Once you’ve mastered the common pleasantries, the next important thing to learn is how to refer to people. The most common way is by using personal pronouns. In Italian, the pronouns (you and they) are complicated by gender and formality. You’ll use slightly different variations of these words depending to whom you are referring and how well you know them.
tu (you [singular])
lei (you [singular/formal])
voi (you (plural/informal])
loro (you (plural/formal])
Use the informal tu
(singular you) and voi
(plural you) for friends, relatives, younger people, and people you know well. Use the formal lei
(singular you) when speaking to people you don’t know well; in situations such as in stores, restaurants, hotels, or pharmacies); and with professors, older people, and your friends’ parents.
The formal loro (plural you) is rarely used and is gradually being replaced by the informal voi when addressing a group of people.
References to people
When meeting people in Italy, be sure to use the appropriate formal title. Italians tend to use titles whenever possible. Use the Lei
form when using any of the following titles. A man would be called Signore
, which is the same as Mr. or Sir. An older or married woman is called Signora
and a young lady is called Signorina
It is also helpful to know the correct vocabulary term for referring to people based on their age, gender, or relationship to you.
uomo (a man)
donna (a woman)
ragazzo (a boy)
ragazza (a girl)
bambino [M]; bambina [F] (a child)
padre (a father)
madre (a mother)
figlio [M]; figlia [F] (child)
fratello (a brother)
sorella (a sister)
marito (a husband)
moglie (a wife)
amico [M]; amica [F] (a friend)
In Italian, there are four words to cover the English indefinite articles a and an. For masculine words, you would use uno if the word begins with a z or an s and a consonant and you would use un for the rest. For feminine words, you should use ‘un for words beginning with a vowel and una for words beginning with a consonant.
All Italian nouns are masculine or feminine in gender.
With very few exceptions, nouns which end in -o, -ore, a consonant, or a consonant followed by -one,
are masculine. The names of the days of the week (except Sunday), lakes, months, oceans, rivers, seas, sport teams, and names which denote males are masculine. Words imported from other languages are regarded as masculine regardless of their spelling.
With a few exceptions, singular nouns which end in -a, -à, -essa, -i, -ie, -ione, -tà, -trice, or -tù
are feminine. The names of cities, continents, fruits, islands, letters of the alphabet, states, and names which denote females are feminine.
In Italian grammar, if a word refers to a group of people, the masculine form is used:
In a some cases, the gender of a noun is determined by its article. For example, uno studente to denote a male student, or una studente to denote a female student. All words which end in –
nte or -ista are treated in this way.
un cliente a male client una cliente a female client
un pianista a male pianist una pianista a female pianist
Pronouns are words that are used in place of a noun. They can stand in for the subject, Io
eat), the object, Paola mi
ama (Paola loves me
), or the complement, Io vivo perlei
(I live for her
). There are many kinds of pronouns in Italian grammar, including personal, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, and indefinite.
Io mangio I eat
Paola mi ama Paola loves me
Io vivo per lei I live for her
Italian Subject Pronouns / Pronomi personali
||you (informal singular)
||you (informal plural)
||you (formal singular)
||you (formal plural)
form is generally used for you (singular), instead of tu, unless you’re referring to kids or animals. Loro can also mean you, but only in very polite situations. If you need to specify an inanimate object as “it” you can use esso
(masculine noun) and essa
(feminine noun), but since subject pronouns are not commonly used in Italian, these words are somewhat rare.
Personal pronouns are the only part of the sentence in which Italian makes a distinction between masculine/feminine and neuter. Neuter gender is used for objects, plants and animals except man.
How to Conjugate Italian Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense
In Italian, the present indicative tense works much like the present tense in English. To conjugate Italian verbs in the present indicative tense, you first need to understand that Italian infinitives (the “to” form, as in to die, to sleep, to dream
) end in one of three ways — and that you conjugate the verb based on that ending:
- Verbs that end in -are
- Verbs that end in -ere
- Verbs that end in -ire The endings of regular verbs don’t change. Master the endings for each mode and tense, and you’re good to go! Keep in mind that verbs agree with subjects and subject pronouns (io, tu, lui/lei/Lei, noi, voi, loro/Loro):
|Common Regular Italian Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense
||Lavorare (to work)
||Prendere (to take; to order)
||Partire (to leave)
||Capire (to understand)
Unfortunately, there are also irregular
verbs, which you have to memorize. You’ll find that the more you practice them, the easier it is to use them in conversation:
DIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS
|Common Irregular Italian Verbs in the Present Indicative Tense
||Andare (to go)
||Bere (to drink)
||Dare (to give)
||Fare (to do)
||Stare (to stay)
||Venire (to come)
A direct object is the direct recipient of the action of a verb. Direct object pronouns replace direct object nouns. In Italian the forms of the direct object pronouns (i pronomi diretti) are as follows:
||mi » me
||ci » us
|2nd. person familiar
||ti » you
||vi » you
|2nd. person polite*
||La » you (m. and f.)
||Li » You (m.)
|Le » You (f.)
||lo » him, it
||li » them (m.)
|la » her it
||le » them (f.)
These pronouns are used as follows:
- They stand immediately before the verb or the auxiliary verb in the compound tenses. Examples:
- Li ho invitati a cena » I have invited them to dinner
- L’ho veduta ieri » I saw her yesterday
- Ci hanno guardati e ci hanno seguiti » They watched us and followed us
In a negative sentence, the word non must come before the object pronoun.
- Non la mangia » He doesn’t eat it
- Perchè non li inviti? » Why don’t you invite them?
- The object pronoun is attached to the end of an infinitive. Note that the final –e of the infinitive is dropped.
- È importante mangiarla ogni giorno » It is important to eat it every day
- Volevo comprarla » I wanted to buy it
- The Object pronouns are attached to ecco to express here I am, here you are, here he is, and so on.
- Dov’è la signorina? – Eccola! » Where is the young woman? – Here she is!
- Hai trovato le chiavi? – Sì, eccole! » Have you found the keys? – Yes, here they are!
(*) Note that second person polite form pronouns are capitalized.
INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS
- The pronouns lo and la are often shortened to l’.
While direct object pronouns answer the question what? or whom? Indirect object pronouns answer the question to whom? or for whom? Also, they’re the same as the Direct Object Pronouns except for the pronouns in the Third Person (i.e. to him; to her; to them).
||(to/for) you (informal)
||(to/for) you (informal)
||(to/for) him, it
||(to/for) them (m. & f.)
||(to/for) her, it
||(to/for) you (formal f. & m.)
||(to/for) you (formal f. & m.)
The direct object is governed directly by the verb, for example, in the following statement: Romeo loved her.
The Indirect Object in an English sentence often stands where you would expect the direct object but common sense will tell you that the direct object is later in the sentence, e.g.: Romeo bought her a bunch of flowers.
The direct object — i.e. the thing that Romeo bought is “a bunch of flowers”; Romeo didn’t buy “her” as if she were a slave. So the pronoun her in the sentence actually means “for her” and is the Indirect Object.
» Qulacuno mi ha mandato una cartolina dalla Spagna
Someone (has) sent me a postcard from Spain.
» Il professore le ha spiegato il problema
The teacher (has) explained the problem to her.
» Voglio telefonargli
I want to phone him.
» Il signor Brambilla ci ha insegnato l’italiano
Mr Brambilla taught us Italian.
» Cosa gli dici?
What are you saying to him/to them?
» Lucia,tuo padre vuole parlarti!
Lucia, your father wants to speak to you!
» Non gli ho mai chiesto di aiutarmi
I (have) never asked him to help me.
» Non oserei consigliarti
I would not dare to advise you
» Le ho regalato un paio di orecchini
I gave her a present of a pair of earrings
|il mioil tuoil suo
||i mieii tuoii suoi
||la miala tuala sua
||le miele tuele sue