THE ITALIAN OBJECT PRONOUNS
What’s a pronoun?
Pronouns are parts of speech replacing something that has already been said and we don’t want to repeat.
Because of its nature, pronouns are widely used in conversation, as they allow us to be faster and be more concise when speaking.
Italian has many pronouns, just like English.
For instance, in the sentence, I know it, “it” represents a pronoun replacing something that was already mentioned.
What’s a direct object pronoun?
Italian has direct and indirect pronouns.
The direct pronouns are the ones that replace a direct object.
A direct object is something answering the question what? or who?
- Vuoi il caffè? Sì, lo voglio → Do you want some coffee? Yes, I want it
The word caffè is a direct object, as it answers the question what?, therefore the pronoun to be used must be a direct (object) pronoun.
The Italian direct objects
Pronouns can be used in statements, questions and answers.
Pay attention to the use of mi,ti,ci,vi in questions. Have a look at the example to understand their usage in questions and answers.
- Mi vedi? Sì, ti vedo (do you see me? Yes I see you)
- Ci vedi? Sì, vi vedo (do you see us? Yes, I see you (all)
- Mi sentite? No, non ti sentiamo (do you all hear me No, we don’t hear you)
- Ci sentite? No, non vi sentiamo (do you all hear us? No, we don’t hear you all)
Stressed vs unstressed direct pronouns
The Italian makes the difference between the stressed forms and the unstressed forms (see the table below). The letter emphasizes the pronoun or stress contrast and typically comes after the verb or prepositions.
The stressed forms are typically used with prepositions.
- Parlo con te → I am speaking with you
- Vieni con noi?→ Are you coming with us?
- Mangio da te → I am eating at your house
Stressed and unstressed pronouns are not interchangeable and English speakers should tend to use the unstressed forms, generally and the stressed forms only after prepositions, like in the sentences above.
The direct pronouns in the passato prossimo
Something interesting happens when the direct object pronouns are coupled with the passato prossimo. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples:
- Ho preparato un dolce – l’ho preparato (object: masculine singular)
- Ho preparato una torta – l’ho preparata (object: feminine singular)
- Ho preparato gli spaghetti – li ho preparati (object: masculine plural)
- Ho preparato le tagliatelle – le ho preparate (object: feminine plural)
As you can see from the above examples, the end of the past particle is changing and agreeing with the gender and number of the replacing object.
You should also notice that the singular direct object pronoun always uses the apostrophe. The apostrophe is never used for plural forms.
What’s the position of the direct object pronoun?
The general rule is that the pronouns always precede the conjugated verbs.
However, there are a few expectations of the general rule.
The direct pronouns and the modal verbs
With the modal verbs (dovere, potere, volere), the direct pronouns can take two different places: either before the modal verbs or at the end of the infinite following the modal verbs, after dropping the last “e” of the infinitive.
Let’s see it in practice.
- Lo voglio vedere – voglio vederlo – I want to see it
- Ti posso chiamare? – posso chiamarti? – Can I call you?
- Ci vogliamo trasferire – vogliamo trasferirci – We want to move
Either way works perfectly in Italian, and there is no preference between the two forms. Italian use both equally.
The direct pronouns and the infinitive
Another exception concerns the infinitive verbs. When a verb is not conjugated, the direct pronouns are joined into the end of the infinitive after dropping the last “e.” The typical example is with modal verbs or with unconjugated verbs used after a preposition.
- Ho bisogno di ripeterlo – I need to repeat it
- Ho finito di leggerlo – I finished reading it
- Ho cominciato a studiarlo – I started studying it
The direct pronouns and the imperative
Informal imperative: the pronoun goes at the back of the verb → mangialo! (eat it)
Negative informal imperative: two possibilities, either before or at end of the verb → non lo mangiare / non mangiarlo (don’t eat it)
Formal imperative: the pronoun goes in front of the imperative → lo mangi (eat it)
Negative formal imperative: the pronoun goes in front of the verb → non lo mangi (don’t eat t)