THE ITALIAN INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS
Pronouns is one of the most challenging topics in Italian grammar. Having a solid knowledge of the Italian pronouns will help you speak better Italian and improve your Italian listening skills. You should know that Italians use pronouns all the time to avoid repeating things and be concise, typically in a conversation.
What is a pronoun?
A pronoun is a word like you, her, him, them, that we use to see who is affected by the verb’s action.
There two types of pronouns in Italian, direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns
What makes indirect pronouns different from direct pronouns?
The direct pronouns answer to questions what or whom
The indirect pronouns answer 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 indirect object 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
How do you know where to use indirect object pronouns instead of the direct object pronoun in Italian?
The best way to go is to memorize the verbs that typically use indirect pronouns. It is really a matter of memory (and practice!).
This is a list of high-frequency verbs using the indirect object pronouns.
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
Memorizing the above list should help you remember that the correct pronouns to use with, saying, “RISPONDERE”, are indirect.
“I answer her” should be le rispondo (not la!)
“I answer him” should be gli rispondo (not lo!)
- 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 lent 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?
You should also know that…
- 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 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.
“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 “someone calls to someone “.
- Marta telefona a Lucia – Marta calls Lucia
- Marta le telefona – Marta calls her