How To Use ” CI” and “NE”
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 how to use ci and how to use ne.
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.
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 / I’ll give it a go
- 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.
How to use “Ne”
What does ne mean?
The “ne”, in Italian, has a number of different meanings.
Let’s explore them one by one.
NE: of/about it or of/about them
Ne is nothing but a pronoun, which means that its function is to replace of sentences introduced by di.
A typical examples is the verb parlare. Parlare is always followed by the preposition di.
Parlare di = talk/speak about
Parlo spesso di studio delle lingue = I often talk about language learning
Ne parlo spesso = I often talk about it
The “ne” in the above examples replaces “about language learning = di studio delle lingue)
As previously mentioned, the best way to master the correct usage of ci and ne is through the context, or in combination with a verb. And so, the easiest way to use ne correctly is to memorize the verbs that use ne as a pronoun.
The most common verbs using the pronoun ne are
- Parlare di – to speak/talk about
- Essere sicuro di – to be sure about
- Avere bisogno di – to need
- Avere nostalgia di – to feel nostalgic
As you can see, all these verbs trigger the preposition di. That’s why we can say that “ne” can replace a sentence introduced by “di” after one of these verbs.
In other words, we can say that…
The particle ne replaces the combination of di + something (complemento di specificazione, in Italian) when you don’t want to repeat something that has already been mentioned.
- Che pensi di Maria? – What do you think of Maria?
- Che ne pensi? – What do you think of her?
- Noi parliamo di politica– We talk about politics
- Ne parliamo – We talk about it
- Hai bisogno di una macchina per andare a lavoro? – Do you need a car to go to work?
- No, non ne ho bisogno – No, I am not in need of it
- Sei sicuro di quello che hai detto? – Are you sure about what you said?
- Sì, ne sono sicuro – Yes, I am sure about it
In a nutshell, the Italian pronoun/particle “ne” means (and replaces) of it/of them or about it/them.
NE: some of it, some of them
There’s a second usage of the particle ne and it occurs when ne indicates quantities and amounts. In this case, ne means some of something which was previously mentioned.
- Vuoi del formaggio? – Do you want some cheese?
- Si ne voglio un po’ – I want some of it
- Vuoi un pezzo di torta? – Do you want a piece of cake?
- No, ne voglio due – I want two of them
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
You are using ce ne sono in Italian, to refer to something that has already been mentioned. Usually, these sentences are used as a reply to a question starting with Quanti/e?
- 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)
How to use “CI”
What does ci mean?
CI: about it, on it, in it, with it
The use of the particle ci is similar to the use of ne. 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).
The most common verbs using the particle ci are:
- Pensare a – to think about/of
- Credere in/a – to believe in
- Contare su – to count on
- Andare a/in – to go to
- Riuscire a – to manage
- Fare caso a – to notice
We use the particle ci to replace something that has already been mentioned in the conversation.
- Pensi a Maria? – Are you thinking about Maria?
- Sì, ci penso sempre – Yes, I always think about her
- Credi in Dio? – Do you believe in God?
- Ci credo – Yes, I believe in him
- Conti su di me? – Are you counting on me?
- Sì, ci conto – Yes, I count on you
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 stato – Yes, I have been there
- Quando vai in montagna? – When are going to the mountains?
- Ci vado domenica – I’ll go there on Sunday
- Vai a Milano ogni venerdì? – Are you going to Milan every Friday?
- Sì, ci vado – Yes, I go there
In the foregoing sentences, the “ci” has been used to replacing Londra, la montagna and Milano in the answers.
Ci means also “us”, whet it has the function of direct and indirect object pronouns.
- Ci chiami? – Can you call us?
- Ci dai una mano? – Can you give us a hand?
- Dicci – Tell us
Ci with reflexive verbs
Ci is also one of the reflexive pronouns typically used in the conjugations of reflexive verbs, with the 1st person plural (=noi).
- ci svegliamo = we wake up
- ci facciamo la doccia = we take a shower
- ci rilassiamo = we relax
Lì vs. Ci
Lì 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.
- 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 & 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:
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.