Direct object nouns and pronouns are used with transitive verbs, meaning that the verb and the object have a direct relationship—no prepositions are involved. Here’s an example:
I carry the ball. The object “ball” is acted on directly by the verb “to carry.”
Once we know what object we are referring to, we can replace the noun with a pronoun:
I carry it.
If I have more than one ball, I use the plural:
I carry the balls.
I carry them.
That’s what direct object pronouns are all about. In Italian we have to form the pronouns not only according to their number, but also according to their gender.
In this lesson we cover the feminine direct object pronouns in both the singular and the plural. For the masculine pronouns, see this Yabla lesson as well as the video Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi oggetto diretto - Part 1.
As Daniela mentions in part 2 of her lesson on direct object pronouns, the feminine direct object pronouns are easier than the masculine ones, because the pronoun is the same as the article in both the singular (la) and the plural (le), respectively.
To distinguish between la the article and la the pronoun, just remember that a direct object pronoun will come before a conjugated verb, and an article will come before a noun or adjective. The following example contains both the article and the pronoun la.
La pasta fresca mi piace talmente tanto, che la mangio anche cruda.
I like fresh pasta so much, that I eat it raw, too.
Caption 9, Anna e Marika - La pasta frescaPlay Caption
In the example below, we have both a feminine noun in the plural (le lettere) and its relative direct object pronoun (le). Note that in the second half of the sentence, potere (to be able to) is the conjugated modal verb*, which is followed by the verb scambiare (to exchange) in the infinitive.
Non aveva le lettere e non le poteva scambiare con nessuno.
He didn't have the letters and he couldn't exchange them with anyone.Play Caption
Pronouns are often attached to verbs, especially when we have a conjugated modal verb*. In the example below, bisogna, an impersonal verb functioning like devi (you must), or è necessario (it’s necessary) bumps the verb portare (to take) into its infinitive form. The final e of the infinitive is then dropped, making room for the pronoun le (them) to be attached to it.
Una volta raccolte le olive,
Once the olives have been picked,
bisogna portarle al più presto al frantoio.
you have to take them to the mill as soon as possible.
Caption 18, L'olio extravergine di oliva - Il frantoioPlay Caption
Once you have seen Daniela’s videos about direct object pronouns, see Marika’s video Marika spiega - I pronomi diretti where she gives plenty of examples.
In a future lesson, we’ll cover indirect object pronouns, where le takes on still another role.