What ‘s a pronominal verb in Italian?
A pronominal verb is a type of verb in which a pronoun is used as an integral part of the verb. In Italian, a pronominal verb is a combination of a basic verb and one or more pronouns, which together create a new verb with a different meaning than the basic verb alone. For example, let’s take the verb “andare” which means “to go”. If we add the pronouns “si” and “ne” to “andare”, we create the pronominal verb “andarsene” which means “to go away” or “to leave”.
|Me ne vado
|I’m leaving, I’m going away
The pronouns attached to the infinitive of the verbs slightly or entirely change the original meaning of the verb. For example, the verb “sentire” means “to hear” in Italian. But if you add the reflexive pronouns “si” and “la” to it, as in “sentirsela”, it becomes “to feel like” or “to have the courage of doing something”.
|Scusa, ma non me la sento di scalare quella montagna
|Sorry, but I don’t feel like climbing that mountain
Pronominal verbs are vastly used in conversational Italian, especially in everyday speech and informal situations. As with any language, it’s important to be aware of context and the level of formality when using pronominal verbs in Italian.
Examples of pronominal verbs used in Italian slang.
|Non ce le faccio più
|Me ne frego
|I don’t care
|Me la spasso
|I’m having a blast
How to conjugate a pronominal verb in Italian
Pronominal verbs are easy to conjugate, yes they are. When conjugating pronominal verbs in Italian, it’s important to separate the pronouns from the infinitive form of the verb. After doing so, you can conjugate the verb as you normally would, placing the pronouns before the verb. For example, let’s take the verb “andarsene”. To conjugate it, separate the pronouns from the infinitive (in this case, “se” and “ne”), and then conjugate the verb “andare” as you normally would, placing the pronoun before the verb.
FARCELA (to manage) = FAR(E) + CE + LA
|ce la faccio
|ce la fai
|ce la fa
|ce la facciamo
|ce la fate
|ce la fanno
In the conjugation of pronominal verbs, the attached pronouns ce, ne, la do not change. However, when it comes to the pronominal verbs incorporating “se” onto the infinitive (e.g., sentirsela, bersela, andarsene), you will need to decline the “se”, which stands for the reflexive pronoun, into me, te, se, ce, ve, se. Like in the verb “andarsene”
ANDARSENE (to leave, to go away) = ANDAR(E) + SI + NE
|me ne vado
|te ne vai
|se ne va
|ce ne andiamo
|ve ne andate
|se ne vanno
Most common Italian pronominal verbs list
Pronominal Verbs with ‘CI’
|To have to do with something
|Questo non c’entra con la discussione.
|To fit in something
|Questo vestito ci entra perfettamente.
|To take time (impersonal, no subject)
|Ci vuole tempo per imparare l’italiano.
|To take time (with a subject)
|Ci metto un’ora a cucinare la cena.
|Non ci arrivo con questo problema.
Pronominal Verbs with ‘NE’
|Non poterne più
|Can’t put up with something or someone anymore
|Non ne posso più di questa situazione.
Pronominal Verbs with ‘SELA’
|To have the courage to do something or to feel like
|Oggi non me la sento di lavorare.
|To be good at something or at doing something
|Mi cavo bene in cucina.
|To be irritated with someone
|Perché te la prendi con me?
|Passarsela bene o male
|To be good or bad
|Ci siamo passati bene alla festa.
|To have a blast
|Ci siamo spassati alla festa.
|To sort out a situation in a short time
|Me la sono sbrigata con il lavoro.
|To come out of difficult situations easily
|Sei bravo a cavartela nelle situazioni difficili.
|To show off
|Non mi piace quando ti tiri troppo la tua bravura.
Pronominal Verbs with ‘CELA’
|To do one’s best
|Devi mettercela tutta per vincere.
|To be upset with someone
|Perché ce l’hai con me?
Pronominal Verbs with ‘SENE’
|To not care about something or someone
|Me ne frego di quello che pensano gli altri.
|To go away somewhere
|Voglio andarmene in vacanza.
3 things you should know about the pronominal verbs
- In Italian, pronominal verbs that end in “-sela” or “-sene” always require the auxiliary verb “essere” in compound tenses. Consequently, the past participle agrees with the pronoun or subject, as shown in the following examples. For example “Non me la sono sentita (agreement with the feminine pronoun la)” or “Me ne sono andata (agreement with the feminine subject)”.
- If the pronominal verb ends in -ci, -ne, -cela, -cena the auxiliary verb to use in compound tenses is ‘avere‘. For example, “non ce l’ho fatta (agreement with the feminine pronoun la)” or “me la sono presa (agreement with the feminine pronoun la)”.
- Some verbs are always matched with fixed prepositions, for example:
- Farcela a – to manage
- Sentirsela di – to have the courage to do something
- Avercela con – to be upset with someone
- Riuscire a – to be able to
- Smetterla di – to stop doing something
Pronominal verbs are commonly used in informal and colloquial Italian speech. Using them can make your Italian sound more natural. Here are a few examples of colloquial Italian sentences that use pronominal verbs:
|To fare (well/badly)
|Come te la passi? – How are you doing?
|Not to give a damn about something
|Me ne frego di quello che pensi. – I don’t care about what you think.
|To manage (positively)
|Ce la facciamo a finire questo lavoro entro oggi? – Can we manage to finish this work within today?
|To understand something (colloquial)
|Me lo puoi ripetere? Non ci arrivo. – Can you repeat it? I don’t get it.
|To be fed up, to be exhausted or to be unable to cope with something
|Non ce faccio più! – I am exhausted!
|To have a blast
|Ce la siamo spassata l’altra sera. – We had a blast the other night.
Italian pronominal verbs and the imperative tense
When using the imperative tense to give commands or advice in Italian, a general rule of thumb is to place the pronouns after the verb and attach them to it.
- Smettila! – Enough!
- Metticela tutta! – Do your best!
- Vattene! – Go away!
- Non andartene! – Don’t go!
- Non avercela con me! – Don’t be mad at me!
What’s the most effective to learn Pronominal Verbs in Italian?
The most effective way to learn how to use Italian pronominal verbs is through a technique called “shadowing“. How does it work? First, it’s important to understand how they work and how to conjugate them correctly. Once you have a good grasp of the grammar, you’ll start listening for pronominal verbs in natural Italian conversations or reading them in context. Since many pronominal verbs don’t have a direct translation and are highly contextual, the best way to learn them is by observing how native speakers use them in different situations. In other words, learning with visual and contextual examples can be very beneficial