Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns

In this post, you’ll learn how to master Italian Indirect Pronouns with simple examples and illustrations to improve your Italian language because understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns is crucial to avoid mistakes.

What is a pronoun?

The pronoun is a “word” that is used in place of the noun.

We use a pronoun instead of or in place of a word.
In Italian, as in other languages, there are several pronouns. Personal pronouns are very important in the Italian language.

Pronomi personali (Personal pronouns):

The personal pronoun is used for a variety of grammatical functions.
In addition to referring to “person,” it takes on different forms based on whether it indicates a subject or an object.

They are divided into subject pronouns and object pronouns.

Pronomi personali (Personal pronouns): Italian Indirect Pronouns Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The subject pronouns replace the subject of the sentence, while the object pronouns replace the object.
If the object is direct we will have to use direct pronouns.
If the object is indirect we will have to use indirect pronouns.

Tu and ti represent the 2nd person singular, but tu is the subject and ti is the object. In the following sentence:

Io devo arrivare presto, ma tu vieni pure quando ti pare


Indirect objects are nouns or noun substitutes that typically need a preposition to make the phrase meaningful.

For example: “I speak to Laura” becomes meaningless if we say “I speak Laura.”

Pronouns that stand for or replace an indirect object are called indirect object pronouns

Indirect object pronouns (pronomi indiretti) usually answer the question: “a/per chi?” (to/for whom?) or “a/per che cosa?” (to/for what?)

The structure of Italian and English indirect object pronouns is quite different, so take your time and practice as much as possible.


Luca scrive a Marco (Luca writes to Marco)

To whom Luca write? –> TO MARCO –> that’s the indirect object

luca scrive a marco Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns


Compro i fiori per mia madre (I buy flowers for my mother)

For whom do I buy? –> for my mother –> that’s the indirect object.


noun - pronoun

Prepositions used with indirect objects can include a/per/con (to/for/with) + a person or animal while direct object pronouns answer the question what? or whom?  

luca scrive a marco - luca gli scrive Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns

As you can see in this example usually the object pronoun goes before the verb.

More Examples

Il cuoco prepara la pasta per il cliente (The chef prepares the pasta for the customer)

GLI prepara la pasta (The chef prepares pasta for him)

Scrivo a Carla domani (I’ll write to Carla tomorrow)

Le scrivo domani (I’ll write to her)

Mando cartoline a tutti i miei amici (I send postcards to all my friends)

Gli mando le cartoline / mando loro le cartoline (I send cards to them)

An indirect object pronoun replaces a noun used as an indirect object; it must, therefore, agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to. 

Follow these rules to use the indirect pronouns in a phrase:

Replace With
TO/FOR ME MI pronoun
TO/FOR YOUTI pronoun
GLI pronoun
LE pronoun
TO/FOR USCI pronoun
TO/FOR YOU (ALL)VI pronoun


Replacing the object with a pronoun can be challenging ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU WANT TO REPLACE A THIRD PERSON SUBJECT.


parlo con sara - le parlo Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns
parlo con carlo - gli parlo Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns


In the third-person plural form, loro or gli is used for both masculine and feminine forms.

FORMAL both masculine and feminine

hai scritto a sara e carlo? si ho scritto loro Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns

INFORMAL both Masculine and Feminine

In today’s informal Italian language, GLI is often used in place of LORO. So GLI is used for the singular masculine and for the plural masculine and feminine.

hai scritto a sara e carlo? si gli ho scritto Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns

You also can use gli for only males or male and female combined, as in

“Cosa regali ai nonni per Natale?” “Gli regalo una radio”

(“What are you giving our grandparents for Christmas?” “I’m giving them a radio”).

Where I’m going to put this indirect pronoun in a sentence?

Sometimes a problem is to know how the word order changes when object pronouns are introduced.

In the Italian language, the object pronoun goes before the verb.

What happens if the phrase has 2 verbs?

You put the pronoun before the first verb.

Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns

In this case, you can also attach the pronoun to the last verb (the infinitive verb)

Understanding Italian Indirect Pronouns


Quando vedo Maria le racconto tutto. –> [le stands for a Maria (fs)]

When I see Maria I’ll tell her everything.

Non telefono a Carlo, gli scrivo. –>[gli stands for a Carlo (ms)]

I’m not going to phone Carlo: I’ll write to him.

Paolo non ci dice mai la verità. —> [ci stands for a noi]

Paolo never tells us the truth.

Mi mandi una cartolina da Roma?

Will you send me a postcard from Rome?

Vi scrivo appena arrivo.

I’ll write to you as soon as I arrive.

È il compleanno di Anna: le regalo un CD.

It’s Anna’s birthday: I’m giving her a CD.

Se Dario non ha l’auto, gli dò un passaggio.

If Dario hasn’t got his car, I’ll give him a lift.

Ti presto i soldi.

I’ll lend you the money.

‘Scrivi agli zii?’ ‘No, gli telefono domani/No, telefono loro domani.’

‘Are you going to write to your uncles?’ ‘No, I’ll phone them tomorrow.’

Gli dico la verità/Dico loro la verità.

I’m going to tell them the truth.

The following verbs commonly take the indirect object:

assomigliare: to resemble

chiedere: to ask

dare: to give

dire: to say

domandare: to ask (for)

donare: to donate to

prestare: to lend

insegnare: to teach

mandare: to send

portare: to bring to

rispondere:  to answer

scrivere: to write to

telefonare: to call (telephone)

vendere: to sell

volere bene a: to love


Lui assomiglia a suo padre. – Lui gli assomiglia – He looks like his father.

Io chiedo a Maria di uscire – Le chiedo di uscire – I ask Maria to go out with me. con me.

Scrivo una lunga lettera a lei. Le scrivo una lettera –  I write her a long letter.

Vendiamo la casa ai nostri figli.- Gli vendiamo la casa (vendiamo loro la casa) –  We are going to sell the house to our kids.

Riccardo vuole bene alla nonna. – Riccardo le vuole bene – Riccardo loves his grandmother.

Address people formally with pronouns

When you address people formally, you use the Le form in the third-person singular for both males and females, as in:

Signore/Signora, Le apro io la porta
(Sir/Madam, I’ll open the door for you).

Note that the third-person plural form has two options that mean the same thing.

The gli form is being used more frequently in modern spoken Italian, although the loro form is still acceptable.

In the plural, you may use the pronoun Loro after the verb with or without a preposition, as in

Signori/Signore/Signore e Signori, apro Loro la porta/apro la porta per Loro

(Gentlemen/Ladies/Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll open the door for you).

What’s next?

You might want to keep learning Italian online with these free resources:

How to Master Italian Direct Pronouns

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