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Clitic Pronouns

Dear DuoLingo,

I just somehow managed to get through the clinic pronouns section. I only received 2 ligots for this achievement. Please send me the additional 198 lingots one deserves for completing this next to impossible topic.

Also, I still don't understand most of it.

February 19, 2014



Best explanation I found:

Let’s take the example sentence Mario gives an apple to Lucia. This sentence has a subject, Mario, a verb, gives, a direct object, an apple, and an indirect object, Lucia. In a typical sentence, like the previous one, the subject comes before the verb, the direct object comes after the verb and the indirect object, if present, is introduced by a preposition such as to or for. Alternatively, in English, the indirect object can sometimes be placed before the direct object, in which case the preposition is not needed (Mario gives Lucia an apple).

Any of the nouns in this sentence can be replaced by a pronoun. We can replace the subject with a subject pronoun (He gives an apple to Lucia). We can replace either the direct object or indirect object with an object pronoun (Mario gives it to Lucia or Mario gives an apple to her).

In Italian the situation is similar but not identical. This time we’ll start with the Italian version of the previous example sentence: Mario dà una mela a Lucia. If we don’t want an explicit subject then we can just leave out the subject altogether - we don’t need to replace it with a pronoun (Dà una mela a Lucia, He gives an apple to Lucia). This works because the verb itself (dà) already includes the notion of he or she.

Now when it comes to the direct object and indirect object, Italian actually has two different sets of clitic pronouns to choose from. We can replace the direct object with a direct object clitic pronoun (Mario la dà a Lucia, Mario gives it to Lucia). Or we can replace the indirect object with an indirect object clitic pronoun, in which case we don’t need a preposition (Mario le dà una mela, Mario gives an apple to her or Mario gives her an apple).


This is a great explanation. Thanks Raphael. But if we wanted to say "He gives it to her" (using a pronoun, direct pronoun AND indirect pronoun), what would be the correct construction of the sentence? Now i know the "Lui" isn't, necessarily needed, but I'm more interested in how we combine a direct and indirect pronoun.

Thanks in advance.


You put the indirect first, and then the direct. In this sentence, "to her" and then "it". Third person pronouns combine to make a new pronoun when this happens:

"lui le la dà." -> "lui gliela dà"

Have a look at the chart under "double object pronouns"


that's very helpful,grazie


amazing - thank you for this post! such a hard subject and section to complete ~ Matt


easy explanation, thanks


Great, clear explanation! Thanks!!


I was struggling through them but after reading this post I felt better knowing it wasn't just me :)

Now I'm finally done with clitics and I have to say the "ci" is in fact becoming clearer in upper levels. Thanks guys!


Here's a linguistically-oriented paper on the subject for your perusal/study/weeping over: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=


Here, have a Lingot. I am the same spot as you and came on here to see if anyone else had difficulties with clitic pronouns. I am happy to see I am not alone, and that it will come together later on. :)


I feel the same way about this section as you do. This is a difficult section. I thought it might resemble French pronouns but it is not like it at all. Very frustrating when you cannot discern a pattern.


Working my way through the clitics section now, I'm surprised at the number of people who think this section is impossible. I can only imagine you are using Duolingo as your only source of language learning which is a bad idea, get a grammer book and this section will be a lot more straight forward...


Couldn't agree more. You definately need to read round this subject. No way would I have understood it by simply following the Duolingo lesson.


Hello, It took me almost 10000000000 attempts of the clitic pronouns to get through to on to the next stage

But I got there and still don't have a clue what they were all about


I agree with you. They really need to redo this lesson.


Don't feel bad. I didn't understand them much myself when I was fresh out of clitics, myself. In fact some parts I still have trouble with (like the ambiguous "si" for example). It's a rough first impression, but as you progress through the tree you'll notice it sorta clicks. Knowing when "ci" means "us" and when it means "there" will become effortless. One of the big differentiators is their location in a sentence. Italian sentence structure is very deliberate and not quite as malleable as English. Certain things go in certain places for specific reasons and if you jumble them around then words can literally become entirely different words.

The best thing you can do is read several articles and books on Italian pronouns... and after you do that read them all about 20 more times. Eventually you'll get an aha moment and the struggle will seem kind of trivial... especially compared to some of the later lessons.


.... What happens in the later lessons? D:


Italian verbs. Lots and lots of Italian verbs. Truthfully that comment was partially in a bit of jest, mostly because thinking in Italian requires a shift in the way you think, at least with how verbs work. Italian has verbs that are much more context specific than English, so it's a strange shift in thinking.

The only thing I think I"d say that's truly frustrating is that because literal translations don't always work there can be oceans of possible solutions to some phrases, and it's just not possible for Duo to account for all of them. You never get used to being on the last question with no hearts and getting the whole lesson wrong because you chose a preposition Duo doesn't recognize in the context. That... never goes away.

But honestly. I think that Italian is actually more efficient and (because its rules are so consistent) easier than English. The hardest part is just training your brain to stop looking for English patterns where they can't be found.


Thanks for the tip. This is the first area of Italian grammar that I have really struggled and I think for this particular part a book or books is the right way to go. So happy to see that others have also struggled a bit with this one :)


Thanks for your commiserations. We should start a clitic pronouns support group.


i think the only way i'm going to get through this lesson is by failing it so many time i'll memorize the correct answers....


Cheer up, here's a lingot you deserve :-) we all share the same "passion" for them.


ok - i am getting that "ci" can mean "here" or "there" for emphasis, am i right? if so, then when to use ".ce" in the same way.?


I wan to say no, but that's not entirely true. "Ce" specifically means "us," but there is a case where you would hear "c'è" which is pronounced the same way, but specifically means "there is".


It seems to me to be largely a matter of different word order. Pronouns often keep older features from language, so English ones still have case and gender (he/she/him/her). Italian pronouns seem to keep Latin word order too, with the object of the verb coming before the verb (sometimes). It's still tough to adapt to, though...


Funny! I can't wait to get there!


Carbis - your comment made me laugh for a long time. Perfectly summed up my feelings.

I also do not understand... however This helps:


"2.1.1 Object and reflexive pronouns In the first and second persons, the clitic object pronouns are the same in the indirect object, direct object, and reflexive cases: mi, ti, ci, vi. In the third person things get more complicated: the direct object pronouns are lo/la/li/le (in the order masculine/femine singular, masculine/femine plural), the indirect object pronouns are gli/le/gli/gli, and the reflexive is always si.

Two bizarre and confusing facts to watch out for: (1) le is both the indirect feminine third person singular clitic, and the direct feminine third person plural clitic; and (2) four of the third person clitics|lo/la/gli/le|are also denite articles.


Love all your emails. So glad that I have company in making it through this lesson.


thanks KSmitch -what about "ce ne sono" - there are some? ..... and - "ce lo beviamo noi" = we drink it ourselves.?



I'd like to see what someone more experienced than I has to say about "ce ne sono," but to me something seems a bit amiss about it. Is that a quote taken from Duo? Because I don't readily recall seeing it before and I would personally say "ci ne sono" if I were trying to say "there are some of them."

In the case of "ce lo beviamo noi" demonstrates how Italians use reflexive pronouns, which is what "ce" often works as. In English the reflexive direct/indirect objects are frequently understood and left out. English would just say "we drink it," but Italians use reflexives way more. A more excessively literal translation would be "To us, of it, we drink, ourselves." It's wretched in English, but it works in Italian.


yes - ce ne sono - direct from duolingo. In the case of "ce lo beviamo noi", again, why not "ci". ?


actually, I asked my Italian teacher and she said it all depends on the sound - whether to use Ce or ci ( same with Mi/me - vi/ve. Now what i am noticing so far is that you use ce in from of the letter L or N. Ce lo and Ce ne. Can an expert confirm this for us please?


I am no expert, but I believe this is a rule of using double-pronouns, e.g. 'ci' becomes 'ce' when used along with another pronoun. More here: http://italian.about.com/library/fare/blfare168a.htm


I had never heard of clitics. I thought duo lingo got the word wrong because they couldn't speak English.


I wish there was a list you could go over and over on this topic


I would recommend Italian Grammar Drills (second edition) by Paola Nanni-Tate. It's a bit dry in that it's basically grammar rules and exercises, but helped me better understand this subject (and many other)


I am new to Italian and was reading about someone who just finished their tree and was wondering what "clitics" were. I have a lot of Spanish experience (although my duolingo level would suggest otherwise) and was wondering if it's the same as the direct, indirect, and reflexive pronouns in Spanish. Grazie.


I also could not figure this out, I need some help in this topic


I know the feeling! It was like going through a meat grinder! I felt mashed up at the end! I think I really need to work on clitic pronouns!


I could not have said it better myself. Never heard of clitics in any language and after reading th eexplanation below I am even more confused. I think I will just move on to Determiners and pray for the best.


I agree, Patty. That's what I did!! Here's wishing us both "Good Luck!"


I thought this was so scary I'm like !@#k what are clitics and then I realise that they are just the equivalent of spanish object pronouns lololol


Please someone tell me why it has to be : Gli piace la birra (He likes the beer) and Le piace la frutta (She likes the fruit). Why the subject has to be replaced?? WHY ?? :'(


Think of piacere as 'pleasing to', rather than 'likes'. So instead of 'he likes it', Italians would say 'it is pleasing to him'. Object and subject are swapped.

So, Gli piace la birra is 'The beer is pleasing to him', and since 'him' here is an indirect pronoun, gli is used. Similarly for Le piace la frutta, think of it as 'The fruit is pleasing to her'.

In both cases, piace is used since it refers to either the beer or the fruit.


Good explanation. yeah, at least I "kinda" get it. after clitics, I won't underestimate Italian anymore, it's HARD ! haha. Grazie mille, il mio amico ! Un lingot (assuming lingot is masculine lol) per lei ! :D


Grazie! You should also consider getting a book on Italian grammar. Duo can only do so much... My grammar book dedicates 20 pages or so to direct/indirect object pronouns so when I got to this section it wasn't such a massive hurdle.


I want some reassurance. Do Italians themselves, they, make these mistakes, these, themselves? ( An attempt at English cliticizing, you see.) Students of English, ignore this comment


Yeah, right on


Why" Vedo te ma non lui." ? Wny not " Vedo te ma non lo." ?????


the most difficult thing I've met so far! Wonderful, clear explanation from Raphaelc1 - grazie mille

[deactivated user]

    I found the clitic section fairly easy to complete, Im not boasting in any way though. Without wishing to offend anyone, I found some of the explanations more difficult to understand than the subject itself. For example third person singular pronoun direct subject interjection subjunctive ... only serves to baffle me further as I do not really understand grammar that well. My concern is that maybe my understanding is too simple, based on all of the above. Do clitics simply mean " to you" " to me" " to us" etc etc or something way more complicated ?

    [deactivated user]

      I'm doing this topic and it makes no sense at all


      I´ve been trying to complete clitics during two weeks, I am at the three level, really difficult to unerstand them! Someone who could gime a hint to understand them. SOS.


      Sympathy. If you are still around, hopefully you understand the clitic pronouns by now.


      Im still around, but dont understand clitics at all. Anyone help? Please!!!!!


      bro don't worry, I felt exactly the same when finishing/starting clitics. The understanding will come lateron, somehow it makes sense in my head now. WELL DONE IN COMPLETING THE ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ WORST LESSON :)

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