Most of us know what arrivederci means: “goodbye,” or literally, “until we see each other again.” Ci in this case means “us” or “to us” or “each other.” Take a look at how ci works in this evocative hymn to one of our most precious resources, water:
Ci ricorda qualcosa che abbiamo dimenticato.
It reminds us of something that we have forgotten.
Caption 20, Inno all'acqua: Un bene prezioso da difendere
When we like something, it gets "turned around" in Italian:
Ci piace molto questo posto!
We like this place a lot! [Literally: This place pleases us a lot!]
Sometimes ci gets attached to a verb, like here, where Commissioner Manara has just arrived at the crime scene and is dispatching his team to question a cyclist:
Perché non vai a sentire cos'ha da dirci? [Another way to say this would be: Perché non vai a sentire cosa ci ha da dire?]
Why don't you go and listen to what he has to say to us?
Ci is often used in reflexive constructions, which are more common in Italian than in English.
Noi ci troviamo in Campania...
We are [we find ourselves] in Campania...
Caption 13, Giovanna spiega: La passata di pomodori
In all the above examples, ci is the plural of mi (me, to me, myself). But the word ci can also mean “there,” expressing place, presence, or existence. It’s frequently hidden in a contraction, thus not alway easy to recognize. On his first day of work, Commissioner Manara checks into a pensione (small, family-run hotel) and asks the receptionist:
Il televisore c'è in camera? -Eh, certo che c'è.
Is there a TV in the room? -Eh, of course there is.
Captions 27-28, Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto - Ep 1 - Part 6 of 14
He walks in on his colleagues who are gossiping about him:
Che c'è, assemblea c'è?
What is going on here, is there an assembly?
In the above examples, c’è stands for ci è (there is), just like ci sono means “there are.” But, as we can see, it also means “is there?”—it’s the inflection (or punctuation if it’s written) that tells you whether it’s a question or a statement. (Learn more here and here.)
If I care whether you understand something or not, I will ask:
Do you get it? Are you with me? [Literally: Are you there?]
If I don’t care so much, I might say:
Chi c’è c’è, chi non c’è non c’è.
If you're with me you're with me; if you're not, you’re not. [Literally, “whoever is there is there; whoever isn’t there, isn’t there.”]
There! Ci is pretty easy when you get the hang of it! (Tip: Do a search for ci in the Yabla videos to instantly see lots of different examples in context.) Stay tuned for Part 2 of this lesson, where we’ll find out how ci worms its way into all sorts of other situations!
Make a shopping list, even just mentally, and as you do, ask yourself if you have those items in the fridge or in the cupboard. For singular things, or collective nouns, you will use c’è and for countable items in the plural, you will use ci sono. To get started:
C’è del formaggio? No, non c’è. (Is there any cheese? No, there isn’t.)
Ci sono delle uova? Si, ci sono. (Are there any eggs? Yes, there are.)