasis to use the word it, the forms essa( feminine singular), esse(feminine plural), esso(masculine singular), and essi(masculine plural) are used. In ordinary speech, this usage is rare, and reserved for animals and things.
The Stress Pronouns -- For me, to you, and so on
After prepositions (words such as about, behind, for, with, to, and so on), a second set of pronouns is used, which are the same as the subject pronouns, except that io is changed to me, and tu is changed to te. The other pronouns remain the same.
English Italian example
me me per me (for me)
you te a te (to you)
him lui per lui(for him)
her lei a lei(to her)
us noi senza noi (without us)
you voi per voi (for you)
them loro contra loro (against them)
On occasion, these pronouns are used to emphasize a point. example: Dear me! Ahi me!
The Object Pronouns
When an action is directed to or towards a person, the person is said to be the object of the verb. Italian uses a different set of pronouns to express this idea. In Italian, these pronouns precede the verb.
English Italian example
me mi Mi ascoltò (He heard me.)
you ti Ti cuesta dieci dǫllari (It costs you $10).
her la Lavidi al cịnema (I saw her at the movies.)
him lo Loincontrai all’ufficio (I met him at the office.)
us ci Dio ci vede (God sees us.)
you vi Vi segnalava (He was signaling you.)
them le, li Il dottore li ha visto (The doctor has seen them.)
Contractions of these pronouns with the forms of the verb avereare common. Thus, la ho becomes l’ho, vi ha becomes v’ha, and so on.
The use of the direct object pronouns la, le, lo, or li with a compound verb requires agreement in number and gender in the verb.
For example, Have you heard the opera La Boheme? Yes, I have heard it.
Hai ascoltato l’opera La Boheme? Si, la ho ascoltato.
In this example, the pronoun la refers to the opera, so the form ascoltata is necessary.
In common speech, agreement when using mi, ti, ci, or vi is optional, with the trend toward no agreement.
The Indirect Pronouns
Frequently, an action involves a thing and one or more persons. The thing receives the action of the verb, but the person or persons are involved in the process. For example, Joseph threw the ball to Louis. In this example, the ball received the action of being thrown, but Louis was involved, because the ball was thrown to him. In these cases, the ball is said to be the direct object of the verb, and the person is said to be the indirect object of the verb. Italian uses another set of pronouns to indicate the indirect object.
English Italian example
me mi Dicami l’informazione (Tell me the information.)
you ti Ti dimostrai la fotografia (I showed you the photo.)
him gli Gli imparerò italiano (I will teach him Italian.)
her le Le comprerà i fiọri (He will buy herflowers.)
us ci Luigi ci detto la mappa (Louis gave us the map.)
you vi Giuseppe vi scrisse la lęttera (Joseph wrote you the letter.)
them gli Luigi gli disse la storia (Louis told them the history.)
The unique Italian pronoun, ne, is used as an equivalent for di questa/o/e/i, un poco di, un po’ di, alcune/i, in the sense of any, about this, of it, of them, some, some of it, or some of them. Its use follows the same rules as the indirect object pronoun.
The pronoun, ci, is often used to replace locations such as la, li, qui, qua. When used this way, it is treated as an indirect object pronoun, and its English equivalent is the word there.
The direct object, indirect object, reflexive, and double pronouns are all positioned in a sentence in the same way. Generally, they precede the main verb. When used with an infinitive, a gerund, a past participle, or a command, they follow and are attached to such verbs. In negative sentences, they precede the main verb.
Using pronouns together
When pronouns are used together (such as “Give me it.”), Italian uses the same rule as in English, namely the indirect object comes first, then the direct object. For example, Will you give me it? In this case, the pronoun me refers to the person involved in the action (the indirect object), and the pronoun it refers to the thing that will be given (the direct object). Some examples follow.
Will you give me it? Me la darà? (Me = me, and la = the thing, it)
Please, tell me it. Per favore, dica me la. (me = me, and la the thing to be told, it)
English Italian example
me me Per favore, dica me la (Please, tell me it.)
you te Te lo darò. (I will give it to you.)
her, him glie Non spedirglielo! (Don’t send it to him.)
us ce Ce la manderanno (They will send it to us.)
you ve Ve lo porterebbe (He would bring you it.)
them glie Gliela portavi (She was bringing it to them.)
The use of these forms is limited to combinations with la, le, li, lo, or ne. Generally, the use of la, le, li, lo, or ne is limited to references about things rather than persons.
When used with an infinitive, the compound pronouns follow the infinitive.
example: Voglio dartela prontamẹnte. I want to give it you promptly.
Formal speech will find the compound pronouns preceding the verbs.
example: Per favore, me la speda allo rạpido possịbile. Please send me it as soon as possible.
Informal speech is will find the compound pronouns after the verbs.
example: Spędecela. Send it to us.
When speaking informally, verbs which have only one syllable cause a doubling of the consonant of the compound pronoun, except for glie.
example: Dammelo Give me it.
but Daglielo Give it to him.
When used with gerunds (the -ingverb forms), the compound pronouns follow the gerund.
example: Spedęndocela era una buon’idea Sending it to us was a good idea.
I did it myself
There in another set of pronouns in the Italian language, which are used to express emphasis about an action, thought, or attitude. The English equivalent is the set of words which end in “self“, such myself, yourself, and so on. Expressions such as “I thought of it myself.” are examples of this form, and its usage in Italian is the same as English.
myself me stessa, me stesso
yourself te stessa, te stesso
herself sẹ stessa
himself sẹ stesso
ourself noi stesse, noi stessi
yourself voi stesse, voi stessi
themself sẹ stesse, sẹ stessi