Italian Pronouns: A Beginner's Guide

Pronouns are among the most used of any word in any language, and they have many uses. Today I'd like to take a look at some of the ways they are used in Italian.

Subject pronouns

By this point, you've probably already figured out that subject pronouns are frequently omitted. We learn the subject pronouns (io, tu, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro) as we learn conjugations, but since the conjugations themselves tend to indicate the subject, it becomes very formal and stiff sounding when you use subject pronouns with them.

So for example, instead of asking dove tu vai? and answering io vado al negozio di ferramente, it sounds more natural to ask dove vai? and answer vado al negozio di ferramente.

That's all I'm going to say about subject pronouns.

Relative pronouns

In addition to its role as an interrogatory pronoun, the word che (what) also functions as a relative pronoun. When used as a relative pronoun, it functions in the same way as the English words who, whom, that, and which.

Spero che la nostra squadra vinca.Questa è la macchina che voglio.

Another interrogatory pronoun which also serves a role as a relative pronoun is chi (who), which can be used to distrubite an abstract action, similar to the way we do in English with "he who {a} shall {b}". When used in this way, it is always paired with the third-person singular form of the verb.

Chi cerca, trova.Chi chede, riceve.

The relative pronoun cui is only used as an object of a preposition, and is used in the manner of "to whom", or "to which".

La persona cui scrivo è il mio amico.

However quale is often used (with an article) instead of cui, to avoid ambiguity.

La moglie del mio amio, il quale vive a Roma, mi scriva.La moglie del mio amico, la quale vive a Roma, mi scriva.

Indefinite pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to none, one, or more unspecified nouns, or to specified nouns with unspecified or indefinite qualities.

The Italian word alcuno functions like the English word any.

Non ha alcun amico.C'è alcuno bichiere qui per la mia acqua?

In its plural form alcuni, it takes on a meaning more like some.

Invitò alcuni suoi amici.Vorrei alcuni di questi peperoni.

The word qualcuno works like someone or somebody.

C'è qualcuno?Poco fa qualcuno ha bussato alla porta.

In a similar fashion, the word qualcosa means something.

Voglio qualcosa di diverso.Cerchiamo qualcosa da mangiare.Nessuno means nobody or no one.
A nessuno è permesso di parcheggiare in quella strada.Non ho visto dei tuoi amici.

The word chiunque indicates a vagueness equivalent to the English word anyone.

Chiunque può farlo.

In its singular form, tutto means everything.

Tutto è possibile.Raccontami tutto.

However, in a plural form, tutti tends to mean everybody, or everyone.

Lo sanno tutt.Thank you, everyone!*UPDATED*

Apparently I made several grammatical errors when writing this. I suppose that's my penalty for waiting so being late and rushing it out, rather than taking my time writing it earlier, as I usually do. The errors pointed out to me have been corrected in the text. Thank you to my readers for being so helpful. It's one thing for me to make such mistakes on my own, but it's another thing to pass them on in my attempt to help others learn.

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Author: Yearlyglot
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  • Randy Yearlyglot

    1. *Dove* vai, not 'donde'.
    2. Spero che la nostra squadra *vinca* (subjunctive)
    3. Alcun amico, alcun bicchiere - if it were feminine, alcun'amica
    4. There is only one 'r' in bicchiere.
    5. Vorrei alcuni *di* questi peperoni.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I just want to say, the little mistakes you make in Italian make a big difference. I know where you make them from, but really, if you're learning Italian:It's pretty basic to know that possessives of things other than family members require the definite article (or an indefinite article, depends on what nuance you're aiming for). Per esempio, "Questo è il mio amico, Paulo!" "This is my friend, Paul." OR "Un tuo amico ti ha chiamato." "A friend of yours called."Obviously, as already mentioned, "dove" and "dov'è."The subjunctive, whatever, that can go. By that I mean, native speakers of English have a hard time switching on the subjunctive switches that Romance languages use them for. Though it would sound as strange to an Italian to say what you said as it would if I said "If I am you, I tell him what happened," instead of "If I were you, I would tell him what happened."Alcun amico, alcuni bicchiere, already mentioned. Spelling things, whatever, you would just sound a little strange."However quale is often used (with an article) instead of cui, to avoid ambiguity.
    La moglie di mio amio, il quale vive en Roma, mi scriva.
    La moglie di mio amico, la quale vive en Roma, mi scriva."Ok, so "il quale" doesn't replace "cui" (indirect relative pronoun, as you said) it replaces "chi."
    More about those sentences, they should read,
    "La moglie DEL mio amico, il quale vive A Roma (not "en," that's not Italian. Also Italian doesn't say one lives IN Roma, they say "a Roma" or wherever have-you)That's all, just know them. They're some of the most basic parts.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Molto grazie. Ho aggiornato il testo.
    Che fortuna, avere dei lettori così di aiuto!

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Also, having re-read my post, I just want to say that it sounds hostile, but it's not. Just some corrections. I admire your blog and your goal. :)

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I didn't perceive it as hostile. Though I suppose I can see how someone might.I find all such comments to be very helpful, and I thank you (and Benjameno) for taking the time to correct me.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Thanks a lot. I've updated the text. You're always welcome to point out my mistakes. I don't care if I sound like a fool sometimes, but I don't want to pass that on to my readers. :)

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Every time I read your posts on Italian, I wish it were the language I am working on right now. *Sigh* I'll just have to remember to come back here when I finally do get down my list to Italian.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I wonder if you'll be saying the same thing about next year's language, too!

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    If it's on my language list, I'm sure I will.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I guess I still need to study the basics before learning this stuff.

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