We saw in the previous lesson that the short word ci fits into (c’entra in) many situations.
But not only can ci mean “there,” ci can represent an object pronoun like “it,” “this,” or “that” plus a preposition (to, into, of, from, about, etc.) all in one, as we see below.
On the job, Manara finds himself in the wine cellar of an important estate and has questioned Count Lapo’s housekeeper about some rifle shots. She answers evasively:
Colpi di fucile qui se ne sentono spesso, è zona di caccia. Sinceramente non c'ho badato.
We often hear gun shots here, it's a hunting area. Honestly I didn't pay attention to that.
Captions 13-14, Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 5 of 17
And things get more mysterious when Manara discovers Count Lapo’s cryptic parting words about his estate:
Ma ci penserà qualcun altro...
Well, someone else will take care of it...
Ci can even get into the kitchen! Two kids are putting the finishing touches on a recipe they have demonstrated:
La nostra pasta è pronta. Ci aggiungiamo un cucchiaino di parmigiano.
Our pasta is ready. To it we’ll add a teaspoon of Parmesan.
Caption 21, Ricette bimbi: Gli spaghetti con zucchine e uova
But what happens when there are two object pronouns in the same sentence (indirect and direct)? Non c’è problema! Ci transforms itself into ce. The most important question when it’s time to buttare la pasta (throw the pasta in) is:
Ci hai messo il sale? (Did you put the salt in?)
Sì, ce l’ho già messo. (Yes, I already put it in.)
Even when it means “us” (see previous lesson), ci is transformed into ce when a direct object pronoun is also present, like “it” or “that.”
Morto come? -Eh, non ce l'hanno detto.
How did he die? -Uh, they didn’t tell us that.
Captions 33-34, Il Commissario Manara: Vendemmia tardiva - Ep 2 - Part 1 of 17
Ci (often in the form of ce) can easily sneak into a sentence where there is technically no need for it, just to give it some weight.
Io son contadino mica grullo, ce l'avete il mandato?
I'm a farmer, not an idiot, do you have a warrant?
While it’s nice to know what all these little words mean, it can be frustrating trying to account for all of them or to string them together in a logical order, so learning some common frasi fatte (idiomatic expressions) can get you off to a great start.
Lara’s aunt is being pulled by her little dog:
Non ce la faccio, mi fai cadere.
I can’t make it [I can't keep up], you'll make me fall.
And the Commissario has no clue why Lara is mad at him:
Lara! Io non l'ho capito perché ce l'hai con me.
Lara! I don't get why you have something against me.
A good way to get a realistic sense of ci and ce in context is to watch Yabla series like Commissionario Manara, Un Medico in Famiglia, or even Pippo e Palla. Listen for these words, and when you hear them, press pause and repeat the sentence out loud. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll discover these little words all over the place, sprouting like wildflowers.