Ne (and when to use it)


I am finding 'ne' quite difficult to use at the moment. For instance:

Parliamo di Mario. (We talk about Mario.) Ne parliamo. (We talk about him.)

I understand ne as being connected to something which has already been said. Is this correct? (ie. 'ne' refers to Mario). If the first sentence hadn't been said then

'ne parliamo' could mean "we talk about it" or "We talk about her" or "We talk about something"

We could also say:

lo parliamo (We talk about him)

When does one use 'ne' or 'lo' in this type of phrase?


September 15, 2016

  • Lo/La/Li –> refer to something specific and is grammatically an object.

    • E.g.: "E i fogli?" – "Li ho già presi." = "What about the sheets?" – "I bought them already."
    • E.g. 2: "Dov'è?" – "Lì, non lo vedi?" = "Where is he?" – "He's (right) there, don't you see him?"
  • Ne –> refers to something in general and is used in an intransitive way (which means that grammatically, it is NOT an object) and can be translated in English with "about sth/sb").

    • E.g.: Ne parliamo. = We talk about it. ("about" introduces no objects.)
    • E.g. 2: Ne so molto della questione. = I know a lot about the issue. (in this case "ne" repeats "della questione" and is used as an intensifier, which is pretty common to hear. Still, no object.)

"To Talk" is intransitive in both languages, which means that you cannot say "We talk him".
"Lo parliamo" is wrong and the correct form is "Ne parliamo" = "We talk about him"

September 15, 2016

Always think of ne as a replacement for any of these expressions:

  • about him

  • about her

  • about it / of it

  • about this / of this

  • about that / of that

  • about these / of these

  • about those / of those

In order to use ne, the listener must be able to understand without any doubt who or what we are talking of.

I talk about it → (io) ne parlo

we read about him in a book → (noi) ne abbiamo letto in un libro

we saw some of them → (noi) ne abbiamo visti alcuni

I have a lot of this → (io) ne ho molto

I have many of these → (io) ne ho molti

Beware that in English, expressions such as of this, of that, etc. can be often dropped:

I have some of this → I have some

I have many of these → I have many

I have a few of those → I have a few

But in Italian you can't drop ne, otherwise the sentence does not make sense:

I have some → (io) ne ho un po'

I have many → (io) ne ho molti

I have a few → (io) ne ho qualcuno

Instead, in Italian you can omit the part that specifies the quantity:

(io) ne ho (this does not specify how much or how many I have of what we are talking of)

(io) ne ho = I have a few (or) I have some (or) I have many, etc... of it / of them / of those

September 15, 2016

I like your explanation. Grazie!

September 15, 2016

On second thought, I should make an amendment to my previous scheme, otherwise it might be misleading.

Ne replaces the Italian expressions di... (something), e.g. di ciò , di questo , di quello , di questi , di quelli.

In a majority of cases, they correspond to of it , of this , of that , of these , of those, indicating a quantity.

(io) ne prendo un pezzo = I take a piece of it

(tu) ne vuoi un po'? = would you like some of it?

(noi) ne abbiamo mangiate troppe = we have eaten too many of them

(voi) quanti ne comprerete? = how many of them will you buy?

Only in some cases the Italian preposition di translates as about , in particular with verbs such as parlare, leggere, sapere :

(noi) parlavamo di quell'attrice = we were speaking about (of) that actress

(noi) ne parlavamo = we were speaking about her

(tu) sai qualcosa dell'incidente? = do you know something about the accident?

(tu) ne sai qualcosa? = do you know something about it?

But when the English preposition about in Italian translates as su , the clitic ne cannot be used:

I read a book about Churchill = (io) ho letto un libro su Churchill

(io) ne ho letto un libro is wrong! (it has a different meaning, see further ↓)

we saw a film about Ghandi = (noi) abbiamo visto un film su Ghandi

(noi) ne abbiamo visto un film is wrong! (see further ↓)

To an Italian native speaker, ne sounds as di ... (something). But in English di can have many different meanings.

❶ In most cases, di ... translates as of ... (indicating a quantity, either definite or indefinite)

(io) ne prendo due fette = I take two slices of it

(noi) ne facciamo uso spesso = we often make use of it

❷ In few cases, di ... translates as about ... (indicating a topic)

(io) ne ho letto qualcosa = I read something about it

(noi) ne sappiamo poco = we know little about him / her / it

❸ In some cases, di ... translates as a possessive pronoun (genitive)

l'indirizzo della palestra = the gym's address

(tu) ne ricordi l'indirizzo? = do you remember its address?

i genitori dello studente = the student's relatives

(io) ne conosco i genitori = I know his relatives

❹ In some cases, di ... translates as by ... (indicating autorship)

i libri di Stephen King = the books by Stephen King

io ne ho letto tutti i libri = I read all books by him

i dipinti di Caravaggio = the paintings by Caravaggio

(noi) ne abbiamo visto diversi dipinti = we saw several paintings by him

Another preposition that ne can replace is da... meaning from..., or out of... (either referring to a physical place, or to some activity):

un pulcino uscì dall'uovo = a chick came out of the egg

l'uovo si ruppe e ne uscì un pulcino = the egg broke an a chick came out of it

grandi guadagni provengono dall'e-commerce = great profits come from e-commerce

l'e-commerce è una nuova attività e ne provengono grandi guadagni = e-commerce is a new activity and great profits come from it

If the verb is in its passive voice (e.g. the mouse is chased by the cat) , ne can replace by..., which in Italian is once again the preposition da...

il topo è inseguito dal gatto = the mouse is chased by the cat

il topo ne è inseguito = the mouse is chased by her (the cat)

(noi) siamo bagnati dalla pioggia = we are soaked by the rain

(noi) ne siamo bagnati = we are soaked by it

Note that the passive voice of verbs can also be formed with the auxiliary verb venire :

il topo ne viene inseguito = the mouse is chased by her (the cat)

(noi) ne veniamo bagnati = we are soaked by it

Summarizing all this into a rule of thumb, the key to understanding the clitic pronoun ne is:

  • with verbs in their active voice, replace this pronoun in the Italian sentence with di... (something) and find out whether it means of... (quantity), about... (topic), a possessive pronoun (belonging), by... (autorship).
  • If any of these meanings does not fit, try da... (from..., out of...).

  • If the verb is in its passive voice, ne means by...

Finally, beware of verbs that do not translate literally. For instance parlare di usually translates as to speak of, but......

la rivista parla di lui a pagina 25 = the magazine mentions him at page 25

la rivista ne parla a pagina 25 = the magazine mentions him at page 25

nessun giornale parla del delitto = no newspaper mentions the murder

nessun giornale ne parla = no newspaper mentions it

In this case, one would barely expect to use ne , because the English equivalent (to mention ) does not translate literally parlare , and does not take the preposition of .

September 16, 2016


September 15, 2016

Welsh? Damn thats a hard language, good job

September 15, 2016

It is challenging, but I like its unique way of conjugating verbs, and I often discover loose relationships between Welsh words and Latin (or Italian) ones.

September 16, 2016

I'd add that ne is a refers to some not all or the complete thing being referred to.

Neva: Hai visto il nuovo film? Io: Si, l'ho visto. (The whole film) Io: Si, ne ho visto, ma ho dovuto partire troppo presto. (Some of it)

September 17, 2016

Hi Bobboski,

Ok, thanks. I see now. I was translating parliamo as "they talk about" which is completely wrong.

Could you please make more comments about 'ne' as you have introduced the idea that it intensifies.

What else does 'ne' mean as it is a complete understanding of 'ne' which I want to grasp. Why is ne called a partitive by duolingo? What does this mean?

Another thing which I am trying to understand is this. What is the difference in these two translations?

We talk to him = 'parliamo a lui' 'gli parliamo'

September 15, 2016

Partitivo indicates a part of a quantity.

  • Ne, used as an intensifier, just repeats the complement it replaces and this complement is introduced with the preposition "di" (to clear it up, di does not introduce an object, that is why "ne" does not replace one). Moreover, it is only used in direct speech when it functions as an intensifier.

    • i.e.: Quanta ne hai mangiata di pasta? = How much pasta have you eaten?
    • i.e. 2: Ne sai qualcosa di tutto ciò? = Do you know anything about this at all? (di tutto ciò = regarding all of this.)
  • Ne, being a pronoun, can be attached to verbs just like "lo/la/li" and many others.

    • i.e.: Quante vuoi farne di pizzette? – Facciamone sei a testa. = How many pizzette (tiny pizzas, singular: "pizzetta") shall we make? – Let's make six each.
    • i.e. 2: Mi è successa una brutta cosa. – Parlane con me se vuoi. / Puoi parlarne con me se ti va. = Something bad happened to me. – You can talk about it with me if you want to / if you feel like it. (Feel free to talk about it with me).
September 15, 2016

"Gli" works just like other "particelle pronominali" (ne, lo, la, li, mi, ti, si, ci, etc.) and replaces "to him/it/them".

  • i.e.: Gli hai dato le chiavi? = Did you give him the keys? (Did you give the keys to him?)

– To him = Gli (a lui)
– To her = Le (a lei)
– To it = Gli (ad esso)
– To them (both feminine and masculine) = Gli (a loro)

  • i.e. 2: Le hai dato le chiavi? = Did you give her the keys?
  • i.e. 3: Devo fargli un regalo. = I need to give him/them a present. (As explained in my other comment, "gli" is attached to a verb.)
  • i.e. 4: Gli hai già dato la carne al cane? = Did you already give some meat to the dog? (Again, here "gli" replaces "al cane" as it is used as an intensifier.)

Here's a very nice webpage about Italian pronominal particles (particelle pronominali):

September 15, 2016

Wow, this is advanced. but thanks anyway.

'Ne' is only used in direct speech. That is useful to know.

Am I correct in saying that 'ne' is only used with intransitive verbs?

When used as an intensifier is it always used with 'di'? ie. ne ......... di So when I see ne .... di in a sentence I can assume it is intensifying something? Or is this not the case?

September 15, 2016

NO, "ne" is only used in direct speech when it REPEATS the noun it refers to in the SAME sentence. "Ne" itself is used everywhere and is also a high-level pronoun.

  • i.e.: Ne ho mangiata molta di pasta = I ate a lot of pasta. (this is only used in direct speech.)
  • i.e. 2: Ne ho mangiata molta. = I ate a lot (of it). (this is used anywhere.)
September 15, 2016

Ok, molto grazie. Hai un lingoto!

September 15, 2016

"molte grazie" or "grazie mille". Haha, thank you!

Always a pleasure to help :]

September 15, 2016

prego. (as we so often are asked by duolingo to translate!)

September 15, 2016

Oh and, "Ecco un lingotto!" would be "Here's a lingot!" (in French: "Voilà un lingot!")

September 15, 2016

Why is it 'ho mangiatA' (not 'ho mangiato')? I thought the past participles of verbs conjugated with 'avere' didn't agree in number and gender with the subject?


October 12, 2017

Che ne so io? (Get it?)

September 17, 2016

What do I know about it?

September 17, 2016

Yes, but I meant it as humor...did I fail? Che ne pensi?

September 17, 2016
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