The Ultimate Guide to Italian Pronominal Verbs (Verbi Pronominali)

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 vadoI’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 montagnaSorry, 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 piùI’m exhausted
Me ne fregoI don’t care
Me la spassoI’m having a blast
list of Italian pronominal verbs

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

Ioce la faccio
Tuce la fai
Lui/Leice la fa
Noice la facciamo
Voice la fate
Loroce la fanno
conjugation of ‘farcela’ with the present tense

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

Iome ne vado
Tute ne vai
Lui/Leise ne va
Noice ne andiamo
Voive ne andate
Lorose ne vanno
conjugation of ‘andarsene’ with the present tense

Most common Italian pronominal verbs list 

Pronominal Verbs with ‘CI’

Entrarci conTo have to do with somethingQuesto non c’entra con la discussione.
Entrarci inTo fit in somethingQuesto vestito ci entra perfettamente.
VolerciTo take time (impersonal, no subject)Ci vuole tempo per imparare l’italiano.
MetterciTo take time (with a subject)Ci metto un’ora a cucinare la cena.
ArrivarciTo understandNon ci arrivo con questo problema.
list of Italian pronominal verbs

Pronominal Verbs with ‘NE’

Non poterne piùCan’t put up with something or someone anymoreNon ne posso più di questa situazione.

Pronominal Verbs with ‘SELA’

Sentirsela diTo have the courage to do something or to feel likeOggi non me la sento di lavorare.
Cavarsela in/aTo be good at something or at doing somethingMi cavo bene in cucina.
Prendersela conTo be irritated with someonePerché te la prendi con me?
Passarsela bene o maleTo be good or badCi siamo passati bene alla festa.
SpassarselaTo have a blastCi siamo spassati alla festa.
SbrigarselaTo sort out a situation in a short timeMe la sono sbrigata con il lavoro.
CavarselaTo come out of difficult situations easilySei bravo a cavartela nelle situazioni difficili.
TirarselaTo show offNon mi piace quando ti tiri troppo la tua bravura.
list of Italian pronominal verbs

Pronominal Verbs with ‘CELA’

Mettercela tuttaTo do one’s bestDevi mettercela tutta per vincere.
Avercela conTo be upset with someonePerché ce l’hai con me?
Italian pronominal verbs list

Pronominal Verbs with ‘SENE’

Fregarsene diTo not care about something or someoneMe ne frego di quello che pensano gli altri.
AndarseneTo go away somewhereVoglio andarmene in vacanza.
Italian pronominal verbs list

3 things you should know about the pronominal verbs

  1. 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)”.
  2. 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)”.
  3. 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 

What else?

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:

PassarselaTo fare (well/badly)Come te la passi? – How are you doing?
FregarseneNot to give a damn about somethingMe ne frego di quello che pensi. – I don’t care about what you think.
Farcela (Positive)To manage (positively)Ce la facciamo a finire questo lavoro entro oggi? – Can we manage to finish this work within today?
ArrivarciTo understand something (colloquial)Me lo puoi ripetere? Non ci arrivo. – Can you repeat it? I don’t get it.
Farcela (Negative)To be fed up, to be exhausted or to be unable to cope with somethingNon ce faccio più! – I am exhausted!
SpassarselaTo have a blastCe la siamo spassata l’altra sera. – We had a blast the other night.
Italian pronominal verbs list

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

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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