We are going to study how combining Italian direct and indirect pronouns will simplify the Italian language and complicate your life as a foreign student.
Italian direct and indirect pronouns are combined together when we already know the direct and indirect object in a sentence.
INDIRECT: MI, TI, GLI, CI, VI and the reflexive pronoun SI (TO ME, TO YOU, TO HIM/TO THEM, TO US, TO YOU PLURAL)
Let’s imagine a dialogue between two young friends. Mario wants to know if Luigi’s father can lend them his car.
- Mario: “Hai chiesto a tuo padre se ci presta la sua macchina?” Did you ask your father if he will lend us his car?
- Luigi: “Glielo ho chiesto ma non ce la dà” I asked (it to) him, but he’s not giving it to us.
Luigi’s answer has all the elements for describing how Italian direct and indirect pronouns can be combined together to avoid redundant elements in a discussion. Let’s analyse how he uses them. I hope the English translations will make sense even when they are literal (not correct in English).
- I asked (it to) him GLIELO ➜ GLI + LO = GLI means A LUI, to his father; LO stands for asking your father the question
- CE LA ➜ CE means A NOI , to us and LA takes place of “la macchina”, it, the car.
Looking at the blackboard, we can observe some changes: MI TI SI CI and VI when combined with direct pronouns become ME TE SE CE and VE.
- Mi dai le forbici? ➜ ME LE dai? Can you give me the scissors? Can you give them to me?
- Ti presento una mia amica ➜ TE LA presento – Let me introduce her to you
- Giulia si lava la faccia ➜ SE LA lava – Giulia washes it (the face) herself (reflexive SI)
- La mamma ci ha detto di tornare a casa ➜ CE LO ha detto – She said it to us
- Vi do dei biscotti ➜ VE LI do – I give them to you
An important note about GLI: it merges with direct pronouns forming complex compound pronouns.
- Oggi compro a Maria delle scarpe nuove ➜ GLIELE compro – I buy them (fem) to her
We are not very fond of rules, but grammar is all about them! So please remember that Italian direct and indirect pronouns, with indicativo, congiuntivo and condizonale tenses come always BEFORE the verb and are separate:
- Te lo dico io. Se non te lo dicessi io, te lo direbbe qualcun altro. – I say it to you. If i didn’t say it to you someone lese would say it to you
We already observed the “odd” behaviour of Italian direct and indirect pronouns with infinito, imperativo and gerundio. They always come after the verb and merge with it. The same happens when pronouns are combined together.
- Non posso tenervelo segreto, devo dirvelo – I cant keep it secret to you. I have to say it to you
- Mario, devi dare 10 euro a Carlo. Daglieli
- Non sapevo cosa fare. Parlandotene, mi sono tolto un peso
This topic is particularly hard to digest if your native language has simpler pronouns. Please remember that Italians use pronouns a lot and learning them correctly will help to speak fluently. Please take some time for completing the quiz about today’s topic.