The complement pronouns can be a real nightmare! Le, ce, gli, glielo, gliela… How are they used? How are they formed? Find it out in this video! (Don’t forget to do the exercises at the end of the video!)
Direct and Indirect Object in Italian
Complement pronouns are the third category of personal pronouns in Italian (don’t miss our lesson on subject and reflexive pronouns!)
The complement pronouns can be used both alone and after a preposition (doubts about Italian prepositions? Review them!)
When used after a preposition, they are explicit and they always follow the verb. The explicit complement pronouns are:
LUI, LEI (him, her, it)
Ha sempre parlato bene di sua sorella → di lei (He has always said good things about his sister → about her)
Vado sempre a teatro con il mio fidanzato → con lui (I always go to the theater with my boyfriend → with him)
Hanno portato un pacco per i miei zii → per loro (They brought a package for my aunt and uncle → for them)
*Devi dire tutto a me e alla mia amica → a noi (* You must tell everything to me and my friend → to us)
*Hanno accusato Marco → lui (* They accused Marco → him)
The complement pronouns marked with “*“, that is the one that stands alone and the one introduced by the preposition A, however, also have alternative implicit forms, generally put before the verb!! Let’s see which are the complement implicit pronouns:
1) The complement pronouns that are used alone and that answer the question “Chi? Che cosa?” (Who? What?):
LO, LA (him, her, it)
LI, LE (them)
Paolo sogna me → Paolo mi sogna (Paolo dreams about me)
Paolo accusa te → Paolo ti accusa (Paolo accuses you)
Paolo compra il libro (= lui) → Paolo lo compra (Paolo buys the book → Paolo buys it)
Paolo ascolta sua madre (= lei) → Paolo la ascolta (Paolo listens to his mother → Paolo listens to her)
Paolo indica me e Carlo (= noi) → Paolo ci indica (Paolo points at me and Carlo → Paolo points at us)
Paolo sogna te e il tuo cane (= voi) → Paolo vi sogna (Paolo dreams about you and your dog → Paolo dreams about you)
Paolo rimprovera i suoi figli (= loro) → Paolo li rimprovera (Paolo blames his children → Paolo blames them)
Paolo mangia le patatine (= loro) → Paolo le mangia (Paolo eats chips → Paolo eats them)
2) The complement pronouns that are preceded by the preposition “A” and that answer the question “A chi? A che cosa?” (To whom? To what?):
GLI, LE (him, her, it)
LORO (them) is an exception and therefore it follows the verb instead of going before it
Paolo pensa a me → Paolo mi pensa (Paolo thinks about me)
Paolo parla a te → Paolo ti parla (Paolo speaks to you)
Paolo scrive a suo fratello (= a lui) → Paolo gli scrive (Paolo writes to his brother → to him)
Paolo scrive a sua sorella (= a lei) → Paolo le scrive (Paolo writes to his sister → to her)
Paolo pensa a me e al mio cane (= a noi) → Paolo ci pensa (Paolo thinks about me and my dog → about us)
Paolo parla a te e alla tua amica (= a voi) → Paolo vi parla (Paolo speaks to you and your friend → Paolo speaks to you)
Paolo scrive ai suoi genitori (= a loro) → Paolo scrive loro ! (Paolo writes to his parents → to them)
N.B. As for the 3rd person plural – in everyday language – it is completely acceptable (and so much used) the form “gli”. So “Gli dico” rather than “Dico loro”, for both masculine and feminine (I tell them).
What happens if these two kinds of complement pronouns are together in the same sentence??
1) Francesco dice a me la notizia (= lei). → Francesco tells me the news.
2) Io racconto a te il mio segreto (= lui). → I tell you my secret.
3) Mio fratello dà a me e ai miei genitori (= a noi) dei regali (= loro). → My brother gives me and my parents some gifts.
4) Io do a te e a tua sorella (= a voi) le mie borse (= loro). → I give you and your sister my bags.
5) Paola regala l’orologio (= lui) al suo fidanzato (= a lui). → Paola gives a watch to her boyfriend.
6) Federico compra dei fiori (= loro) alla sua fidanzata (= a lei). → Federico buys some flowers for his girlfriend.
7) Roberta regala a loro le sue scarpe (= loro). → Roberta gives them her shoes.
What happens when we have to replace both the pronouns?
1) In order to replace both, you must use the implicit forms, that must be put both before the verb.
2) You must put before the implicit form of the complement pronoun introduced by the preposition “A” (mi, ti, gli, le, ci, vi, loro)
3) You must put after the implicit form of the complement pronoun that goes alone (mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, le)
Don’t forget that, while replacing both the pronouns, something happens to the pronouns put before!!!
- Mi, ti, ci, vi followed by the pronouns lo, la, li, le become me, te, ce, ve
1) Francesco dice a me la notizia (= lei) → Francesco me la dice (Francesco tells me the news → Francesco tells it to me)
2) Io racconto a te il mio segreto (= lui) → Io te lo racconto (I tell you my secret → I tell it to you)
3) Mio fratello dà a me e ai miei genitori (= a noi) dei regali (= loro) → Mio fratello ce li dà (My brother gives me and my parents some gifts → My brother gives them to us)
4) Io do a te e a tua sorella (= a voi) le mie borse (= loro) → Io ve le do (I give you and your sister my bags → I give them to you)
- Gli, le followed by the pronouns lo, la, li, le become a whole word with these last ones (joined by a “e“): glielo, gliela, glieli, gliele → used for both men and women! (also “le” becomes “gli”…)
5) Paola regala l’orologio (= lui) al suo fidanzato (= a lui) → Paola glielo regala (Paola gives a watch to her boyfriend → Paola gives it to him)
6) Federico compra dei fiori (= loro) alla sua fidanzata (= a lei) → Federico glieli compra (Federico buys some flowers for his girlfriend → Federico buys them for her)
- Loro, instead, doesn’t change! We always put it after the verb, while the other pronoun is put before the verb
7) Roberta regala a loro le sue scarpe (= loro) → Roberta le regala loro ! (Roberta gives them her shoes → Roberta gives them to them)
Now, learn relative pronouns!