How to Use the Word PROPRIO in Italian and What It Means!

Have you ever wondered about what the word proprio means? Today we will find out how and when to use it, so don’t miss this video-lesson!

 How to use the word PROPRIO 

Proprio is a word that Italians use a lot and it has many different meanings. Let’s see them all!


PROPRIO can replace possessive adjectives in the third person singular (suo, sua, suoi, sue) and plural (loro)  when it refers to the subject of the sentence!


Miriam guida la propria auto (= sua(Miriam drives her own car)

Luca Matteo amano le proprie fidanzate (= loro(Luca and Matteo love their own girlfriends)

Anna è gelosa del proprio fidanzato (= suo(Anna is jealous of her own boyfriend)

In these sentences, proprio can be used in place of possessive adjectives because the object or the person possessed  refer to the subject of the sentence (the car belongs to Miriam, the girlfriends belong with Luca and Matteo, the boyfriend belongs with Anna).

Review the possessive adjectives!

When can’t we use PROPRIO???

If the ownership doesn’t belong to the subject of the sentence, but to someone else


«Prendi i suoi gioielli» (Take his/her jewels) → the subject is YOU but the jewels belong to him/her.  The ownership doesn’t belong to the subject, therefore we can’t use PROPRIO: «Prendi i propri gioielli» 

«Prende i suoi gioielli» (He/She takes his/her jewelsthe subject is HE or SHE and the jewels belong to him or her. The ownership belongs to the subject, so we can use PROPRIO.  «Prende i propri gioielli» (he/she takes his/her own jewels)

Why do we need PROPRIO if there are the possessive adjectives? 

It is necessary to avoid misunderstandings! 


Paolo dà a Giulio il suo libro. (Paolo gives Giulio his book)

Who is the book’s owner between Paolo and Giulio? We can’t understand it!

Paolo dà a Giulio il proprio libro (Paolo gives Giulio his own book)

In this second sentence there is no doubt: the book belongs to Paolo because PROPRIO is only used if the ownership belongs to the subject of the sentence. 

We can use PROPRIO with this meaning even when the subject is not expressed


Ognuno deve fare il proprio dovere (Everyone has to do their own duty)

Tutti hanno la propria opinione (Everybody has their own opinion)

Ciascuno prenda le proprie cose (Everyone takes their own things)

In this case, even though it is not grammatically correct, the form with the possessive adjective is also adequate  (Ognuno deve fare il suo dovere; Tutti hanno la loro opinione; Ciascuno prenda le sue cose)

We can use PROPRIO with this meaning even when the verb is impersonal 


È importante ascoltare il proprio istinto (It’s important to follow one’s own instinct)

Bisogna dare sempre il proprio contributo (You need to give your help)

È necessario capire i propri sentimenti (It’s necessary to understand your own feelings)

BE CAREFUL! With impersonal verbs we can’t replace PROPRIO with the possessive adjectives in the third person singular and plural

It is not wrong, but if we use these adjectives in this kind of sentences, they acquire a new meaning.


Bisogna seguire i propri sentimenti → I have to follow my feelings, you have to follow your feelings, he/she has to follow his/her feelings, and so on.

Bisogna seguire i suoi sentimenti → Everybody has to follow his/her feelings


PROPRIO is used to emphasize, to enhance, the meaning of adjectives, pronouns, verbs, names, adverbs… 

Questo film è proprio (davvero / veramente) bello! (This movie is really amazing!)

Oggi mi sento proprio (davvero / veramente) male! (Today I’m feeling really bad!)

Non ho proprio (affatto / davvero) voglia di andare! (I don’t want to go there at all!)

Non credo proprio (affatto / davvero) che lo sapesse. (I don’t really think that s/he knew that)

Sei proprio (davvero / veramente) tu? (Is that really you?)


«IN PROPRIO» : It is used to refer to someone who is self-employed, someone who is not an employee but an entrepreneur.

For example:

Angela lavora in proprio (Angela is self-employed)

Gianni si è messo in proprio (Gianni set up his own business)

È un lavoratore in proprio  (He/She works as a freelancer)

Now that you know “proprio”, also learn “macché” or “mica“!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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