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  • Writer's pictureTeacher Stefano ENG

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in Italian

Direct object and indirect object pronouns can be kind of tricky sometimes, especially when it comes to choosing one over the other. In today’s lesson, we will see how to choose and when to use them correctly!

A pronoun is a short word that replaces a noun and we use them all the time to avoid repeating over and over again the same noun or name. In today's article, we are going to focus on direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns in Italian.

1. Direct object

A direct object is the object of the action and it is not preceded by a preposition. Let me give you a few examples:

  1. Io mangio una mela → I eat an Apple. Io is the subject of the action, mangio the verb, and la mela is the object of my action. As you can see, it's not preceded by a preposition, therefore it is a direct object and can be replaced by a direct object pronoun.

  2. Io chiamo Stefano → I call Stefano. Stefano is going to be the direct object because it is the object of our action and it's not preceded by a preposition.

Direct objects can be replaced by direct object pronouns:

Mi (me)

Ti (you)

Lo/La (him/her/it)

Ci (us)

Vi (you plural)

Li/Le (them)

Let's take the previous examples, and let's replace the direct objects with the pronouns above.

  1. Io mangio la mela io la mangio. I am choosing la because mela is feminine and singular.

  2. Io chiamo Stefano → io lo chiamo. I am choosing lo because Stefano is masculine and singular.

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2. Indirect object

An indirect object is the person (or thing) the action is directed to. For example, if you send a letter to Maria, she is NOT the object of the action (because the letter is) but the person to whom the action is directed to! You send the object of the action (the letter) to a person, Maria.

The previous sentence in Italian would be: mando una lettera a Maria, and Maria is the indirect object of the sentence. As you can see, Maria is preceded by the preposition A. Indirect objects replaced by indirect object pronouns are always preceded by the preposition A (= to, in English).

As a general rule, we have two big categories of verbs taking indirect objects*:

  • Verbs of giving: dare, inviare, mandare, regalare

  • Verbs of oral and written communication: parlare, chiedere, rispondere

*this does not mean that these verbs take indirect objects only. They might take both a direct object and an indirect object (see: mando una lettera a Maria).

Indirect objects are replaced by indirect objects pronouns:

Mi (to me)

Ti (to you)

Gli/Le (to him/her/it)

Ci (to us)

Vi (to you plural)

Loro/Gli (to them)

As you can see, they are pretty much the same as direct object pronouns. The tricky part is third person singular and plural.

If we want to replace the indirect object Maria in the previous example we'll have:

  • Mando una lettera a Maria → le mando una lettera

3. Direct or indirect?

Follow these simple rules that are going to help you choose the right pronoun:

  1. Is the noun (or name) you want to replace the object of the action? Direct object

  2. Is the name (or thing) you want to replace the person to who the action is directed to? Indirect object

  3. Is the noun you want to replace preceded by the preposition A*? Indirect object

*This applies only to people or things. You can't use indirect object pronouns to replace places (Io vado a Roma even though, you have the preposition A, that's a different type of object and you can't use any of these pronouns to replace it!)

Let's look at a few examples about the choice of direct object pronouns over indirect object pronouns:

  • I bambini guardano il film → I bambini lo guardano (direct object)

  • La mamma prepara i biscotti → la mamma li prepara (direct object)

  • Ho chiesto a Roberto perché non era a lavoro → gli ho chiesto perché non era a lavoro (indirect object)

  • Gli studenti rispondono al professore → gli studenti gli rispondono (indirect object)

Does that make sense? One last thing to keep in mind! There are four verbs in English that usually take a preposition, but in Italian, they don't and they actually take a direct object pronoun. These verbs are:

  1. Ascoltare (to listen to)

  2. Cercare (to look for)

  3. Aspettare (to wait for)

  4. Guardare (to look at)

Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • Ascolto la musica → la ascolto

  • Cerco un libro di grammatica → lo cerco (not "cerco per")

  • Aspetto i miei amici → li aspetto (not "aspetto per")

  • Giovanni guarda la luna piena → Giovanni la guarda

As you can see, all of these verbs take a DIRECT object and do not require a preposition as they do in English.

I hope this article helped! I touched on just a few points on direct and indirect object pronouns. If you want to know more about this topic, let me know in the section contact and I will be making another video on my YouTube Channel.

Un abbraccio dall'Italia,


Do you want to take your Italian to the next level? Check out my Online Italian course for beginners "Be Italiano" and start learning today to become a real Italiano, like me!

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