A few days ago I asked on my Facebook Page a simple question: what the biggest struggle when learning Italian was, and I was not surprised to read that many answered “the Italian pronouns”

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word like you, her, him, them, that we use to see who is affected by the action of the verb.

There two types of pronouns in Italian, direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns

What makes indirect pronouns different from direct pronouns?

Direct pronouns answer to questions what or whom

Indirect pronouns answer to the questions to whom or for whom

Examples of direct pronouns
  • La mangio sempre – I often eat it
  • Li chiamo sempre – I always call them
  • L’ho cucinato oggi – I cooked it today
Examples of indirect pronouns
  • Le mando una mail – I send her an email
  • Ti voglio bene – I love you
  • Gli telefono tutti i giorni – I call them every day

The best thing to get the hang of the Italian pronouns is, of course, to practise them as if there was no tomorrow! 

But first of all, I want to introduce indirect pronouns

Mi – to me / for me
Ti – to you / for you (familiar singular)
Gli – to him/ for him
Le – to her / for her (polite singular)
Ci – to us / for us
Vi – to you / for you (plural)
Gli – to them / for them

Examples of verbs that use an indirect object pronoun in Italian

Dire -to say / to tell
Dare – to give
Chiedere – to ask
Telefonare – to phone
Scrivere – to write
Offrire – to offer
Insegnare – to teach
Mandare – to send
Prestare – to land
Rispondere – to answer

Examples of usage

  • Ho detto a Luisa di comprare il pane – I said to Luisa to buy some bread  
  • Le ho detto di comprare il pane – I said to her to buy some bread


  • Ho prestato la bicicletta a te la settimana scorso – I lend the bike to you last week
  • Ti ho prestato la bici la settimana scorso – I lend you the bike last week


  • Ho telefonato a Lucia e Michele – I phoned (to) Lucia e Michele
  • Gli ho telefonato – I phoned them


  • Scrivi sempre a Marco? – Do you write often to Marco?
  • Gli scrivi sempre? – Do you write to him often?

Things you need to know about indirect object pronouns
  • Unlike English, the indirect object pronouns usually precede the verb
  • The indirect pronouns are used with intransitive verbs 
  • The verbs like piacere,such as,  interessare, succedere, sembrare, servire, bastare use the indirect object pronouns
  • The indirect pronoun is attached at the end of the verb in its infinitive, gerund and imperative from

Some verbs that answer to the questions what and whom in English, respond to the questions for whom or to whom in Italian, and this is where it gets tricky.

The rule of thumb is consulting a dictionary to see if the verb needs a direct or indirect pronoun.

Some examples

Insegnare in English is to teach someone, while in Italian is insegnare a qualcuno, that is to say, to teach to someone.
As a result, the correct Italian pronoun to use is the indirect one.

  • Maria insegna italiano agli studenti americani – Maria gli insegna l’italiano

The same occurs with the verb “phone/call”. In English one calls someone but in Italian “qualcuno telefona a qualcuno”, that is to say, that one calls to someone

  • Marta telefona a Lucia  – Marta calls Lucia
  • Marta le telefona – Marta calls her