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

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?.

“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 simply repeated “John” over and over again. Using indirect object pronouns in place of the noun can help spoken and written language flow more naturally.

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.



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

Correct Placement of 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 after 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.


to give


to say


to ask


to lend


to teach


to send


to show


to offer


to bring


to prepare


to give (as a gift)


to return, give back


to bring back


to write


to telephone

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Your Citation
Hale, Cher. "Indirect Object Pronouns in Italian." ThoughtCo, Mar. 30, 2022, Hale, Cher. (2022, March 30). Indirect Object Pronouns in Italian. Retrieved from Hale, Cher. "Indirect Object Pronouns in Italian." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 3, 2023).