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Today we’re looking at the grand difference between direct & indirect object pronouns, which are two topics that have been giving me hell in Italian for as long as I can remember.
I imagine them as the ninjas of the language because they’re so small, easy to miss in conversation, and stealthy.
I pronomi diretti (direct object pronouns) are these 4 two-letter ninjas:
— Lo (masculine)
— La (feminine)
— Li (masculine plural)
— Le (feminine plural)
*Don’t know what the difference between masculine and feminine nouns are? Read this post to find out.
These are their 2 purposes:
– They answer the questions ‘What?’ and ‘Whom?’
– They replace the nouns that answer those 2 questions to make conversation more fluid & smooth.
As much as they torment me, they’re pretty useful in conversation.
How many times do you want to say a noun over and over again when you’ve already referenced it once?
Then you just sound repetitive and silly.
For example, in English:
Person 1: I went to the museum yesterday. When I went to the museum, it was fun. At the museum, I saw three pictures. The pictures were great. The pictures had people in them.
Person 1 revised with I pronomi diretti: I went to the museum yesterday. When I went there, it was fun. I saw three pictures there. They were great. They had people in them.
The second example has more of a natural fluidity to it. Hence the important of I pronomi diretti has been displayed.
Let’s dive deeper into how to use them in Italian.
1.) When using I pronomi diretti, they ALWAYS go before verb that’s being conjugated.
– Chiami il cameriere?
– No, non lo chiamo. Or Sì, lo chiamo.
Chiamo is the conjugated verb, and lo (il cameriere) is the direct-object pronoun.
*Note that when ‘non’ is used to show the negative, it goes BEFORE the direct-object pronoun.
2.) Combine the direct-object pronoun (i pronomi diretti) with the next word if it starts with a vowel or the letter ‘h’.
— Inviti Alessandro?
— Sì, l’invito.
*It’s still before the conjugated verb & an apostrophe is used to show that it’s been shorted. Unfortunately, this rule isn’t set in stone (sigh, what is in life?), so you’ll learn the exceptions as we go.
— Apro la porta. –> L’apro.
— Prendo le fragole dal frigo –> Le prendo dal frigo.
— I take the strawberries from the fridge –> I take them from the fridge.
3.) Tack them on the end of the full verb.
I haven’t been completely honest with you. Those 4 up there are the i pronomi diretti, but that’s not all. There are four more.
Here are they are:
— mi (me – first person singular)
— ti (you – second person singular)
— ci (us – first person plural)
— vi (you – second person plural and formal)
Not so bad, right?
Here are some more examples:
1.) — Dobbiamo chiamare Leonardo? (Should we call Leonardo?)
–Sì, dobbiamo chiamarlo. (Yes, we should call him.)
*First you take away the ‘e’ at the end of the infinitive.
Then you add the ‘lo’ because Leonardo is masculine.
*Exception to the rule!
With the verbs potere, volere, dovere & sapere, i pronomi diretti can go before the conjugated verb or tacked onto the end of the infinitive.
2.) Non ti posso vedere –> Non posso vederti
3.) Vi posso vedere? –> Posso vedervi?
The expression ‘ecco’ or ‘Here’, ‘There’, ‘Here you are’, ‘There you are’, and ‘That’s what I meant’, which are all used ALL OF THE TIME in Italy.
Eccola – Here she is! There she is!
Eccomi – Here I am!
CPF (cocktail party fact): The expression ‘ecco fatto’ means ‘That’s done!’, ‘That’s it!’ or ‘That’s that!’
Hey! We’re halfway through.
First, congratulate yourself on finishing the direct object pronouns portion of this post.
You can come back later, read this funny post for a quick break, or continue on to learning about indirect object pronouns if you want to challenge yourself a little bit.
Indirect Object Pronouns (i pronomi indiretti)
Here’s the secret.
Well, not really a secret.
But, here’s the grand difference between i pronomi diretti and i pronomi indiretti.
1.) While i pronomi diretti answer the questions ‘What?’ or ‘Whom?’, i pronomi indiretti show TO whom an action is affecting.
Like I’m writing a letter to Sara.
Or I am speaking to him.
— Sto scrivendo una lettera a Sara –> Le sto scrivendo una lettera.
— Gli sto parlando. –> I am talking to him.
— Ti posso parlare? (May I speak to you?) –> Posso parlarti?
2.) The 2-letter ninjas are different! Now, they’re 3-letter & 4-letter, too!
— gli (gli is the third person masculine + should not be confused with the last one on this list)
— gli or loro (gli is used far more often, but loro is grammatically correct. With loro, you have to put it after the conjugated verb)
*CPF: You’ll see a ton of books that capitalize ‘Le’ and ‘Loro’ when it’s formal. There really is no reason for it besides them wanting to be clear about what’s formal and informal.
Note that the differences between i pronomi diretti & i pronomi indiretti are in:
lo –> gli
la –> le
li/le –> gli/loro
3.) Indirect object pronouns are used for verbs that have to do with giving.
These are verbs like: to give (dare), to offer (offrire), to send (mandare), to deliver (portare), to gift (regalare), to return (restituire), and to lend/loan (prestare).
4.) They’re also used for communication, written and by mouth.
These are verbs like: to talk (parlare), to say (dire), to question (domandare), to ask (chiedere), to respond(rispondere), to call (telefonare), to write (scrivere), to teach/to instruct (insegnare), to explain (spiegare), to give advice (consigliare).
*All of these verbs are followed by the little letter ‘a’.
1.) Parlo a Lucia. –> Le parlo.
2.) Offriamo un caffé ad Alessandro. –> Gli offriamo un caffé.
3.) – Quando rispondi a Lucia?
– Le rispondo domani.
All done for now!
Seriously, don’t be concerned if you’re still confused or if you haven’t quite grasped the concept yet.
You’ll get it eventually, through real conversation practice, and you’ll eventually wonder why you ever thought they were trouble.
Want more practice with indirect & direct object pronouns? Consider taking the 10-Day Italian Pronouns Challenge.