Easy Learning Italian

Relative pronouns - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

1  What is a relative pronoun?

  • In English the relative pronouns are who, which, that and whom. They are used
    to specify exactly who or what is being talked about, for example, The man who has just come in is Anna’s boyfriend; The vase that you broke cost a lot of money.
  • Relative pronouns can also introduce an extra piece of information, for example, Peter, who is a brilliant painter, wants to study art; Their house, which was built in 1890, needs a lot of repairs.

2  che

  • In English who, whom and that are used to talk about people and which and that are used to talk about things. In Italian you use che for all of these.
quella signora che ha il piccolo cane nerothat lady who has the little black dog
Mio padre, che ha sessant’anni, va in pensione.My father, who’s sixty, is retiring.
una persona che detestoa person whom I detest
l’uomo che hanno arrestatothe man that they’ve arrested
la squadra che ha vintothe team which or that won
il dolce che hai fattothe pudding you made
  • In English you can miss out the relative pronoun: a person I detest; the man
    they’ve arrested.
    You can never miss out che.
the person I admire most → la persona che ammiro di più
the money you lent me → i soldi che mi hai prestato
  • Prepositions are sometimes used with relative pronouns: the man to whom she was talking/the man that she was talking to; the girl who he’s going out with. In English the preposition often goes at the end of the phrase.
  • In Italian, when you use a preposition with a relative pronoun, use cui instead
    of che, and put the preposition in front of it.
la ragazza di cui ti ho parlatothe girl that I told you about
gli amici con cui andiamo in the friends who we go on holiday
la persona a cui si riferivathe person he was referring to
il quartiere in cui abitothe area in which I live
il film di cui parlavothe film which I was talking about
TipIn English who is used both as a question word, and as a relative pronoun.
In Italian: chi is used in questions, and che is used as a relative pronoun:
Chi va al concerto?Who’s going to the concert?
la ragazza che hai vistothe girl (that) you saw
  • In English you often use which to refer to a fact or situation that you’ve just mentioned. In Italian use il che.
Loro non pagano nulla, il che They don’t pay anything, which
non mi sembra giusto.
doesn’t seem fair to me.
Dice che non è colpa sua, il che She says it’s not her fault, which
è vero.
is true.
Grammar Extra!You may come across il quale used to mean who, which, that and whom. il quale is more formal than che. il quale has feminine and plural forms: la quale, i quali and le quali.
suo padre, il quale è avvocato his father, who is a lawyer
le sue sorelle, le quali studiano a Roma his sisters, who study in Rome
il quale, la quale, i quali and le quali are used most often with prepositions.
l’albergo al quale ci siamo fermati the hotel that we stayed at
la signora con la quale parlavi the lady you were talking to
gli amici ai quali mando questa cartolina the friends I’m sending this card to
la medicina della quale hanno bisogno the medicine they need

3  quello che

  • In English you can put the one or the ones in front of a relative pronoun such as who, which, that and whom. For example, That’s the one that I’d like; They’re the ones we need.
  • To say the one in Italian use quello to refer to masculine nouns or quella to refer to feminine nouns. The relative pronoun is che.
È quello che non funziona.That’s the one which isn’t working.
È quello che preferisco.That’s the one I prefer.
È quella che parla di più.She’s the one who talks most.
  • To say the ones in Italian use quelli for masculine nouns or quelle for feminine nouns. The relative pronoun is che.
  • With a preposition use cui instead of che. Put the preposition in front of cui.
Sono quelli che sono partiti senza pagare.They’re the ones who left without paying.
Queste scarpe sono quelle che ha ordinato.These shoes are the ones you ordered.
È quello a cui parlavo.He’s the one I was talking to.
Sono quelli a cui ti riferivi?Are they the ones to whom you were referring?
Sono quelli di cui abbiamo bisogno.They’re the ones we need.
  • Note that in English the relative pronoun can be left out, for example, That’s the one I want instead of That’s the one that I want. In Italian the relative pronoun che can never be left out.
Key points
  • che can refer to both people and things in Italian.
  • The relative pronouns who, which and that can be left out in English, but che must always be used.
  • Use cui instead of che after a preposition.
  • quello, quella, quelli and quelle are used to say the one or the ones. They are used with che.

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