The Indirect Object in Italian (II)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Italian equivalent to English’s indirect object. Remember, we learned that the Italian equivalent to English’s indirect object is almost always complemento di termine*:

Ho regalato quel libro a Michele.

I gave Michele that book as a gift.

In our example above, Michele is the indirect object or our complemento di termine. In Italian, the indirect object — when it is a noun or proper noun — is always preceded by the preposition a. If we want to substitute Michele for a pronoun, we have to use an indirect object pronoun (un pronome personale complemento indiretto):

mi me, to me

ti you, to you

gli (to/for) him

le (to/for) her

ci us

vi you

gli their (m.)

gli their (f.)

Note that these pronouns above are the forma atona — these forms are always supported by the verb and come before the verb or can be attached to infinitives.

Now if we replaced Michele with a pronoun, our example would read:

Gli ho regalato quel libro.

I gave him that book.
I gave that book to him.

gli = a Michele

Remember, we also said that il complemento di vantaggio can also be equivalent to the indirect object in English when it asks the questions per chi or for whom. This complemento can also be substituted for indirect object pronouns:

Ho comprato un bel regalo per mia madre.

I bought a nice gift for my mother.

Le ho comprato un bel regalo.

I bought her a nice gift.
I bought a nice gift for her.

I often receive emails about how to use pronouns and which pronouns to use. The answer in Italian is simple! Direct and indirect object pronouns can only be used to substitute for the direct object (il complemento oggetto) or the indirect object (either the complemento di termine or the complement di vantaggio when it asks per chi). In all other instances, the tonic formpreposition must be used (we’ll cover tonic pronouns in the next lesson or just go to page 128 in Il vero italiano):

Davide vuole andare con Michele.

David wants to go with Michele.

Davide vuole andare con lui.

David wants to go with him.

*Remember that the complemento di termine is not always equivalent to the English indirect object; this complemento can also “finish” the meaning of adjectives and nouns in Italian but be careful: the pronouns above (le forme atone) are not used when the complemento di termine is not supported by the verb:

Questo gioco non è adatto ai bambini.

This game is not suitable for children.

Questo gioco non è adatto a loro.

This game is not suitable for them.

As you can see, the forme toniche (or strong forms) are used! We’ll go over tonic pronouns in the next lesson!