Time for some more grammar that I really should have learnt a decade or so ago, but somehow managed to avoid by prioritising trivia like earning a living and bringing up children.
This time, by popular request, Italian pronouns!
Given that people seem to find pronouns a confusing area, I’ll be tackling them in bite-sized chunks.
In today’s article, the first in a short series, we’ll get to grips with “direct pronouns”, that is to say pronouns which stand in for another word which is the direct object in a sentence.
What’s a direct object? Thought you’d never ask. A direct object is that part of your sentences which is “verbed”:
“Romeo loves Juliet”.
Juliet is the direct object, lucky lady, the person being “loved”.
Romeo wants HER. He needs HER, but he can’t have HER (‘cos she’s dead, and so is he.)
“HER” is the direct pronoun, useful so we don’t have to keep repeating “Juliet”.
So, how does this work in Italian? Well, take a look at some examples taken from Italian Workout! A1:
1) Vorrei un pezzo di parmigiano, vorrei il parmigiano fresco.
Vorrei un pezzo di parmigiano, lo vorrei fresco.
2) Vorrei due etti di mortadella, ma vorrei la mortadella affettata sottile.
Vorrei due etti di mortadella, ma la vorrei affettata sottile.
3) Vorrei due yogurt, vorrei gli yogurt magri.
Vorrei due yogurt, li vorrei magri.
4) Vorrei due etti di olive, vorrei le olive verdi.
Vorrei due etti di olive, le vorrei verdi.
5) Vorrei un po’ di farina, vorrei un kilo di farina,
Vorrei un po’ di farina, ne vorrei un kilo.
In these pairs, the first sentences repeat the objects (very tedious), while the second ones, which are much more natural, substitute them with direct pronouns.
If you can get your head around the masculine/feminine singular/plural mess, do it like in the second sentence and you’ll sound SO COOL!
These are the Italian direct pronouns. Tattoo them on your arm, or something:
(masc.) singular: lo – plural: li
(fem.) singular: la – plural: le
The “invariable” pronoun ‘ne’ is used when talking about the quantity of something, as in the following example:
A: Vorrei un po’ di prosciutto cotto.
B: Quanto ne vuole?
A: Due etti, per favore.
You could translate it as “of it” or “of them”, if that would help.
So, not so difficult, right? Just five pronouns to remember today: lo/li/la/le/ne. And if you can’t, just look at your arm.
But we’re not done quite yet. There’s another thing to make a mental note of:
while the direct object normally follows the verb, direct pronouns must always be put BEFORE the verb
Vorrei una bicicletta nuova.
La vorrei rossa.
More examples? Why certainly!
Ancora qualcos’altro? Della mortadella, ma la vorrei affettata sottile.
Il parmigiano fresco o stagionato? Lo preferisco piuttosto stagionato.
Sei peperoni, per cortesia. Li vuole rossi o gialli?
Compri tu le olive? Sì, le prendo verdi o nere?
Questa torta è davvero buona! Ne vorrei ancora una fetta.
Any questions, just leave a comment and we’ll find a real, live Italian person to answer them for you.
P.S. Watch out for the next in the “pronouns” series, which will be cluttering up your in-box very soon!