This lesson is on Italian pronouns, a must-know topic for all Italian learners! Imagine if every time you wanted to refer to an object you had to give it's full name...
"Maria's new Aston Martin DB5 is wonderful. The Aston Martin DB5 handles like an dream, and the Aston Martin DB5 can hit 60mph in just 3 seconds. Maria loves the Aston Martin DB5."
See how clumsy and long that is?
Well, that's where pronouns come in.
With pronouns you only need to use the object's actual name once; and subject's not at all! From then on you can use pronouns like I, my, and it instead...
"My new Aston Martin DB5 is wonderful. It handles like a dream, and it can hit 60mph in just 3 seconds. I love it."
Pronouns are words that are used in place of a noun. They can be the subject, the object, or complement. There are different kinds of Italian pronouns, which we look at below.
How to pronounce Italian Pronouns
Here are the Italian subject pronouns to get you started. Further on in this lesson we will look at the pronunciation of these and many other categories of pronouns.
- Io - I
- Tu - you
- Lui - he
- Lei - she
- Noi - we
- Voi - you
- Loro - they
1. Personal pronouns
- personal subject pronouns, which are used in place of the subject
- personal direct pronouns, used in place of the object
- personal indirect pronouns, used in place of the complement
- reflexive pronouns, in connection with the reflexive verbs.
2. Possessive pronouns
Possessive pronouns, that indicate the possession; they have the same form of the adjective possessive: mio, tuo,suo, nostro, vostro, loro, proprio. La casa è mia - The house is mine
3. Demonstrative pronouns
Demonstrative pronouns, which show the position in the space and in the time. Questo, quello - This, that. Quella casa è mia. - That house is mine.
4. Indefinite pronouns
Indefinite pronouns, that don't specify the identity of the person or of the object. Qualcuno ha chiamato - Someone called.
5. Relative pronouns
Relative pronouns, which relate more propositions. La casa, che (la quale) hai comprato, è mia. The house, that you bought, is mine
6. And, finally, Interrogative pronouns
Interrogative pronouns, that introduce questions: chi - who, che - what, quale - which, quanto - how much. Chi è lui? - Who is he?
More about Italian Personal Pronouns
1. Italian Personal Subject Pronouns:
In Italian there are 7 personal subject pronouns: 4 for the singular, 3 for the plural. Personal subject pronouns are usually dropped as the conjugation is usually enough to determine the grammatical person. They are used when some emphasis is needed or if the subject remains not clear.
2. Italian Direct Object Pronouns
Direct object pronouns are pronouns that directly receive the action of the verb. They answer the question What? or Whom? In Italian there are two kinds of direct object pronouns, according with the presence or not of the accent. While the position of the pronouns with accent is flexible, the ones without accent are always before the verb.
IMPORTANT: In a negative sentence, the word non must be used before the object pronoun.
Pronunciation of Direct Object Pronouns
3. Italian Indirect Object Pronouns
Indirect object pronouns answer the question To whom? or For whom? Just like the Direct Object Pronoun, we have two different forms, depending on the presence or not of the accent. While the position of the pronouns with accent is flexible, the pronouns without accent are always before the verb.
Paola pensa a me / Paola mi pensa - Paolo thinks of me
Pronunciation of Indirect Object Pronouns
4. Italian Reflexive pronouns
Reflexive pronouns are used in connection with reflexive verbs, in which the action reflects itself on the subject, e.g. lavarsi = lavare + si - to wash himself. In the infinitive, the reflexive pronoun is added at the end of the word (for ex. lavare + si - lavarsi), while in the conjugated forms it is always before the verb, except with the modal verbs; in that case it could be also added at the ending of the depending infinitive verb.
Mi voglio lavare - I want to wash myself, but also: Voglio lavarmi
Lavarsi - to wash himself
Nascondersi, to hide himself
Vestirsi, to dress himself
Formal and Informal
In Italian speech it's really important to distinguish between formal and informal situations. The pronoun you in an informal situation is translated with the 2nd person tu, but, when we have to address strangers, acquaintances, older people, or people in authority we use the third feminine person Lei always capitalizing the first letter. The verb will also be the third person singular.
Rarely, we also find the second person plural form, voi, with the same meaning. However, in modern Italian it is just used to refer to very important people, like the Pope or the President. The use of the third person plural Loro as a polite plural form is extremely rare and not generally in use.
Italian pronouns summary
- Personal pronouns substitute without repeating the common or proper nouns. They can be divided in personal subject pronouns, personal direct pronouns, personal indirect pronouns and reflexive pronouns
- Possessive pronouns indicate possession
- Demonstrative pronouns show position in space and time
- Indefinite pronouns, are used when we don't need to specify the identity of the person or object
- Relative pronouns relate more propositions
- Interrogative pronouns introduce questions
- Direct and indirect pronouns have two forms, according to the position they have in the sentence
- Reflexive pronouns are always used in connection with a reflexive verb
- Formal and informal is not a matter of tradition in Italy, but an important form of respect. Never say tu, you, to your boss or an old man!