L02: Subject pronouns

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L02: Subject pronouns

Post by Peter »

SUBJECT PRONOUNS (Pronomi soggetto)

I io
you tu
he lui, egli
she lei, ella
you (formal) Lei
it esso, essa

we noi
you voi
they loro, essi, esse

The formal plural subject pronoun can be either Voi or Loro, depending on the region. However, it is used more rarely now. Note that when using the formal pronouns, to distinguish them from the informal pronouns, you should capitalise the word.

Egli, esso, ella, essa, essi and esse

These subject pronouns are used less frequently than in the past and are considered to be more literary. Indeed you will find that they were used a lot by authors in the past, while modern day writers tend more to use lui. This is an area where the Accademia della Crusca, which has responsibility for promoting the Italian language, decreed that in the majority of cases the use of lui is compulsory, although in others it is optional. It is not our intention to go into such detail on this forum, since we aim simply to explain how to use modern-day Italian. However, it is useful to be aware of the fact that these pronouns are still used and to be able to recognise them and their function.

NOTE: Esso and essa refer to "it" as a replacement for animals, places, or things, but not people; essi and esse refer to "they" as a replacement for animals, places, things and people.

By definition, subject pronouns are used exclusively with verbs: I am, you see, he leaves, etc.


Io non parlo tedesco
I do not speak German

Tu sei una persona simpatica
You are a nice person

Lui è andato a Roma per rimanere con alcuni amici
He went to Rome to stay with some friends

Noi prendiamo il treno per lavoro ogni giorno
We take the train to work every day

Voi siete quelli che amo
You are the ones (that) I love

However, you will find that subject pronouns are used infrequently in Italian. This is because, except in certain tenses, the declension of verbs makes the use of the pronoun unnecessary. For example, when saying it is here, then it is enough simply to say è qui. However, you can use them when you want to emphasise a point.


I went to Italy last year
(Io) sono andato in Italia l’anno scorso

But you can also say:
Anch'io sono andato in Italia l’anno scorso.
In this case you are effectively adding more emphasis: I went to Italy last year TOO.

Chi ti ha detto questo? Me l'ha detto lui.
Who told you this? He told me.

Again note the placement of lui, to give extra emphasis to the subject pronoun.

Also, it helps to use them in certain situations where it is not clear from the context what is being said and thus some confusion may arise.

Io sono inglese, lei è italiana.
I am English, she is Italian.

The use of the personal pronouns here emphasises who is what nationality. However, you should note that, because you have two clauses in opposition, the use of lei is compulsory in the second.

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