1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Italian
  4. >
  5. The "Lazy man’s guide to Clit…


The "Lazy man’s guide to Clitics" !!

So, at the very least, you’re going to have to remember Direct and Indirect pronouns, and know what a preposition is. Yes, you will have to memorize things. I could not find a single useful chart anywhere on the Internet. Spanish? Loads of them. Italian? Nope. So I made one:

You’ll immediately notice that some words are on both parts of the table for the same object/ subject for both direct and indirect; specifically “mi”, “ti”, “ci” and “vi”.

That’s good news, isn’t it? You only really have to worry about “him”, “her”, “it”, and “them”, now.

The only difference between direct and indirect, in an Italian sentence, is a preposition. The two most common prepositions in Italian are “a” and “di”. (EDIT:) But there are others, such as "su", "per", "con", "da", ...etc. A preposition is a "linking" word that "shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence." In English, "to", "of", "on", "by", "with", "from", ...and so on. (end EDIT)

So the lazy man memorizes that the presence of the English words to OR for are a giveaway for “indirect”, keeping in mind that it doesn’t work for verb infinitives— mangiare is the verb “to eat”, but there are no pronouns involved there, so there’s never any “direct” or “indirect” verbs. Only with objects and people. (We’re not even going to start discussing “Piacere” here, so forget that!)

So looking at a few lines of the table, you’ll see that:

  • mi means me (direct), but both mi and a me mean either to me , or for me (indirect).

  • lo means him (direct), but gli means either to him , or for him (indirect) , or even to/ for them (indirect).

and so on.

Thus; if you give something to someone, or make something for someone, then you need to look on that table for the indirect object pronoun. Again, the presence of “to” or “for” is your quick magic reminder for indirect objects but, indeed, any preposition should raise the same flag.

You probably already know this, now, but the “clitic” pronoun form is placed in front of the verb form. The verb form tells you who the person performing the action (a verb) is.

It is easy to practice in English. You would never say “To him I see”, so in Italian you would never say “Gli vedo”, because “Gli” is “To him”. Not just plain “him”; “To him”. Meanwhile, you’d never say “I give a book her”. You’d say “I give a book to her”, so “to her” is le , not la and you’d obviously use “Le dò un libro”. Where it sometimes gets tricky is when the preposition is only implied in English. “I read him a book” or “I ask her a question” needs to be considered in Italian as “I read (to) him a book” and “I ask (of her) a question”.

Here are some basic examples to help (and hopefully not confuse) you:

  • ama He loves or She loves (or even It loves ); Ci ama he/ she/ it loves us.

  • scrivo I write ; Lo scrivo I write it. Note that it wouldn’t be, “I write him” or “her”. Meanwhile...

  • gli scrivo; gli is “to him”, so then I write to him.

  • Le is “to her”, so then le scrivo I write to her. Unfortunately, le is also feminine “them” on the direct pronoun side, so if the subjects being written are all of feminine gender, Le scrivo could also mean “I write them”.

  • What about a double pronoun sentence? “I read it to him”? That’s easy: Lo leggo a lui

  • I see you Ti vedo (there is no “to” or “for”, so use the table for direct object pronoun).

  • I play for him Gli suono (it can’t be direct, Lo suono, because of the word “for”). You can say the very same thing by using the “stressed form”, but after the verb: Suono a lui.

  • Lo suono is “I play it” (it being a direct object, masculine, such as “un flauto”. Use La suono for “I play it”, it being a direct feminine object, such as “una chitarra”).

The Stressed pronouns do not get placed before the verb; they come after it.

Many of them can also be placed into the verb.

  • Posso farlo (I can do it), comes by dropping the "e" from Fare (to do) and adding the pronoun "lo". Do that with most any verb infinitive.

Finally, when used in a negative sentence, the pronoun always goes between non and the verb: Non lo vedo = "I don't see him", or "I don't see it".

That should get you well on the way, and at least 3/4 the way through the Clitics lessons. I’ll leave it to others to explain “Ce” and “Ne”.

By the way, you can quickly spot a Reflexive Sentence if the subject and the pronoun being used are on the same line of the table above, or if the word “si” is present before a verb. (And not sì, meaning “yes”...).

  • Mi lavo; I wash myself (same line for io (lavo) and Mi makes this sentence reflexive).

  • Ti vedi; You see yourself (Tu vedi and Ti on the same line).

  • Ci chiediamo; We ask ourselves (Noi chiediamo/ Ci on the same line).

The word “si” goes in place of him/ her/ it and also them, so there is no Gli/ Lo/ La/ Le/ Li to worry about in reflexive:

  • Si lava; He washes himself, or She washes herself, (or even) It washes itself.

  • Si lavano; They wash themselves. It is obviously not “They wash himself”. “They wash him”, on the other hand, is not reflexive, does not use “si”, and is simply “Lo lavano -- as per the rules on direct pronouns, in the initial section of this essay.

September 8, 2014



This short video on "Indirect Object Pronouns" does have quite a few good points, and it should help you understand the terminology better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLhkAF3k4RM


The chart no longer shows up


That's true! What a pity! Hope Mabby can restore it


Thank you! I've saved this in my Italian file.


Excellent. Thank you for this.


Great chart! If you're still editing, 1) maybe mention that there are changes when you use an indirect and a direct pronoun together (even just a note that this happens and a link) 2) You still mention di, which is problematic as @sandrabruck mentions in another comment 3) The post is long and is presented as a single block, so it might seem friendlier if you add section headers.


Worth a lingot. Thanks

Learn Italian in just 5 minutes a day. For free.
Get started