How To Use the Particles “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 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.
How to Use “NE”
What does ne mean?
“Ne“, in Italian, has two main meanings.
1. the “NE pronominale”
The “ne pronominale” is simply 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 typical example is the verb “parlare.” “Parlare” is always followed by the preposition “di.”
“Parlare di” means “talk/speak about.”
- Parlo spesso di studio delle lingue (I often talk about language learning)
- Ne parlo spesso (I often talk about it)
In sentence number 2, the function of “ne” is to replace the part “di studio delle lingue” from sentence number 1.
That’s why the easiest way to use “ne” correctly is to memorize which verbs tend to use “ne” as a pronoun. These verbs are those that are followed by the preposition “di,” like “parlare,” and some other common verbs like in the list below.
Common verbs using the pronoun “ne”.
- Parlare di – to speak/talk about
- Essere sicuro di – to be sure about
- Avere bisogno di – to need
- Avere nostalgia di – to feel nostalgia
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 any of these verbs.
Examples that illustrate the use of the “ne pronominale” .
- 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 short, the Italian pronoun/particle “ne” means (and replaces) “of it” or “of them” or “about it” or “about them”.
2. The “NE partitivo”
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…).”
- Vuoi del formaggio? (Do you want some cheese?)/ Sì, 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)
- Quanti figli hai? (How many sons do you have?) / Ne ho due ( I have two of them)
- Quante libri hai letto? (How many books did you read) / Ne ho letto uno (I have read just one)
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)
How to Use “CI”
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 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
3. 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
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 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
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 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.
Having a hard time with Italian pronouns? These textbooks might be useful.
October 23, 2020 @ 9:32 am
Hallo, At the top of thr page re ‘ne’ and ‘ci’ I read that ‘ci’ ‘often appears in combination with pensare’ And yet one of the first examples is ‘Che pensi di Maria? Che ne pensi?’ Then later I read ‘Pensi a Maria? Ci pensi’. The important difference seems to be between ‘pensare di and pensare a. It’s very tricky stuff. Ciao! Mike
October 23, 2020 @ 1:52 pm
“Pensare di” and “pensare a” have different meaning and so you should opt for the correct pronoun CI/NE accordingly.
Penso a Maria = Ci penso
Cosa pensi di Maria = Cosa ne pensi?
Happy to help
September 16, 2022 @ 5:29 am
This is a really coherent explanation that makes me think there is some sense to how Italian is structured. Brava!
May 6, 2023 @ 9:12 pm
Grazie per una spiegazione molto chiara.