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In Italian, a pronominal verb is basically a verb mixed with pronouns.
Pronominal verbs look similar to verbs you already know, making it a little bit easier to take a guess at their meaning.
We’re all familiar with the Italian verb ‘andare,’ meaning ‘to go’.
The pronominal verb that looks similar to andare is andarsene.
You can guess by how it looks that andarsene probably has something to do with going somewhere.
Andarsene means ‘to go away somewhere’.
Pronominal verbs often end in –sene.
The ‘se’ is actually the pronoun ‘si,’ but it changes to ‘se’ because it is preceding another pronoun.
The pronoun it is preceding in this case is ‘ne,’ which is called a pronominal particle. The ‘ne’ often refers to something or somewhere. In the case of andarsene, it relates to somewhere.
Here are some other pronominal verbs that end in –sene:
– pentirsene – to regret something
– fregarsene – to not care (only used colloquially) about something
Where do all the pieces go?
Let’s use andarsene as an example.
Do you remember how to conjugate andare?
If not, here’s a quick refresher course:
|Io vado||Noi andiamo|
|Tu vai||Voi andate|
|Lui/Lei va||Loro vanno|
If you’ve got that down, you’re halfway there to conjugating andarsene.
To complete the conjugation, you’ll also need to know the six reflexive pronouns (the kind you use with reflexive verbs.)
However, remember that since these pronouns are going in front of another pronoun, in this case ‘ne,’ they end with e’s instead of i’s.
That would make them:
The formula for conjugating a pronominal verb is as follows:
Reflexive verb pronoun + Pronominal particle + Conjugated verb = Conjugated Pronominal Verb
Let’s see what that actually looks like in the case of andarsene.
|Me ne vado||Ce ne andiamo|
|Te ne vai||Ve ne andate|
|Se ne va||Se ne vanno|
The reflexive verb goes first, then the pronominal particle, then the conjugated form of ‘andare.’
— È gia l’una?! Allora me ne vado. – It’s already 1?! Well I’m leaving then.
— Te ne vai? Perché? – You’re leaving? Why?
Besides –sene, pronominal verbs can have other endings too.
They can end in –sela, -sele, -cisi and –ci, just to name a few.
The common thread is that they are all combinations of verbs and pronouns.
Here are a few other pronominal verbs before we get into how to conjugating them.
– volerci – to take (as in time, effort, etc.)
– cavarsela – to manage, to get by
– avercela – be angry or upset by someone
— entrarci – to have to do with
First, here’s avercela, which means to be angry.
|Ce l’ho||Ce l’abbiamo|
|Ce l’hai||Ce l’avete|
|Ce l’ha||Ce l’hanno|
— Ce l’ho con lei. – I am angry with her.
— Ce l’ha con me, perché ho mangiato la sua torta. – She’s mad at me because I ate her cake.
This one’s a little different because instead of a reflexive verb pronoun and pronominal particle, there are two pronouns, ‘ce’ and ‘la.’
However, the format is the same.
The conjugated verb goes last and is preceded by the two pronouns. ‘La’ becomes ‘l’’ because it is preceding verb conjugations that begin with a/h.
This is just a way to make the speech more fluid and beautiful.
With any verb that ends in –cela, the ce and la never change. All you have to remember is how to conjugate the verb that precedes them.
The next example is volerci, meaning to take (as in time or effort.)
This one’s even easier because it’s only conjugated in two ways:
|Ci vuole||Ci vogliono|
Ci vuole is used when you are referencing something singular; ci vogliono is used when you are referencing something plural.
This is commonly used in reference to how long it takes to get somewhere.
– Ci vuole un’ora per arrivare a Roma. – It takes an hour to arrive in Rome.
– Ci vogliono tre ore per andare a Firenze. – It takes three hours to go to Florence.
With any pronominal verb, the pronouns go first and the conjugated verb goes last.
Have you ever heard the verb “entrarci”? It’s a pronominal verb (basically a verb + pronoun combo), and it means “to have to do with.”
Typically, you won’t hear it as the full form.
In the present tense (il presente indicativo), you’ll hear:
— C’entra (singular)
— C’entrano (plural)
Unfamiliar with singular and plural in Italian grammar? Click here.
I know that sounds abstract, so here are some examples to help it make sense.
A: Voglio prendere il treno domani, ma potrebbe piovere. – I want to take the train tomorrow, but it might rain.
B: Ma scusa, che c’entra la pioggia?! – Um, sorry, but what does the rain have to do with it?
A: Ho sentito dire che il problema l’ha causato Emilio. – I heard that Emilio caused the problem.
B: Hai torto, non c’entra nulla Emilio. – You’re wrong, it doesn’t have anything to do with Emilio.
Other common phrases are:
— Che c’entra questo? – What does this have to do with anything?
— La fortuna non c’entra. – Luck has nothing to do with it.
— C’entra poco. – It has little do with it.
— C’entra molto. – It has a lot to do with it.
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