Italian Subject Pronouns

Learn how to say pronouns like "I", "you", and "she"

Friends having drinks on a balcony
Friends having drinks on a balcony. Cultura RM Exclusive/Antonio Saba/Getty Images

HE went to the store, and SHE called to remind him to get wine, then THEY walked to their friend’s house together.

What do the words in capital letters have in common? They’re all subject pronouns in English, and they exist to replace nouns that are the subject within clauses. In Italian, they serve that same function.

Here’s what subject pronouns would look like in Italian.

Subject Pronouns in Italian

Singolare

Singular

io

I

tu

you (familiar)

lui (egli/esso)

he

lei (ella/essa)

she

Lei

you (formal)

Plurale

Plural

noi

we

voi

you (familiar)

loro (essi)

they (m.)

loro (esse)

they (f.)

Loro

you (formal)

In modern Italian, he, she, and they are usually expressed by lui, lei, and loro, respectively.

TIP: You might have seen the words “egli, ella, essi, esse”, but note that these are used more in written Italian than in the spoken language. “Esso” and “essa” are seldom used.

Remember that tu is used in addressing members of the family, peers, children, close friends, and animals.

In all other cases, Lei and its plural Loro are used.

If you’re unfamiliar with the differences between formal and informal Italian, click here.

Finally, note that the subject pronouns Lei and Loro always take, respectively, the third person singular and the third person plural of the verb.

Does It Stay or Go?

However, when you’re listening to Italian, you’ll often notice that native speakers will drop subject pronouns because typically the verb conjugations will tell who is completing the action, so using the subject pronouns sounds too repetitive.

In the examples below, the subject pronoun in parentheses can be left out of the sentence.

  • (Io) Vado al cinema. - I’m going to the movies.

  • (Tu) hai fratelli maggiori? - Do you have older siblings?

  • (Lei) vuole mangiare con noi? - Does she want to eat with us?

  • (Lui) vuole giocare a calcio con noi? - Does he want to play soccer with us?

    When it comes to the third person singular, you may have to use the subject pronoun to specify whether it’s “her” or “him”.

    • (Noi) andiamo in spiaggia oggi? - Are we going to the beach today?

    • (Voi) Sentite le notizie? - Did you all hear the news?

    • (Loro) Vanno in Germania. - They are going to Germany.

    If you remember to drop the subject pronoun, your Italian will already sound a bit more native. That being said, you can use the subject pronoun when you want to add emphasis to a sentence. For example:

    • Offro IO la cena./La cena la offro IO. - I’M paying for dinner.

    • Scegli TU il fim.​ - YOU choose the movie.

    Another area where you definitely want to use the subject pronoun is when it’s being modified by the word “anche”, which means “also” in Italian.

    For example:

    • Anche io voglio andare al mare. - I also want to go to the sea.

    • No, anche lei mi ha detto che non era la verità. - No, she also told me it wasn’t the truth.

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    Hale, Cher. "Italian Subject Pronouns." ThoughtCo, Jul. 14, 2016, thoughtco.com/italian-subject-pronouns-4062604. Hale, Cher. (2016, July 14). Italian Subject Pronouns. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-subject-pronouns-4062604 Hale, Cher. "Italian Subject Pronouns." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-subject-pronouns-4062604 (accessed December 16, 2017).