Avercela and Andarsene: Italian Pronominal Verbs

Verbs conjugated with pronominal particles can unlock new meaning

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An Italian pronominal verb (verbo pronominale) is a verb that incorporates one or two pronominal particles that alter or refine the verb's original meaning and often give it a singular idiomatic purpose.

Pronominal Particles: What Are They?

What are these pronominal particles, or particelle pronominali, that these verbs incorporate? They are tiny little words that refer to something inferred and known idiomatically or that we are already talking about (remember, they are pronouns, so the meaning often is contextual):

  • Si: a reflexive or reciprocal particle (but sometimes only apparently reflexive) that stands for oneself, one another, or also something about oneself
  • Ci: an indirect pronoun of place meaning in a place or about a place inferred or understood
  • Ne: a pronoun that stands in for something previously mentioned; of something, about something, and from something (a place or topic, for example)
  • La and le: direct object particles, singular and plural, referring to something we are talking about or inferred

Alone or as a couple, these little particles attach to the infinitivesmettercela, vedercisi, and andarsene—and become part of the verb: in other words, that is the infinitive and the pronouns stay with the verb as it is conjugated. Generally, they are intransitive and conjugate with essere.

But let's take these verbs in categories one by one according to the particle or particles they incorporate.

Pronominal Verbs With Si: Reflexive, Reciprocal, and Other

You know about reflexive verbs: The particle si in reflexive verbs indicates oneself; the subject and the object are the same. In reciprocal verbs, the si stands for one another: for example, incontrarsi (meet one another) and conoscersi (know one another). Those are straightforward. Then there are other verbs that incorporate si but do not become reflexive or reciprocal: They are simply intransitive with si. The subject is not the object of the verb but is nonetheless changed by the action.

Let's look:

Lavarsi (reflexive) to wash oneself I bambini si lavano.  The children are washing themselves. 
Vestirsi (reflexive) to dress oneself I bambini si vestono.  The children are getting dressed. 
Alzarsi (reflexive) to get up  Devo alzarmi presto.  I have to get up early. 
Rompersi un braccio (optional indirect refl) to break one's arm Mi sono rotta il braccio.  I broke my arm. 
Parlarsi (reciprocal) to speak to one another  Ci parliamo spesso.  We talk often. 
Capirsi (reciprocal) to understand one another  Ci capiamo molto bene.  We understand each other well. 
Conoscersi (reciprocal) to know one another  Ci conosciamo da poco.  We have only known each other shortly. 
Vergognarsi (intransitive non-reflexive) to be shy/bashful/ashamed La bambina si vergogna. The little girl is bashful. 
Innamorarsi (intransitive non-reflexive) to fall in love  Mi sono innamorata.  I fell in love. 

Note: As you see, when you conjugate the pronominal verb you move your particle or particles before the verb (or verbs, if you are using the pronominal verb with an auxiliary or servile verb with the infinitive). As you conjugate, the reflexive/reciprocal pronoun si will adapt to the subject: mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si.

Pronominal Verbs With Ci: About a Place or Topic

The ci in pronominal verbs refers to a place or a topic we are talking about or that is understood.

Esserci to be there 1. Ci siamo. 2. Non ci sono. 3. Voglio esserci per te.  1. We're there/here. 2. They are not here. 3. I want to be there for you.
Andarci to go there  1. Andiamoci! 2. Non ci vado.  1. Let's go there. 2. I am not going there.
Cascarci to fall for something/to be duped Ci sono cascato.  I feel for it. 
Capirci  to understand something about something 1. Non ci capisco niente. 2. Non ci abbiamo capito niente.  1. I don't understand anything about it. 2. We didn't understand anything about it. 
Arrivarci to reach something or arrive there; also to understand something, to get it 1. Non ci arrivo. 2. Ci si arriverà. 1. I can't reach or I can't understand. 2. We will get there/we will reach (whatever it is we want to reach).
Metterci to take or put something (time, generally) into something 1. Quanto ci mettiamo? 2. Ci vuole troppo.   1. How long will it take us? 2. It takes too long. 
Rimetterci to lose out in something Non ci voglio rimettere in questo affare.  I don't want to lose out on this deal. 
Entrarci to have something to do with something 1. Che c'entra! 2. Non c'entra niente!  1. What does that have to do with it? 2. That doesn't have anything to do with it! 
Volerci to be necessary; to take something in order to do something 1. Ci vuole tempo. 2. C'è voluto di tutto per convincerlo.  1. It takes time. 2. It took everything to convince him. 

Pronominal Verbs With Ne: Of Something

Ne as a pronominal particle (not to be confused with the negative conjunction or ne the partitive pronoun) means of or about something, or about this or that. Some idiomatic expressions are made of verbs with ne: Farne di tutti i colori or farne di tutte, for example, which means to do all sorts of crazy or bad stuff.

Vederne  to see of something  Non ne vedo la necessità. I don't see the necessity of it. 
Andarne to go from something; to be lost/to be at stake   Ne va del mio onore.  My honor is at stake. 
Venirne to come to something or out of something 1. Ne voglio venire a capo. 2. Ne sono venuto fuori.  1. I want to get to the bottom of it. 2. I came out of it. 
Volerne (a qualcuno) to hold something against someone Non me ne volere.  Don't hold it against me. 

Further down you will find ne in double pronominal uses with verbs of movement such as andare and venire, where the ne has a specific meaning of location, and in combination with another particle, it changes the overall meaning of the verb.

Pronominal Verbs With La and Le: The Unspoken Something

Pronominal verbs with la are much loved. Note that sometimes the original sense of the verb without the la is maintained while in other cases it is not: Piantare means to plant (a plant), but with the la it means to quit something.

About the pronominal verbs with le, prenderle, and darle, you will hear Italian parents say to their kids, Guarda che le prendi! or Guarda che te le do! Watch out, that you will get paddled, or I will paddle you!

Note that pronominal verbs with la and le get avere in compound tenses (even in double pronominal verbs, unless one of the pronouns is si, in which case they get essere).

Finirla to end/stop something Finiscila!  Quit it! 
Piantarla to quit something  Piantala!  Stop it! 
Smetterla to quit something Smettila!  Stop it! 
Scamparla to come out of something (or not) by the skin of your teeth Non l'ha scampata.  He didn't make it out of it. 
Farla to do something bad or conniving to someone Te l'ha fatta grossa.  He tricked you badly/he pulled a bad one on you. 
Farla franca to get away with something L'ha fatta franca anche stavolta.  He got away with it this time, too. 
Prenderle or buscarle to get a beating (to take them) Il ragazzo le ha prese/buscate dal suo amico.  The boy took a beating from his friend. 
Darle to give a beating (to give them) Il suo amico gliele ha date.  His friend gave him a beating. 
Dirle  to say them (words) La ragazza le ha dette di tutti i colori su Andrea.  The girl badmouthed/said all sorts of things about Andrea. 

Two Pronominal Particles Together

Many pronominal verbs incorporate two pronominal particles: si and ne, for example, and ci and la. When that happens, they mostly morph the meaning of the verb in its non-pronominal form. Sometimes you will be able to make use of the meaning of the particles to make sense of the pronominal verb; sometimes not so easy.

Note: When there are two pronouns one of which is si or ci (but not in combination) those become se and ce and both pronouns move ahead of the verb. Remember: In double pronoun constructions the reflexive pronouns become me, te, se, ce, ve, se. In pronominal verbs with two pronouns, one of which is a reflexive pronoun, the reflexive pronoun comes before the second pronoun. For example: te la, me ne, se ne.

Let's take a look:

Farcela: Ci Plus La

Those ending in -cela are some of the most frequently used pronominal verbs of all. The la in farcela (to make it) can refer to anything from getting to the train on time to salvaging a relationship or getting a job. It just depends on what you are talking about.

Avercela to be angry at someone; to have it (something) in for someone  Marco ce l'ha con me.  Marco is angry at me. 
Farcela  to make it (at something); to fulfil a goal; to succeed 1. Ce la facciamo. 2. Ce l'ho fatta!  We can make it. 2. I made it! 
Mettercela to put everything into something  1. Ce la metto tutta all'esame. 2. Ce l'ho messa tutta ma non ce l'ho fatta.  1. I will give everything at the exam. 2. I put everything into it but I didn't make it. 

Bisogna Vedercisi! Ci Plus Si

In pronominal verbs ending in -cisi, think of the verb plus si as oneself and the ci as a place or situation. This is the only group of pronominal verbs with double pronouns in which, when the verb is conjugated, the reflexive pronoun stays unadulterated: mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si (not me, te, se, ce, ve, se).

Trovarcisi to be or find oneself (well) or be happy in a place or situation 1. Mi ci trovo bene. 2. Bisogna trovarcisi per capire.  1. I am happy there. 2. One has to find oneself there (in that situation) to understand. 
Vedercisi to see/imagine oneself (well) in a place or situation 1. Non mi ci vedo. 2. Bisogna vedercisi per poterlo fare.  1. I can't see myself in it (a dress, a situation). 2. You have to see yourself there (in that situation) to be able to do it. 
Sentircisi to feel at ease in a place or situation Non mi ci sento bene.  I don't feel good/at ease there (in that situation).

Prendersela: Si Plus La

Pronominal verbs that end in -sela are widely used and represent a large group of idiomatic expressions is which the si (oneself) is having to do with a la (something situation).

Sbrigarsela to manage or deal with something 1. Me la sono sbrigata da sola. 2. Sbrigatela da sola.  Deal with it yourself. 
Cavarsela  to manage or get out of a situation Me la sono cavata bene. I managed (something) well. 
Godersela  to enjoy something  Me la sono goduta.  I enjoyed it (a vacation or something).
Spassarsela to have it easy; to enjoy or have a great time Luigi se la spassa al mare.  Luigi is taking it easy at the sea. 
Svignarsela to flee or scamper away Il ladro se l'è svignata.  The thief fled. 
Cercarsela to get oneself in a situation; to look for trouble  Te la sei cercata.  You got yourself in this. 
Prendersela  to get one's feelings hurt; to be offended Non te la prendere! Scherzo!  Don't get your feelings hurt! I was joking! 
Prendersela comoda to take one's time  Oggi me la prendo comoda.  Today I am going to take my time. 
Vedersela  to manage a situation or see something through Me la vedo da sola.  I will manage it myself. 
Vedersela brutta  to have a hard time with something, or to be in a bad situation Marco se la vede brutta adesso.  Marco is having a hard time of it. 

Andarsene: Si Plus Ne

Pronominal verbs in -sene are the other most numerous and frequently used group. Again, think of the si as oneself and the ne meaning from or about a place or a topic. Andarsene is a particularly prominent one in the imperative: Vattene! Go away! as in "take yourself away from here." Note: Fregarsene is used a lot but it is a bit brusque.

Approfittarsene to take advantage of something Giulio se ne approfitta sempre.  Giulio always takes advantage (of whatever we are talking about).
Andarsene  to leave/take leave from a place Marco se n'è andato. Marco has left/took his leave. 
Curarsene to take care of something Me ne curo io.  I will take care of it. 
Fregarsene  to give a damn/care less  Me ne frego.  I could care less. 
Occuparsene to handle/take care of something  Se ne occupa mio padre.  My father is taking care of it. 
Intendersene  to know a lot about something  Marco se ne intende.  Marco is an expert/knows a lot it (something). 
Tornarsene via  to return whence one came Me ne torno via.  I am returning where I came from. 
Starsene lontano/a/i/e to stay away from a place Oggi ce ne stiamo lontani.  Today we are staying away. 

Imperative and Other Conjugation Notes

Note: When conjugating the imperative and gerund of andarsene and similar verbs that have two pronominal particles, both pronouns are appended to the conjugated verb:

  • Andatevene! Go away!
  • Andiamocene! Lets go!
  • Andandocene abbiamo notato la tua macchina nuova. While leaving, we noticed your new car.
  • Non trovandocisi bene, Maria è tornata a casa. Not being at ease there, Maria went back home.

With the infinitive, remember that you can put the pronouns before or attach them to the infinitive.

  • Devi sbrigartela da sola or te la devi sbrigare da sola. You have to deal with it yourself.
  • Non voglio prendermela or non me la voglio prendere. I don't want to get my feelings hurt.