Indirect Object Pronouns in Italian

Learn how to use indirect object pronouns, like "gli", in Italian

Shot of espresso on yellow tablecloth
Shot of espresso on yellow tablecloth. Tommaso Altamura / EyeEm / Getty Images

“I told John that I wanted to go to Italy, but when I told John that, he wasn’t listening. I don’t know why I try to talk to John.”

While you can easily understand the sentences above, they sound unnatural and that’s because instead of using a pronoun, like “him”, the speaker has decided to just repeat “John” over and over again.

This is where indirect object pronouns come in.

While direct object nouns and pronouns answer the questions what?

or whom?, indirect object nouns and pronouns answer the questions to whom? or for whom?.

In English the word to is often omitted: We gave a cookbook to Uncle John.—We gave Uncle John a cookbook.

However, in Italian, the preposition a is always used before an indirect object noun.

  • Abbiamo regalato un libro di cucina allo zio Giovanni. - We gave a cookbook to Uncle John.

  • Perché non regali un profumo alla mamma? - Why don’t you give mother a perfume?

  • Puoi spiegare questa ricetta a Paolo? - Can you explain this recipe to Paul?

As you saw above in the example with “John”, indirect object pronouns (i pronomi indiretti) replace indirect object nouns. They are identical in form to direct object pronouns, except for the third person forms gli, le, and loro.

SINGULAR

PLURAL

mi (to/for) me

ci (to/for) us

ti (to/for) you

vi (to/for) you

Le (to/for) you (formal m. and f.)

Loro (to/for) you (form., m. and f.)

gli (to/for) him

loro (to/for) them

le (to/for) her

 

Where do you place indirect object pronouns?

Indirect object pronouns, just like direct object pronouns, precede a conjugated verb, except for loro and Loro, which follow the verb.

  • Le ho dato tre ricette. - I gave her three recipes.

  • Ci offrono un caffè. - They offer us a cup of coffee.

  • Parliamo loro domani. - We’ll talk to them tomorrow.

    A: Che cosa regali allo zio Giovanni? - What are you giving Uncle John?

    B: Gli regalo un libro di cucina. - I'll give him a cookbook.

    Indirect object pronouns can also be attached to an infinitive, and when that happens the –e of the infinitive is dropped.

    • Non ho tempo di parlargli. - I have no time to talk to him.

    • Non ho tempo di parlarle. - I have no time to talk to her.

    If the infinitive comes before a form of the verbs dovere, potere, or volere, the indirect object pronoun is either attached to the infinitive (after the –e is dropped) or placed before the conjugated verb.

    Voglio parlargli / Gli voglio parlare. - I want to talk to him.

    FUN FACT: Le and gli never connect before a verb beginning with a vowel or an h.

    • Le offro un caffè - I offer her a cup of coffee.

    • Gli hanno detto «Ciao!». - They said "Ciao!" to him.

    Common Verbs Used with Indirect Objects

    The following common Italian verbs are used with indirect object nouns or pronouns.

    dare

    to give

    dire

    to say

    domandare

    to ask

    (im)prestare

    to lend

    insegnare

    to teach

    mandare

    to send

    mostrare

    to show

    offrire

    to offer

    portare

    to bring

    preparare

    to prepare

    regalare

    to give (as a gift)

    rendere

    to return, give back

    riportare

    to bring back

    scrivere

    to write

    telefonare

    to telephone