How To Use ‘CI’ and ‘NE’ in Italian

Have you been learning Italian for a while? Then, I am sure you have been faced with the quirky usage of the Italian particles ci and ne (also known as particelle pronominali, in Italian). 

And you’ve been wondering dozens of times what does ‘ci’ and ‘ne’ mean.

Maybe you have also decided to neglect ci and ne, thinking their use is not essential; but it is. Italians use ci and ne in conversations all the time, simply because they help them be more concise and convey a message faster.

That’s why mastering these two little words will take your Italian very far, in addition to making your Italian sound ten times more natural when you use them. Guaranteed.

Let’s break this topic down into simple bites for you. 

What does ‘ne’ mean?

What does ne mean? 

Ne has two meanings (and usages).

1. ‘NE’ pronominale (pronoun)

Ne pronominale is a pronoun, which means that its function is to replace something that was previously mentioned and that, in the case of the pronoun ‘ne,’ was introduced by the preposition di‘.

A common use of pronoun ‘ne’ happens in conjugation with the verb parlare.

Parlare is always followed by the preposition ‘di’ (parlare di = to talk about).

For example:

1. Parlo spesso di studio delle lingueI often talk about language learning
2. Ne parlo spessoI often talk about it
‘ne’ replaces ‘di studio delle lingue’

In sentence n. 2, the function of ‘ne’ is to replace (and not to repeat) the part ‘di studio delle lingue‘ from sentence n. 1.

That’s why, the easiest way to use ‘ne’ correctly is to memorize which verbs tend to use ‘ne’ as a pronoun. Those verbs are those that trigger the use of the preposition ‘di,” like “parlare,” and some other common verbs like in the list below.

Common verbs using the pronoun “ne”

Parlare diTo speak/talk about
Essere sicuro diTo be sure about
Avere bisogno diTo need
Avere nostalgia diTo feel nostalgia
common Italian verbs using the particle ‘ne’

All these verbs are paired with the preposition ‘di’ in Italian. Consequently, ‘ne’ can be used to replace a sentence introduced by ‘di’ after any of these verbs. This substitution helps streamline the expression and maintain clarity in communication.

Examples:

“Pensare di”

Che pensi di Maria?What do you think of Maria?
Che ne* pensi?What do you think of her?
*’ne’ is replacing ‘di Maria’

“Parlare di”

Noi parliamo di politicaWe talk about politics
Ne* parliamoWe talk about it
*’ne’ is replacing ‘di politica’

“Avere bisogno di”

Hai bisogno di una macchina?Do you need a car?
No, non ne* ho bisognoNo, I am not in need of it
*’ne’ is replacing ‘di una macchina’

“Essere sicuro di”

Sei sicuro di quello che hai detto?Are you sure about what you said?
Sì, ne* sono sicuroYes, I am sure about it
*’ne’ is replacing ‘di quello che hai detto’

In short, the Italian pronoun/particle “ne” means (and replaces) “of it” or “of them” or “about it” or “about them”.

2. Ne partitivo = some of it, some of them

The use of the ne partitivo occurs when ‘ne’ means “some of it,” “some of them,” and indicates quantities and amounts. This use of “ne” is often triggered by questions such as “Quanto (How much)” or “Quanti (How many)” or by the verb “volere” in sentences like “Vuoi del…? (Do you want some/any…).”

Examples:

Vuoi del formaggio?Do you want some cheese?
Sì, ne* voglio un po’Yes, I want some of it
*’ne’ is replacing ‘del formaggio’
Vuoi una fetta di torta?Do you want a slice of cake?
No, ne* voglio dueNo, I want two of them
*’ne’ is replacing ‘una fetta di torta’
Quanti figli hai?How many children do you have?
Ne* ho dueI have two of them
*’ne’ is replacing ‘figli’
Quante libri hai letto?How many books did you read?
Ne* ho letto unoI have read just one
*’ne’ is replacing ‘libri’

In this case “ne” indicates some of something else (some of it or some of them).

How “Ce ne sono” is different from “ci sono”?

  • Ci sono means there are 
  • Ce ne sono means there are some of them

In Italian, “ce ne sono” is used to refer to something that has already been mentioned. Usually, these sentences are used as a reply to a question starting with “Quanti/e?” and followed by “ci sono.”

  • Quante finestre ci sono in questa stanza? – how many windows are there in this room?
  • Ce ne sono tre – there are three of them 

What’s the position of ne in a sentence?

Ne usually comes before the verb (ne parlo = I speak about it), except when the verb is an imperative (order) or an infinitive.

When ne comes with an infinitive, the final -e of the verb is dropped.

  • Voglio parlarne – I want to talk about it
  • Parlane! – Talk about it! (imperative)


What does ci’ mean?

What does ci mean?

“Ci” has several different meanings and functions in Italian. Let’s explore them, one by one.

1. Ci = there, in that place, in there

Ci is also used with the meaning of “there”, when there has already been mentioned.

For example, 

Sei stato a Londra?Have you been to London?
Sì, ci* sono statoYes, I have been there
*’ci’ is replacing ‘a Londra’
Quando vai in montagna?When are you going to the mountains?
Ci* vado domenicaI’ll go there on Sunday
*’ci’ is replacing ‘in montagna’
Vai a Milano ogni venerdì?Are you going to Milan every Friday?
Sì, ci* vadoYes, I go there
*’ci’ is replacing ‘a Milano’

In the foregoing sentences, the “ci” has been used to replacing Londra, la montagna and Milano in the answers. 

2. Ci=us

Ci means also “us”, whet it has the function of direct and indirect object pronouns.

For example,

Italian SentenceEnglish Translation
Ci chiami?Can you call us?
Ci** dai una mano?Can you give us a hand?
Dicci**Tell us
*’ci’ standing for the direct object pronoun.
**’ci’ standing for the indirect object pronoun.

3. Ci = reflexive verbs 

Ci is also one of the reflexive pronouns typically used in the conjugations of reflexive verbs, with the 1st person plural (=noi).

For example,

Ci* svegliamoWe wake up
Ci* facciamo la docciaWe take a shower
Ci* rilassiamoWe relax
*’ci’ standing for the reflexive pronoun.

4. Ci =about it, on it, in it, with it 

This use of the particle ci is similar to the use of ne when followed by the preposition “di”.What is different is that ci is associated with the verbs followed by prepositions “a”, “in”, “su”, “con” (while ne is associated with verbs followed by the preposition di).

Most common verbs using the particle “ci”:

Pensare aTo think about/of
Credere in/aTo believe in
Contare suTo count on
Andare a/inTo go to
Riuscire aTo manage
Fare caso aTo notice
common Italian verbs using the particle ‘ne’

We use the particle ci to replace something that has already been mentioned in the conversation.

“Pensare a”

Pensi a Maria?Are you thinking about Maria?
Sì, ci* penso sempreYes, I always think about her
‘ci’ is replacing ‘a Maria’

“Credere in”

Credi in Dio?Do you believe in God?
Ci* credoYes, I believe in him
‘ci’ is replacing ‘in Dio’

“Contare su”

Conti su di me?Are you counting on me?
Sì, ci contoYes, I count on you
‘ci’ is replacing ‘su di me’

Smart tip

An easy way to get a good grasp of ci and ne is to memorize the recurring combinations of verbs and particles in which they appear. For example, ne is frequently associated with the verb parlare, and ci is frequently associated with the verb pensare and credere. This will save you a lot of time and frustration. 

  • Ne parliamo (we speak about it)
  • Ci penso (I’ll think about it) 
  • Ci credo (I believe it)
  • Ci vado (I’ll go there)

*For the sake of simplicity, all of the verbs have been conjugated in the first person of the present tense.

Lì or Ci?

or ci are often mixed up by students.

The reason for this is that l can also mean there. However, it has a whole different function in the sentence.

Lì (or là) is an adverb of place and not a pronoun, like “ci.”

Lì doesn’t have the function of replacing a place it has mentioned before, but it does have the function of specifying where something is.

For example,

  • Il gatto è lì = the cat is there (here, use of the adverb)
  • Vado là = I’m going over there (here, use of the adverb)
  • Ci vado = I’m going there (here, pronoun : “ci” means in that place that it was mentioned previously in the conversation)

Pronominal verbs with ‘ci’ and ‘ne’

There are a number of verbs in Italian known as “verbi pronominali” that incorporate ne, ci or both. Some examples of pronominal verbs are:

TenerciTo care/to be attached
AnderseneTo go away
RiuscirciTo manage/succeed
FarcelaTo make it/to succeed
common pronominal verbs in Italian

This a rather advanced topic. If you have a good level of Italian you can learn about the pronominal verbs in the next article. If you’re a beginner or intermediate learner, you can skip it for now.

        

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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