Double Object Pronouns in Italian: Pronomi Combinati

How to Combine Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

Rear View Of People Sitting By Antique Street Light In Atrani, Italy
Enjoying the view in Atrani, Italy. Kerin Forstmanis / EyeEm

You’ve learned about Italian direct object pronouns and how to use them to say, for example, “She brings it”—it being a book: Lo porta. You’ve also studied indirect object pronouns and how to use them to say, for example, "She brings the book to her": Le porta il libro.

But how to say, “She brings it to her”? It's simple: You combine the direct object pronoun and the indirect object pronoun into one—what in Italian amounts to, "To her it she brings": Glielo porta.

Here is how to do it.

How to Form Double Object Pronouns

This nifty little table gives you the combined pronouns, or pronomi combinati, you need. Running along the top are your direct object pronouns lo, la, li, and le (it and them, masculine or feminine); running vertically on the left are your indirect object pronouns, mi, ti, gli, le, ci, vi, loro (to me, to you, to him or her, to us, to you, and to them).

 

lo

la

li

le

mi

me lo

me la

me li

me le

ti

te lo

te la

te li

te le

gli, le

glielo

gliela

glieli

gliele

ci

ce lo

ce la

ce li

ce le

vi

ve lo

ve la

ve li

ve le

loro/gli

glielo/
lo...loro

gliela/
la...loro

glieli/
li...loro

gliele/
le...loro

A few things to note:

  • In combining the pronouns, the indirect comes before the direct (mi plus la, mi plus le, and so on).
  • When they are combined, the i's of the indirect pronouns change to e's (mi to me, ti to te, ci to ce and vi to ve)—what is called the forma tonica in Italian.
  • Both the female and male indirect third-person pronouns (to her, to him—see note below about loro) are gli and combine into one word with the direct object pronoun. So, glielo, gliela, glieli, gliele. The others stay separate.

Let's Practice

Let's take a look at some examples step by step, substituting the direct and indirect objects with their respective pronouns, putting them in the right order, then joining them. Remember that, with pronouns, gender and number are everything.

  • I give the bread to the man: Do il pane all'uomo.

Identify the correct direct object pronoun for il pane: lo.

  • To the man it I give: All'uomo lo do.

Identify the correct indirect object pronoun for all'uomo: gli.

  • To him it I give: Gli lo do.

Combine the two in the proper form:

  • I give it to him: Glielo do.

Same here:

  • We give the dresses to the little girl: Diamo i vestiti alla bambina.

Identify the correct direct object pronoun for i vestiti: li.

  • To the girl them we give: Alla bambina li diamo.

Identify the correct indirect object pronoun for alla bambina: le.

  • To her them we give: Le li diamo.

Combine the two in the proper form:

  • We give them to her: Glieli diamo.

Compound Tenses

With compound tenses, note that the rules for the direct object pronouns in the compound tenses apply to situations with combined pronouns; that means that the past participle needs to agree with the gender and number of the object.

  • We gave the dresses to the little girl: Abbiamo dato i vestiti alla bambina.
  • To the girl them we gave: Alla bambina li abbiamo dati.
  • To her we gave them: Le li abbiamo dati.
  • We gave them to her: Glieli abbiamo dati.

And another:

  • I brought you the oranges: Ho portato le arance a te.
  • To you I brought the oranges: Ti ho portato le arance.
  • To you them I brought: Ti le ho portate.
  • I brought them to you. Te le ho portate.

Loro/A Loro

Purists argue that you should not combine the third-person-plural indirect object pronoun loro (to them) to the direct object pronoun; that it should remain separate—lo porto loro: I take it to them—particularly in writing. However, commonly gli substitutes for loro (or a loro) and it is accepted pretty much by all grammarians, at least in the spoken language (even the revered Treccani).

  • Porto i libri agli studenti: I bring the books to the students.
  • Li porto loro: I bring them to them (in writing).
  • Glieli porto (spoken).

Pronoun Position

Note that with certain verb modes, the pronouns get attached to the verb:

In the imperative:

  • Diglielo! Tell him!
  • Daglieli! Give them to him/her/them!
  • Cantemela! Sing it to/for me!
  • Portatelo via! Take it away with you!

In the infinitive present and past:

  • Sarebbe meglio portarglieli. It would be best to take them to them.
  • Dovresti darglielo. You should give it to him/to her.
  • Mi è dispiaciuto doverglielo dire, ma mi sento meglio di averglielo detto. I was sorry to have to tell him, but I feel better having told him.

Note that with servile verbs, the pronouns can attach to the infinitive or go before: Potresti dirglielo, or, Glielo potresti dire.

In the gerund, present and past:

  • Portandoglieli, si sono rotti. They broke taking them to him.
  • Avendoglieli portati, sono tornata a casa. Having taken them to him, I went home.
  • Essendomela trovata davanti, l'ho abbracciata. Having found her in front of me, I hugged her.
  • Datoglielo, sono partiti. Having given it to him, they left.
  • Cadutogli il portafoglio, si fermò. His wallet having fallen, he stopped.

Otherwise, the pronouns move ahead of the verb; in negative sentences, the non comes before:

  • Glieli porterei se avessi tempo. I would take it to her if I had time.
  • Te le regalerei ma non sono mie. I would give them to you, but they are not mine.
  • Sono felice che non glieli regali. I am happy that you are not giving them to her.
  • Se non glieli avessi regalati, glieli avrei regalati io. If you had not given them to her, I would have.

The Partitive Ne

The partitive pronoun ne, indicating some of something, combines with the indirect object pronouns in the same way, following the same rules: te ne do, gliene do.

  • Te ne do una. I give you one.
  • Voglio dartene una. I want to give you one.
  • Gliene prendo qualcuna. I will get her some.