One of the coolest things about learning Italian or any new language is that it makes you reexamine your own language. And gives you a better understanding of how words work together.
A great example is pronouns. They’re so common that you might not even really know what a pronoun is if you’ve never learned a foreign language before.
You use pronouns almost every time you express a thought. These words that keep our sentences from being too bulky and repetitive.
So pronouns are essential for fluency in Italian of course.
But they function a little differently to pronouns in English. That's why, in this post, you'll learn about what a pronoun actually is so you can see why they're so important.
Plus I'll share 3 tips for mastering the 4 types of Italian pronoun you need to know about to get fluent in the language.
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What Are Pronouns Anyway?
First of all, let’s take a quick look at what pronouns are in English so that you can understand how they work and when to use them in Italian.
Pronouns are words that take the place of one or more nouns. You might refer to “my brother” as “him.” Or you could refer to “the picture frame” as “it.”
Likewise, you might refer to yourself as “me” or “I” instead of calling yourself by your full name in every sentence you say about yourself!
Here’s an example of how you would sound if you spoke without pronouns:
- “Griffin got a new blanket. Griffin loves the new blanket. The new blanket is soft and green.”
With the use of the pronouns “he” and “it”, you can express the same ideas in a much more streamlined fashion:
- “Griffin got a new blanket. He loves it. It is soft and green.”
Now that you understand what a pronoun is, let’s take a look at the 4 different types of pronouns in Italian.
In this post, you'll learn about:
- subject pronouns
- possessive pronouns
- direct object pronouns
- indirect object pronouns
Let’s get into it!
#1: What Are Subject Pronouns In Italian?
If you’ve been studying Italian for a while, you probably already have a good grasp on personal pronouns.
They’re the words you see every time you look at a verb conjugation chart.
- Io (I)
- Tu (you)
- Lui (he)
- Lei (she)
- Noi (we)
- Voi (you (plural))
- Loro (they)
Let’s look at an example:
- Lucrezia e Daniela vogliono mangiare la pizza (Lucrezia and Daniela want to eat pizza)
This can be shortened to:
- Loro vogliono mangiare la pizza (They want to eat pizza)
Subject pronouns at the beginning of a sentence can often be dropped because the way the verb is conjugated communicates the necessary information, like person or number.
In this case, we could just say:
- Vogliono mangiare la pizza, and it would still mean, (They want to eat pizza.)
But there are 3 cases where you must be sure not to omit the pronoun in Italian. Keep the pronoun if:
- You need it for clarity
- It gets modified with anche (also)
- You want to emphasise the subject or compare it to another subject
#2: How Do I Use Possessive Pronouns In Italian?
Next up, let’s take a look at possessive pronouns in Italian.
Possessive pronouns (pronomi possessivi) replace nouns that have been modified by possessive adjectives.
You'll notice that the chart has columns based on gender and singular vs. plural.
But, you don't chose the possessive pronoun based on the gender of the person speaking.
Rather, you choose based on the gender of the object that belongs to them. And whether it's one object or multiple.
I'm going to clarify all that for you with some examples.
Let’s say I have five books. I would refer to them as i miei libri (my books) because libro (books) is a masculine word in Italian and I have more than one of them.
Now let’s say Giovanni's talking about his mother. He would refer to her as la mia mamma (my mother) because he only has one mother and she's female.
Are you starting to get a feel for the logic of possessive pronouns? Let's try a few more examples:
- Chiara has one ring, so she she calls it, il mio anello (my ring)
- If Giovanni wants to talk about Chiara’s ring, he would call it il suo anello (her ring)
- If Chiara is talking to me about my books, she would call them i tuoi libri (your books)
This is why you need to learn, not only the spelling, pronunciation and meaning of a new word in Italian, but also its gender.
#3: What Are Direct Object Pronouns In Italian?
Now it's time to look at direct object pronouns which substitute the name of a person or object.
They are always paired with transitive verbs, which are verbs the are followed by an object like:
- capire (to understand)
- mangiare (to eat)
- scrivere (to write)
- rompere (to break)
The Italian direct object pronouns are as follows:
- Mi (me)
- Ti (you)
- Lo (him/it)
- La (her/it)
- Ci (us)
- Vi (you (plural))
- Li (them (masc.))
- Le (them (fem.))
You might use a direct object pronoun in many different cases. Let’s say your classmate asks you if you know one of her friends.
- Conosci Giacomo? (Do you know Giacomo?)
You could respond:
- No, non lo conosco (No, I don’t know him)
You use the direct object pronoun in the everyday phrase, “Ci vediamo.” It means “See you later,” but the direct translation is more along the lines of, “We will see us (each other).”
#4: What About Indirect Object Pronouns In Italian?
Last but not least, let’s spend a few moments with indirect object pronouns. Some of these are the same words we use as direct object pronouns.
But there're also some that are different. And they're all used in a different manner.
The indirect object is the person or thing that something is done to or for.
In the sentence, “I bought Molly a bouquet of flowers,” the bouquet of flowers would be the direct object because it's what you bought. And the indirect object would be Molly because she is the person you bought the flowers for.
This is an important distinction – you did not buy Molly!
Indirect object pronouns are as follows:
- Mi (to/for me)
- Ti (to/for you)
- Gli (to/for him or it (masc.))
- Le (to/for her or it (fem.))
- Ci (to/for us)
- Vi (to/for you (plural))
- Loro (to/for them)
Let’s look at a few examples. The indirect object pronouns are in bold in the following sentences. You'll notice that in English, the correlating phrase is placed at the end of the sentence whereas in Italian it's positioned in the middle of the sentence.
- L’insegnante mi ha spiegato la storia (The teacher explained the story to me)
- Federica ti ha portato un regalo (Federica brought a gift for you)
- Gli spiegherò l’idea (I will explain the idea to him)
- Paolo le sta dicendo qualcosa (Paolo is saying something to her)
3 Tips For Learning Italian Pronouns
Pronouns are short words, usually only two or three letters. But using them correctly will make a HUGE difference in your level of fluency in Italian.
Here are 3 to help you master Italian pronouns.
Tip 1 Be Patient With Yourself
Since these words are all so similar, it takes a while to really master them.
Don’t give up if they don’t stick in your mind as fast as you expect them to. You’ll get there eventually as long as you keep at it. And especially if you follow my third step.
Tip 2 Practice Makes Perfect With Pronouns
You can easily avoid using pronouns if you always say the full word instead. But if you do this, you’ll never learn.
You have to practice to get good at Italian pronouns. And this means you might make some mistakes. They're worth it because they help you learn.
Use these words in your conversations in Italian, so that you get used to using them in real life. You'll be easier to understand and you'll sound more natural.
Tip 3 Exposure To Italian Is The Key To Mastering Italian Pronouns
Did you follow my Italian project? I set myself the 3-month challenge of learning Italian in London through exposure to the language. And without speaking during month one.
I'm a big believer in learning languages through story. So that's why, during my project, I got lots of input through story in Italian especially. And other compelling Italian resources like podcasts or blogs.
And what happened? Well, I managed to start speaking Italian after a month. It was far from perfect of course. But instead of poring over grammar books and getting myself stressed about the grammar, I let it come naturally, through input.
And you can do that too!
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In this way, you can master the 5 core areas of Italian grammar you need for fluent communication, like direct and indirect object pronouns.
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