Italian indirect object pronouns and Italian Direct Object Pronouns can be difficult to understand if you are learning Italian. Before starting, let’s make clear what a pronoun is: a pronoun is a variable part of speech that can be used to replace a part of the previous text; replace part of the subsequent text; refer to an element of the context in which the discourse takes place, which is implied.
What Is An Indirect Object in Italian?
Italian Indirect Object Pronouns are the receiver of the verb’s action. An Indirect Object tells whom the action described by the verb is directed to, performed for or intended to benefit or harm. The Indirect Object also indicates the person or thing that receives the direct object. The basic construction of Italian Indirect Object Pronouns works with Subject + verb + direct object + indirect object.
Here is an example of the formula in action:
Ho regalato una sciarpa di cashmere a Federico.
I gave Federico a cashmere scarf.
In the above example the cashmere scarf is the direct object, and the indirect object is Federico, because he is the person I gave the scarf to. When someone or something receives what is being given, that word is the indirect object.
While direct objects answer the questions what? or whom?, indirect objects answer the questions to whom? or to what?.
Not so bad, right?
See some other examples below:
Dovresti chiedere scusa alla tua compagna di banco.
You should apologize to your classmate.
Uno spasimante segreto ha fatto recapitare un mazzo di fiori a Paola.
A secret admirer sent Paola a bouquet of flowers.
Hanno consegnato alle autorità una zanna d’avorio importata illegalmente.
They handed over an illegally-imported ivory tusk to the authorities.
Quell’associazione offre rifugio ai cani randagi.
That association gives shelter to stray dogs.
As you can see, an indirect object can be one or several words. It can be:
L’appartamento è stato intestato ai figli per evitare la tassa di successione
The apartment was assigned to their children to avoid estate tax
A Proper Noun
Ho confidato tutti i miei segreti a Caterina
I confided all my secrets to Caterina
A Noun Phrase
Giovanni ha dato una mano di bianco a tutte le pareti di casa
Giovanni gave every wall in the house a new coat of paint
Sara mi ha offerto un caffè
Sara offered me a cup of coffee
Before proceeding, yuo can find interesting the following grammar books:
Difference Between Direct And Indirect Objects
Before we go into further detail, it is crucial to understand the difference between direct and indirect objects. To identify whether an object is direct or indirect, look at what the different elements do in a sentence.
To find a direct object, ask yourself what? or who? is being affected by the action described by the verb. The direct object gets acted upon by the verb.
Daniele vuole scrivere una lettera a Babbo Natale.
Daniele wants to write a letter to Santa Claus.
What is it that Daniele wants to write? He wants to write a letter. That’s the direct object. To find an indirect object, ask yourself to whom the verb’s action is done. The indirect object receives the direct object. To whom does Daniele want to write a letter? Who is going to receive the letter? Santa Claus.
If you ask yourself these simple questions, identifying direct and indirect objects will be a breeze.
When Do I Use An Indirect Object Pronoun In Italian?
Indirect object pronouns, called pronomi indiretti in Italian, are used instead of nouns or noun phrases to show the person or thing the action described by the verb is done to. In other words, they replace indirect object nouns, to avoid repetition.
Let’s look at the following examples:
Mio cugino Marco si laurea giovedì prossimo. Regalerò a mio cugino Marco uno smartwatch.
My cousin Marco is graduating next Thursday. I’ll give my cousin Marco a smartwatch.
Mio cugino Marco si laurea giovedì prossimo. Gli regalerò uno smartwatch.
My cousin Marco is graduating next Thursday. I’ll give him a smartwatch.
In the above examples, the indirect object is my cousin Marco, because he is the person to whom the smartwatch is intended. Gli (to him, him) is an indirect object pronoun, and we use it to avoid repeating my cousin Marco again. Using an indirect object pronoun instead of repeating the noun over and over again makes the sentence much more readable and fluid.
Remember that only transitive verbs can have indirect objects. What’s a transitive verb, you ask? A transitive verb is one that describes an action that carries over from the subject to an object. It needs to exerts its action on an object, otherwise it can’t function.
How do I use an indirect object pronoun in Italian?
There are two types of indirect object pronouns in Italian: unstressed and stressed ones. We’ll start by looking at what they are, and then at how to use them.
Unstressed Indirect Object Pronouns
Here is what unstressed indirect object pronouns look like:
MI – to me, me
Pietro mi deve venti dollari.
Pietro owes me twenty dollars.
TI– to you, you
Ti piace sciare?
Do you like skiing?
GLI – to him, him
Elena non gli ha più telefonato.
Elena didn’t call him again.
LE – to her, her
Le ho dato il mio numero di telefono.
I gave her my phone number.
LE – to you, you (formal)
Le dispiace chiudere la finestra, signor Brunetti?
Do you mind closing the window, Mr. Brunetti?
CI – to us, us
Ci stanno nascondendo qualcosa.
They are hiding something from us.
VI – to you all, you all
Vi porgiamo i nostri più cordiali saluti.
We would like to extend our kindest regards.
GLI, LORO – to them, them
You can use either gli or loro to say to them/ them:
L’allenatore gli ha fatto i complimenti.
The coach congratulated them.
L’allenatore ha fatto loro i complimenti.
The coach congratulated them.
- Unlike English, unstressed indirect object pronouns precede the conjugated verb, with the exception of loro (to them), which follows the verb.
- Unlike direct object pronouns, unstressed indirect object pronouns can’t drop their vowels and shorten before an “h” or a vowel.
Stressed Indirect Object Pronouns
Here is what stressed indirect object pronouns look like:
- a me – (to) me
- a te – (to) you
- a lui – (to) him
- a lei – (to) her
- a Lei – (to) you (formal)
- a noi – (to) us
- a voi– (to) you all
- a loro – (to) them
Stressed indirect object pronouns are used to emphasize that you mean a specific person and not somebody else and they are usually located after the conjugated verb, but can also be placed before.
Let’s look at some examples:
A me onestamente non piace.
I don’t like it, to be honest.
L’ho chiesto a te, non a Rossella!
I asked you, not Rossella!
There is one main difference between Italian and English: while in English “to” can be omitted, the preposition a (to) is always to be used before a stressed indirect object pronoun in Italian.
Indirect Object Pronouns In The Imperative
With the imperative (imperativo), the unstressed indirect object pronoun gets tacked to the end of the verb to make a single word. For example:
Ti manca Arianna? Telefonale!
Do you miss Arianna? Call her!
Sono al verde! Prestami dieci dollari, per favore.
I’m broke! Lend me ten dollars, please.
Restituiscigli subito le chiavi del furgone.
Give him back the van keys immediately.
With short verbs, like dare (to give) and dire (to tell, to say), you have to double the consonant the pronoun starts with. Mi (to me, me) becomes -mmi, ti (to you, you) becomes -tti and so on. For example:
Dimmi l’ora, per favore.
Tell me the time, please.
Vai dalla nonna e dalle un bacio!
Go to grandma and give her a kiss!
Note that indirect object pronouns always come before the Lei form and don’t join onto the verbs. For example:
Mi dica, signora.
Tell me, ma’am.
Mi dia sei kiwi, per favore.
Give me six kiwis, please
Indirect Object Pronouns In The Infinitive Verbs
With the infinitive (infinito), the unstressed indirect object pronoun joins with it to make a single word, and the final -e of the verb is dropped. Some examples will make it clearer:
Come fai a telefonargli se non hai il suo numero?
How can you call him if you don’t have his number?
Se hai bisogno di parlarmi, chiamami dopo le otto.
If you need to talk to me, call me after eight.
Indirect Object Pronouns With The Modal Verbs
With modal verbs, the unstressed indirect object pronouns can either precede the conjugated verb or be attached to the end of the infinitive. See some examples below:
Vi devo parlare urgentemente / Devo parlarvi urgentemente
I need to talk to you urgently.
Ti posso fare una domanda? / Posso farti una domanda?
May I ask you a question?
Io e Andrea dobbiamo andare all’aeroporto, ci puoi dare un passaggio? / Io e Andrea dobbiamo andare all’aeroporto, puoi darci un passaggio?
Andrea and I have to go to the airport, can you give us a lift?
Common Verbs With Indirect Object In Italian
As you may have already guessed from the above examples, indirect object pronouns are usually paired with Italian verbs that have to do with giving. Here is a list of the most common ones:
- Dare (to give)
- Offrire (to offer)
- Consegnare (to deliver)
- Regalare (to give as a gift)
- Restituire (to give back)
- Prestare (to lend)
- Mandare (to send)
- Portare (to bring)
Indirect object pronouns are also paired with verbs that have to do with communicating. Here they are:
- Parlare (to talk, to speak)
- Dire (to say, to tell)
- Spiegare (to explain)
- Chiedere (to ask)
- Rispondere (to answer)
- Scrivere (to write)
- Insegnare (to teach)
- Consigliare (to suggest)
- Telefonare (to call)
How To Use Indirect And Direct Object Pronouns Together
Italian unstressed indirect and direct object pronouns can be used together. The indirect object pronoun goes before the direct object one.
Note that the following indirect object pronouns have a change in spelling when used with a direct object pronoun:
mi (to me, me) → me
Non me lo aspettavo.
I didn’t expect it.
ti (to you, you) → te
Te la farò pagare!
I’ll make you pay for that!
ci (to us, us) → ce
La nonna ha preparato le polpette e ce le ha fatte assaggiare.
Grandma made meatballs and made us taste them.
vi (to you, you) → ve
Ve lo siete meritato!
You deserved it!
What about the other ones? When using the indirect object pronouns le (to her) and gli (to him, to them) with la (her), lo (him), li (them) and le (them), just follow this simple rule:
- gli/le + la → gliela
- gli/le + lo → glielo
- gli/le + le→ gliele
- gli/le + li → glieli
Some examples will make it clearer:
Se fossi in te, gliela avrei fatta pagare cara.
If I were you, I would have made him pay dearly for it.
Sono anni che glielo ripeto, ma non mi dà ascolto.
I have been repeating it to her for years, but she doesn’t listen to me.
I bambini avevano raccolto da terra delle cartacce. Gliele ho tolte subito di mano.
The children had collected litter from the ground. I immediately took them from their hands.
Se me li avessero chiesti, glieli avrei prestati.
If they had asked me, I would have lent them to them.
When a sentence contains a modal verb and an infinitive, indirect and direct object pronouns can either precede the conjugated verb or join together and get tacked to the end of the infinitive to make a single word. As mentioned previously, you have to take off the final -e of the infinitive. For example:
Non me li vuole comprare / Non vuole comprarmeli.
She doesn’t want to buy them to me.
Feeling overwhelmed by all these pronouns? Don’t worry if you don’t fully get it at first. Find a good balance of study through exercise and real-life practice, and, trust me, the Italian indirect object pronouns will begin to come naturally.
Practice makes perfect!