Personal pronouns are little words that replace persons or things: he, she, they, it, me, her etc.
Personal pronouns can play the role of subjects or be in a different role. For instance, in the sentence I eat a food, I is a subject, but in the sentence That lion wants to eat me me is the object.
Other pronouns (not personal) also replace nouns, with a more specific usage. For instance, this can replace a noun, with a meaning similar to it (or he/she), e.g. in the sentence this is good for you.
More information about pronouns, subjects etc. in English can be found in a different place. Here it is assumed that sufficient knowledge is available.
Subject Personal Pronouns
List of Subject Personal Pronouns:
io - I - Note: no capital letter required tu - you - Note: addressed to one person egli - he - Note: not used in common talk esso - it - Note: masculine, little used in common talk lui - he - Note: colloquial ella - she - Note: not used in common talk essa - it - Note: feminine, little used in common talk lei - she - Note: colloquial Lei - you - Note: special use; normally with capital initial Ella - you - Note: special use, uncommon, capital initial
noi - we voi - you - Note: addressed to two or more people essi - they - Note: masculine esse - they - Note: feminine loro - they - Note: both masculine and feminine, colloquial Loro - you - Note: special use, uncommon, capital initial
The pronouns for the 1st person (singular: io, plural: noi) do not need special explanations.
The pronouns for the 2nd person (in English you both singular and plural) have a usage far more varied than in English.
Tu is addressed to one person only (singular) and matches the ancient English thou. It is felt to be informal, it is used with members of the same family (e.g. father, mother), with relatives (e.g. uncles), with children, with friends, and, in modern usage, with work colleagues. It is often used with boys and girls and sometimes it is used with other persons in order to create a friendly atmosphere.
In the other cases (especially with grown-up people that are not friends or relatives) it is replaced by the pronoun Lei (usually written with a capital letter). This pronoun literally means she and its usage is similar to English sentences including His/Her Majesty.
For the same purpose the pronoun Ella can also be used. This is felt today as obsolete and is used rarely only in writing.
When two or more people are addressed, voi is used both in formal and informal language – that is with relatives, friends and other people. The plural for Lei does exist, it is Loro (capital initial), but it is nowadays little used.
The pronouns for the singular 3rd person (in English he/she/it) take into account the gender of the replaced noun, which in Italian can only be masculine or feminine.
When a reference is done to a person, he is translated with egli (proper language, little used in talking) or lui (colloquial), she with ella (little used) or lei (colloquial).
For animals or things, it is translated with esso when the noun is masculine (e.g. lago, lake) and with essa when it is feminine (e.g. barca, boat).
Plural also takes into account the gender, so they is translated with essi (masc.) or esse (fem.). In colloquial talk they is usually translated with loro.
Missing subject pronouns
In many languages, including English, French and German, it is mandatory to mention the subject of the verb. Pronouns are widely used to avoid repeating nouns for this purpose.
In Italian the subject is often omitted, as the verb can give sufficient information. Personal subject pronouns are far less used than in English, they are used only when there is a need for clarity or a wish to stress the pronoun itself.
Examples of missing subjects:
Piove. It is raining. No need to mention it. Vengo subito. I come soon. No need to mention I. Dove vai? Where are you going? No need to mention you. Dove andiamo? Where are we going? No need to mention we.
Example of special uses:
Credo di sì. I think so. Io credo di sì. I do think so. The unneeded pronoun is used to stress the verb.
Possessives, like articles, must agree with the gender and number of the noun they modify. Hence, mio zio, my uncle, but mia zia, my aunt. So depending on what is being modified, the possessive pronouns are:
- Masc. sing.: mio, tuo, suo, nostro, vostro, loro
- Fem. sing.: mia, tua, sua, nostra, vostra, loro
- Masc. pl.: miei, tuoi, suoi, nostri, vostri, loro
- Fem. pl.: mie, tue, sue, nostre, vostre, loro
In most cases the possessive adjective must be used with the definite article:
- Ho perso la mia penna. (I’ve lost my pen.)
- Mi piace il mio lavoro. (I like my job.)
- Hanno rubato la mia automobile! (They’ve stolen my car!)
The only exception is when the possessive refers to a family member in the singular:
- Sara è mia sorella (Sarah is my sister.)
- Questa penna è di mia zia. (This pen is my aunt’s.)
But in the plural:
- Le mie zie sono vecchie (My aunts are old)
Relative pronouns are just pronouns, like those before this section but they refer to something relative to the context of the sentence or the situation. the pronoun “I” will always refer to myself while the pronoun “she” will always refer to some “her”. A Relative pronoun can refer to a person, a thing or a situation. In English these pronouns are are who, which, that, whom, where.
– Pronoun che: this pronoun is used when you use which, who, and that.
– Pronouns il quale, la quale, i quali, le quali: this pronoun “quale” is like the previous one but it also explain the gender and number:
- il quale: masculine singular
- la quale: feminine singular
- i quali: masculine plural
- le quali: feminine plural
– Pronoun cui: this pronouns introduces indirect objects (this means all those objects that need a preposition before it): “Headphone is the instrument (with) which you can hear music with” this pronoun needs “with” to work.
– Extra pronouns: chi, colui, colei, coloro, ciò, chiunque, quanto, etc… words that serve the purpose of a pronoun.
These pronouns are only two: questo and quello but pay attention to how these pronouns change in gender and singular/plural.
- questo, questa, questi, queste=this, these
- quello, quella, quelli, quelle=that, those
This second set of pronouns, those related to quello, work like the articles, the final vowel can be cut out.