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  6.9.3 Relationship between objects if the objects are pronouns

We have already said that the relationship between the objects is established in Italian through prepositions, but in most languages, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Latin, Polish, etc. etc. through declension, through a change in the form of the noun and / or the article. In Italian and English only the pronouns are declined. It is easy to imagine that there are languages which establish the relationship between the objects of a sentence with prepositions even in the case that these objects are presented by pronouns, that's the case for instance in Persian. Besides that we are going to see later that in Italian there is a second type of pronouns which are used with prepositions and which can be used instead of a personal pronoun.

But for the moment let's keep it simple. The table below shows all the Italian personal pronouns.

nominative dative accusative
English Italian English Italian English Italian
I io me mi me mi
you tu you ti you ti
he lui him gli him lo
she lei her gli her la
we noi us ci us ci
you voi you vi you vi
they (masc.) loro them loro/gli them li
they (fem.) loro them loro/gli them le

Io gli do il libro.
I give him the book.
Non ci risponde.
He didn't answered us.
Non gli hai detto niente.
You didn' t say him anyting.
Non ti compriamo una macchina.
We don' t buy you a car.
Gli do la macchina.
I give him the car.
La vedo.
I see her.
Lo vedo.
I see him.

In the table above there are some things which call our attention.

1) For the third person plural indirect object there are two forms
Do il libro agli uomini.
I give the man the books.
a) Gli do il libro.
   It give them the books.
b) Do il libro loro.
    I give them the books.

'Do il libro loro' is more formal and used mostly in formal letters. 'Gli do il libro' is informal and used in spoken language. The position of loro is unusual. Normally the pronoun stands before the complex predicate (complex predicate: all components of the verb: He would have thought => would have thought is the complex predicate) but loro stands behind the complex predicate. Compare:

Option a)
Ho potuto dare loro i libri.
I can have given you the books.

but :

Option b)
Gli ho potuto dare i libri.
I can have given you the books.


Option a)
Ho dato i libri a loro e non a Marco.
I have given the books to them and not to Marco.

If you want to emphasize (To you, I am not going to give the money!) you can put an 'a' in front of the loro. We find the construction a + loro every time the speaker / writer wants to emphasize something. (If you speak Spanish: Don't confuse this 'a' with the Spanish 'a' in an personal accuastive, that's something completely different.)

The polite form doesn't appear in the table. We use the polite form if we talk to someone in a more formal situation. There is no equivalent for that in English.

Summary polite forme  
singular plural
nominativ Lei (both gender) Loro (both gender) / voi (both gender)
accusativ la (both gender) li (masc.) / le (fem.) / vi (both gender)
dative le (both gender) gli (both gender) / loro (both gender)

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