What does “CI SI” mean in Italian?

If you have come across “ci si” in Italian and felt confused, this post is for you.

The Impersonal Form 

“Ci si” is a very peculiar form of Italian that occurs when a reflexive verb (a verb like rilassarsi, divertirsi, or annoiarsi) is used in the impersonal form.

The impersonal form is used when we want to speak generally about something in Italian and is formed by using ‘si’ + a verb conjugated in the 3rd person singular. For example:

  • In Italia si mangia bene → In Italy, one eats well or you eat well in Italy.
  • In Italia si vive bene → In Italy, you have a good life 
  • Quando si viaggia, si impara molto → When travelling, you learn a lot

Reflexive Verbs and Impersonal Forms

So, if we want to use a reflexive verb in the impersonal form and say something like “one always has fun while traveling”, we should use two “sis”: one belonging to the impersonal form and the other belonging to the 3rd person of the reflexive verb divertirsi=to have fun. Hence, we should then say something like this:

si si diverte quando si viaggia”

Why “CI SI“?

However, saying twice “si” (the first indicating the reflexive pronoun, the second one indicating the impersonal form) would result in a cacophony (a difficult/bad sound to pronounce), so we change the first “si” into “ci”.

Example: si si diverte quando si viaggia becomes ci si diverte quando si viaggia” = you have a good time, when traveling

More examples:

In viaggio in Sicilia…

  • Ci si diverte (you have fun) 
  • Ci si rilassa in spiaggia or in collina (you relax at the beach or in the hills)
  • Ci si perde tra le stradine dei centri storici (you get lost in the narrow street of the old towns)
  • Ci si gode la vita lenta  (you enjoy slow life)
  • Ci si muove in macchina o in treno  (you move around by car or train)

All the “yous” in the above sentences stand for “one does something”, which means “you” in a general sense or “we”.

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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