THE PARTITIVE PRONOUN NE (Il pronome partitivo NE)
The first thing here is to explain the meaning of partitive, which is a linguistic term. It is a term that is used to divide something into parts of the whole. For example, in the phrase I would like some cakes, the word some determines that you do not want all cakes. However, in English it is not always necessary to include the partitive, although it is inferred. If you say I’ll have coffee, you are inferring that you only want some. In Italian, however, you must include the partitive.
Ne means, among other things, of it, of them, and is used in conjunction with some or with a number, as in the following examples:
“Vuoi dei biscotti?” “Si, grazie, ne vorrei alcuni”
Do you want some biscuits? Yes please, I would like some (of them)
Ne ho cinque
I have got five (of them)
“Queste pere sono buonissime?” “Davvero! Quindi ne prendo quattro”
These pears are very good?” “Really! Therefore, I will have four (of them)”
In certain circumstances you will see ne attached to the end of the infinitive of a verb, or to the gerund when using the present continuous tense (see under Verbs), eg:
Quanto riguarda il problema che avevamo, stavamo parlandone solo l’altro giorno
Regarding the problem that we had, we were talking about it only the other day
Sebbene ci fossero tante cose che ci sono piaciute, c’era spazio nella macchina di prenderne solo alcune
Although there were many things that we liked, there was space in the car to take only some of them
NOTE: Sebbene (although) requires the use of the subjunctive mood in Italian. In the example above, fossero is the 3rd person plural of the imperfect subjunctive tense. There is more about the subjunctive under Verbs.
Papà è veramente molto bravo fare i modellini. Magari fossi io capace di farne uno
Dad is really very good at making model cars. If only I were good enough to make one (of them)
‘Ce ne’ v ‘ce n’è’
When used as an indirect pronoun ci becomes ce, and as explained in Using both Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns it can be used with the partitive ne. However the word ci has other meanings as well as us. The most common is there, as in there is, there are, there were etc. When used with essere, ci è becomes c’è – there is. However, when you want to say, for example, there is one of them, you must use ne before è, and elide the two words as n’è. Because the elision now sits with n’è, you must use ce without an apostrophe, hence ce n’è. Therefore, using the above example phrase:
There is one of them
Ce n’è uno
However, if we want to use the plural:
There are two of them
then you must say:
Ce ne sono due
It is important, therefore, to understand the difference between ce ne as object pronouns and ce n’è when wishing to say how much or how many of something there are.
The elision of ne and the verb will also occur when you use the third persons both singular and plural of the past tense (imperfect) of essere.
Ce n’era solo una
There was only one (of them)
Ce n’erano due
There were two (of them)
Examples of ce ne as double object pronouns:
Ci piacerà se Giovanni riuscerà a portarcene alcuni
We will be pleased if Giovanni is able to bring us some (of them)
Che bellisime rose! Ce ne dai una?
What beautiful roses! Will you give us one (of them)?
It is important to recognise and understand the different usages of ci, which are explained elsewhere in Lezioni Gratuite.
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