Direct and indirect pronouns in italian with exercises | ELLCI

Direct and indirect pronouns in Italian

direct and indirect pronouns in italian

Direct and indirect pronouns in Italian

ELLCI_teacher_Silvia Ciao,
I am Silvia, teacher of Italian L2/LS in ELLCI Milano. Today we are going to talk about direct and indirect pronouns in Italian. Though pronouns may seem like simple, little parts of speech and grammar, how they are used can have a big impact. 


Chi spiega i pronomi?/ Who explains the pronouns?

Li spiega l’insegnante!/The teacher explains them!

Sometimes they can be very complicated, but you will see that after reading this article, the Italian pronouns will no longer have secrets!

Let’s start with a simple question: what is a pronoun? A pronoun is a variable part of speech that allows you to replace, and therefore not repeat, a name. Just like in the initial example, where “li” replaces the word “pronouns” in the previous question and this allows you to avoid a bad repetition.

In the Italian language there are different types of pronouns, but today we will deepen direct pronouns and indirect pronouns.

The difference between direct and indirect pronouns with exercises



As the name suggests, direct pronouns are used to replace the direct object, that is, that part of the sentence that answers the questions “WHO?” or what?”. For example, in the phrase “I eat an apple”, an apple is the direct object and in the phrase “I saw Maria”, Maria is the direct object.

But what are the direct pronouns? In the following table, you will find a list and some examples.


Io Mi Chi ti accompagna a scuola? Marco mi accompagna./ Who will take you to school? Marco will take me. 
Tu Ti
Lui Lo Ti piace il gelato? Sì, lo mangio spesso!/ Do you like ice cream? Yes, I eat it often.
Lei La Puoi chiamare Anna? Sì, la chiamo subito!/ Can you call Anna? Yes, I will call her right now.
Lei (formale) La Signor Rossi, La aspetto in ufficio./Mr Rossi, I am waiting for you.
Noi Ci La mamma ci saluta sempre con un bacio./ Mum greets us with a kiss.
Voi Vi Vi chiamiamo stasera! We will call you tonight.
Loro (m) Li Puoi compare i libri? Sì, li compro domani./Can you buy the books? Yes, I will buy them tomorrow.
Loro (f) Le Leggi le notizie? No, non le leggo mai./ Do you read the news? No, I never read them.


What happens if I use a direct pronoun with a compound verb, for example, the past tense?

The past participle must agree with the direct object when I use a direct third-person pronoun (singular or plural, masculine or feminine).


“Hai mangiato il gelato?” “Sì, l’ho mangiato”/ Did you eat the icecream? Yes, I ate it.

“Hai mangiato la pasta?” “Sì, l’ho mangiata”/ Did you eat the pasta? Yes, I ate it.

“Hai mangiato i biscotti?” “Sì, li ho mangiati”/ Did you eat the biscuits? Yes, I ate them.

“Hai mangiato le caramelle?” “Sì, le ho mangiate”/ Did you eat the candies? Yes, I ate them.


As you can see, the past participle changes with the change of the direct object. In addition, with the pronouns LO and LA, the use of the apostrophe is also indispensable, if these precede the verb “avere”/to have. This happens with all compound verbs, that is, those formed by the auxiliary avere and the past participle (for example the past tense, the future perfect, the past subjunctive and the compound conditional).

⚠ the direct pronoun LO is also used to replace an entire sentence, as in the following example:


“Sai che Marco si sposa domani?”

“Sì, lo so” (LO = che Marco si sposa domani)



What is the difference between direct and indirect pronouns? Indirect pronouns replace an indirect object which is the one that answers the question “to whom?”. For example, in the phrase “I am writing to Paola”, Paola is the indirect object and could be replaced with an indirect pronoun.

What are the indirect pronouns? Here is a table with some examples:


Io Mi Giulia mi ha scritto una lettera/ Giulia wrote me a letter
Tu Ti Ti mando un messaggio più tardi/I’ll send you text later.
Lui Gli Hai telefonato a Luigi? Sì, gli ho telefonato./ Did you talk to Luigi on the phone? Yes I talked to him.
Lei Le Ho incontrato Michela e le ho detto tutto./ I met Michela and I told her everything.
Lei (formale) Le Sig. Rossi, Le ho scritto una mail. Mr. Rossi, I sent you an email.
Noi Ci Ci serve una penna per scrivere la lista della spesa./We need a pen to write the shopping list.
Voi Vi Il papà vi vuole bene./ Dad loves you.
Loro (m/f) Gli Marco e Anna amano i dolci, gli piace il gelato al cioccolato./ Marco and Anna love sweets, they like icecream and chocolate.


As you can see from the examples in the table, the past participle in the compound tenses doesn’t agree when we use an indirect pronoun and the apostrophe is never used.

Indirect pronouns are the ones we commonly use with the verb piacere.

Example: Ti piace il gelato? Sì, mi piace. /Do you like ice cream? Yes I like it.

In this example the pronouns TI and Mi are indirect pronouns and “Il gelato” is the subject. Other similar verbs are to mancare/to miss, servire/to need, sembrare/ to seem, bastare/ to be enough.



Direct and indirect pronouns usually precede the verb. Let’s go back to this example: 

Chi spiega i pronomi?/ Who explains the pronouns?

Li spiega l’insegnante!/The teacher explains them!

I cannot say, spiega li l’insegnante, but the correct order is : pronouns + verb + subject. 

Be careful though: if I am using a modal verb (DOVERE/to must, POTERE/ to can,  VOVERE/ to want) I can choose whether to put the pronoun before or after the verb.


“Chi porta le bambine in piscina?” /”Who takes the girls to the pool?”

Le posso portare io” / “Posso portarle io” /”I can bring them” / “I can bring them”


In this case, both answers are correct, because there is a modal verb. Just remember that if you decide to put the pronoun after the verb, this binds to the infinitive verb (which loses the final -e).

There are other cases in which the pronoun is positioned after the verb: with indefinite ways (infinitive, gerund and participle) or in some cases with the imperative. But we will talk about this in another article.

In the meanwhile, you can join  our online Italian courses

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