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Verbi pronominali - Pronominal Verbs


We use the term verbo pronominale (pronominal verb) to describe long verbs like prendersela, in which pronoun particles are added on to the original verb (prendere in this case). But let’s take a closer look at what verbi pronominali (pronominal verbs) are all about.



What does pronominale (pronominal) mean?

Pronominale (pronominal) means “relating to or playing the part of a pronoun.” In Italian, un verbo pronominale (a pronominal verb) is one that has a special meaning when used together with one or two particular pronominal particelle (particles).


Grammatically speaking, a particle is simply a small word of functional or relational use, such as an article, preposition, or conjunction.


So we have a normal verb, which, when used together with certain particles, has a distinct meaning that is often, but not necessarily, related to the meaning of the original verb.

Technically, reflexive verbs can also be considered pronominal verbs because in effect, the verb is used together with a particle like the si (oneself) in alzarsi (to get up). But these verbs are a special case and not usually called “pronominal,” since they are already called “reflexive.” Learn more about reflexive verbs here.


Verbs can combine with one or two particles. The particles used to make up a pronominal verb are:

la (it)
le (them)
ne (of it, of them, from it, from them)
ci (of it, about it)

Note that La and le are direct object pronouns while ci and ne are indirect object pronouns and therefore include a preposition and an object in the one particle.


As mentioned in a previous lesson, a pronominal verb in its infinitive form has all the particles attached to it, but when used in a sentence, the pieces may be partially or totally detached, and hence a bit more difficult to locate.

Pronominal verbs with 1 pronoun

Pronominal verbs may be made up of one verb plus one pronoun particle:

smetterla (to quit doing something): smettere (to quit) + la (it)
darle (to give them, to give a spanking [idiom]): dare (to give) + le (them)
farne (to do something with something): fare (to do, to make) + ne (of it, of them)
capirci (to understand [about] something): capire (to understand) + ci (of it)


Sì, ma lo sai che è la prima volta

Yes, but you know it's the first time

che in un delitto non ci capisco niente neanche io? -Hm.

that in a murder I don't understand anything about it either? -Hm.

Captions 45-46, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Pronominal verbs with 2 pronouns

Pronominal verbs may also be made up of one verb plus two pronoun particles (which combine with each other).


The particle ci can be combined with a second pronoun particle, such as -la or -ne, but, as we have mentioned beforeci becomes ce when combined with another pronoun particle. Therefore we have, -cela, -cene; NOT -cila, -cine.

avercela [con qualcuno] (to have it in [for somebody], to feel resentful [towards somone]) avere + ci + la
farcela (to make it, to succeed) fare + ci + la


Ce la faccio, ce la faccio, ce la faccio.

"I can do it, I can do it, I can do it."

Caption 60, Dixieland - La magia di Tribo

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Since the feminine is so often used in pronominal verbs, especially in idiomatic expressions, we can think of la (it) as standing for una cosa (something, that thing), la vita (life), la faccenda (the matter), or la situazione (the situation).


Exactly why a feminine pronoun is used in so many expressions with pronominal verbs is not cut-and-dried, and there is no quick answer. If you’re insatiably curious, check out this passage from an online book about the question (in Italian).

Reflexive pronominal verbs 

Pronominal verbs may be made up of one reflexive verb (which uses the particle si in the infinitive) plus a second pronoun particle such as those mentioned above:  la, le, ne, or ci.

Prendersela (to get angry, to get offended, to get upset)
Fregarsene (to not care at all about something [colloquial])
Mettercisi (to put [time] into something)


In the following example, we have the pronominal verb accorgersene (to notice something, to realize something, to become aware of something). The basic (reflexive) verb is accorgersi (to notice), but the object pronoun particle ne is added as an indirect object pronoun.

Ma non è tutto lì.

But that's not all of it.

Forse la differenza ha radici più profonde.

Perhaps the difference has deeper roots.

E te ne accorgi solo quando accade.

And you only notice it when it happens.

Captions 32-34, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 11

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