When to use "ci" or "noi"

I have seen some videos on the topic "ci" lately, and as i have understood it one of the meanings of "ci" is "us". Why is it then duolingo has a sentence like this: "Gli ingegneri lavorano con noi" translated to "The engineers work with us".

Why is "noi" used instead of "ci" here?

April 18, 2019


"Gli ingegneri lavorano con noi" translated to "The engineers work with us". Why is "noi" used instead of "ci" here?

Ciao, because Gli ingegneri ci lavorano. can only mean:

  • Gli ingegneri lavorano con lui. (with him)

  • Gli ingegneri lavorano con lei. (with her)

  • Gli ingegneri lavorano con loro. (with them - feminine/masculine)

ci is only for the 3rd person singular/plural (him/her/it/them), instead in the sentence we have con noi (with us) that doesn't have a clitic version.

That happens because in these cases ci is not the normal clitic pronoun that expresses:

  • the direct complement us e.g. Tu ci hai visto. = Tu hai visto noi. (You saw us)

  • the indirect complement us/to-for us e.g. Tu ci hai dato un libro. = Tu hai dato un libro a noi. (You gave us a book. = You gave a book to us.).

but it is a pronominal particle with an adverbial nature that can replace other people as well as us and include more prepositions as well as to/for (in our case we have con but there are other examples, we can introduce many complements).

I wrote something more about this pronominal/adverbial particle here:

Bye bye

April 18, 2019

Ciao, grazie per la tua risposta. As I understand it now, you can only use "ci" when it's directly "us", "for us" or "to us". Otherwise you have to use "preposition + noi". Is that correct?

April 19, 2019

I didn't explain more about that because there were other answers, anyways you must remember:

tonic pronoun NOI:

as a direct object e.g.

Lui ha visto noi. (He saw us.)

as well as an indirect object with prepositions, and we are speaking of all the types of prepositions e.g.

Lui ha dato un libro a noi. (He gave a book to us.)
Gli ingegneri lavorano con noi. (The engineers work with us.)
Lui è fra noi. (He is among us.)


clitic pronoun CI:

you can use it instead of the tonic noi, when you don't want to give too much emphasis on 'us', because the tonic p. is 'stronger'.

It can correspond to noi like above, so e.g.

Lui ha visto noi. => Lui ci(= noi) ha visto. (He saw us.)

and to noi + (implicit) prepositions too, but, pay attention, a/per (to/for) only, and not other prepositions, so e.g.

Lui ha dato il libro a noi. => Lui ci (= a noi) ha dato il libro. (He gave the book to us. => He gave us the book.)
Lui ha preparato la colazione a noi/per noi. => Lui ci (= a/per noi) ha preparato la colazione. (He made breakfast to/for us. => He made us breaksfast.)

(the topic that I explained above is about ci as an adverb-pronoun, this is another thing).

N.B. Be careful translating, because the two languages and their verbs are not always the same, e.g.

He gave us (= to us) something. = Lui ci(= a noi) ha dato qualcosa.
He gave something to us. = Lui ha dato qualcosa a noi.

here, both in English and in Italian it's possible to make the preposition implicit or not.

He spoke to us. = Lui ha parlato a noi. - Lui ci ha parlato.
He told us everything. = Lui ci ha detto tutto. - Lui ha detto tutto a noi.

here instead it's not possible a perfect correspondance, 'to spoke' always wants 'to' and 'to tell' usually prefers the complement directly.

Ok Spaghetto?

April 20, 2019

Yes, I understand the theory behind it now, because of the detailed answers on this thread, now I just have to practice it. Thank you for your clear and detailed posts.

(yeah, I'm gonna change my username, I couldn't make up any good ones, so I just took this, but I see now, it ain't that funny)

April 21, 2019

I confess that I liked 'SpaghettoSpeaker' : ). I forgot...when you'll memorize those rules read this too, now I'm thinking that it's important. Ciao.

April 22, 2019

Unlike in English, Italian uses different object pronouns in different contexts. Here you have an object of preposition, which takes a tonic pronoun. "Ci," on the other hand, is used as either a direct object pronoun or an indirect object pronoun, for example, "Ci vedi" (You see us.) or "Ci scrivi una lettera" (You write us a letter.). You can find lists of the different sets of pronouns here:

(Note: "Ci" has other uses as well, but here I'm talking about it being used as a pronoun for "us.")

April 18, 2019

Indirect object clitic pronouns, including ci, can only be used when the sentence includes two main types of indirect object:

"to us"
They gave something to us → They gave us something.

"for us"
They bought something for us → They bought us something.

With other types of indirect object (e.g. "with us", "from us", etc.) the tonic (standard) form of the pronoun noi has to be used, with the relevant preposition:

with us = con noi
from us = da noi
between us = tra noi

When ci can be used, the aforesaid construction with the preposition + the tonic pronoun places a stronger emphasis on this part of the sentence:

(Loro) ci hanno regalato qualcosa. = They gave us something.

(Loro) hanno regalato qualcosa a noi. = They gave something to us (not to someone else).

(Loro) ci hanno comprato qualcosa. = They bought us something.

(Loro) hanno comprato qualcosa per noi. = They bought something for us (not for someone else).

Beware that the same pronoun ci can also act as a direct object (e.g. "they call us") and as a reflexive pronoun ("we wash ourselves").

As a personal pronoun, ci can also take another indirect object meaning, "with" + person that has already been mentioned, but this is quite colloquial:

(Noi) conosciamo Paolo, ci lavoriamo spesso. = We know Paul, we often work with him.

In a more proper Italian one should say:

(Noi) conosciamo Paolo, lavoriamo spesso con lui.

For further uses of ci (not as a personal pronoun) you can read this old discussion:

April 18, 2019

So to sum it up: When talking about first person plural, you can only use "ci" when there isn't a preposition in the sentence, except for the prepositions "for" and "to"?

April 19, 2019

In a nutshell, we could say this concerning the clitic pronoun ci (first person plural).
But as a rule of thumb, it would not work with other clitic pronouns, in particular with the ones for third persons.

This depends on the different construction in the two languages.
In Italian, ci as an indirect object stands for a noi and per noi.
When translating a sentence into English, the corresponding prepositions "to" and "for" can be used, but with several common verbs like "to give", "to send", "to buy", "to tell", etc. these prepositions are usually dropped ("he told something to us" → "he told us something"). These verbs are said to be ditransitive, and take the indirect object without any preposition.
Since ci can also act as a direct object ("us"), in a sentence like "he saw us", "he invited us", etc. it can be used for this purpose. But this ci is no longer an indirect object.
Third persons use different clitic pronouns for direct object and indirect object, so for instance "he told something to her" → "he told her something" and "he invited her" require two distinct clitic pronouns (le, indirect object, and la, direct object, respectively).

April 20, 2019

I see, it forces me to think in an entirely different way, since I now have to think about direct/indirect objects, which I don't have to in english or my native language. I guess this is gonna take me quite some practice to get used to. Thanks for your answers!

April 21, 2019

I have no input, but I too am interested. 'ci' seems to be doing many things!

I will bet lingots that CivisRomanus will provide the most comprehensive answer based on my experience :)

April 18, 2019
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