- Here are the Italian subject pronouns:
|tu||you (familiar singular)||voi||you|
|lei||she; you (polite singular)|| || |
TipYou also use lei as a polite word for you. You will sometimes see it with a capital letter when used in this way.
- Note that the pronouns egli (meaning he), ella (meaning she), essi and esse meaning they) are used in literary and formal written Italian, so you may well come across them. However, they are not generally used in speaking.
1 When to use subject pronouns in Italian
- In English we nearly always put a subject pronoun in front of a verb: I know Paul; they’re nice. Without the pronouns it would not be clear who or what is the subject of the verb.
- In Italian the verb ending usually makes it clear who the subject is, so generally no pronoun is necessary.
|Conosco Paul.||I know Paul.|
|Conosci Paul?||Do you know Paul?|
|Conosciamo Paul.||We know Paul.|
|Cosa sono? – Sono noci.||What are they? – They’re walnuts.|
- For more information on Verbs, see Verbs.
- You do not use a subject pronoun in Italian to translate it at the beginning of
|Fa caldo.||It’s hot.|
|Sono le tre.||It’s three o’clock.|
|Che cos’è? – È una sorpresa.||What is it? – It’s a surprise.|
- When you do use subject pronouns, it is for one of the following special reasons:
|Tu cosa dici?||What do you think?|
|Pago io.||I’ll pay.|
|Ci pensiamo noi.||We’ll see to it.|
- The subject pronoun can come after the verb:
|Io ci vado, tu fai come vuoi.||I’m going, you do what you like.|
|Aprilo tu, io non ci riesco.||You open it, I can’t.|
- after anche (meaning too) and neanche (meaning neither)
|Vengo anch’io.||I’m coming too.|
|Prendi un gelato anche tu?||Are you going to have an ice cream |
|Non so perché. – Neanch’io.||I don’t know why. – Neither do I.|
- when there is no verb in Italian
|Chi è il più bravo? – Lui.||Who’s the best? – He is.|
|Viene lui, ma lei no.||He’s coming, but she isn’t.|TipTo say it’s me, for instance when knocking on someone’s door, and to say
who someone is, you use the subject pronoun.
|Chi è? – Sono io.||Who’s that? – It’s me.|
|Guarda! È lui.||Look, it’s him!| PreviousNext
2 How to say you in Italian
- In English we have one way of saying you. In Italian, the word you choose depends on:
- whether you’re talking to one person or more than one
- how well you know the person concerned.
- Use tu when you are speaking to a person you know well, or to a child. If you
are a student you can call another student tu. If you have Italian relations, of course you call them tu.
- Use Lei when speaking to strangers, or anyone you’re not on familiar terms
with. As you get to know someone better they may suggest that you call each other tu instead of Lei.
- Use voi when you are speaking to more than one person, whether you know them well or not.
- tu, Lei and voi are subject pronouns. There are also different forms for you when
it is not a subject. These are explained in the section of this chapter on object pronouns.
- Note that Lei, the polite word for you, also means she. This is rarely confusing,
as the context makes it clear – if someone speaks directly to you using Lei, the meaning is obviously you.
- You don’t generally need to use a subject pronoun in Italian. The verb ending makes it clear who is being referred to.
- You use subject pronouns in Italian only for emphasis or for contrast.
- There are two different ways of saying you when talking to one person: tu for people you know well; Lei for people you don’t know.
- You use voi if you are speaking to more than one person.