Mar 14 / Irene

Italian Pronominal Verbs: 5 things you need to know

Did you say... Italian pronominal verbs???

Pronominal verbs are a big challenge for any and all learners of the Italian language. When I was first teaching Italian, I noticed that even my best students were struggling with this subject, resulting in it becoming one of the first courses I created on Best Italian Classes! And also one of the only pronominal verbs classes online!

In this post, I want to introduce to you the main points that you should know before diving into Italian pronominal verbs.

1 - What are pronominal verbs? 

Before we dive in you may be asking, “What are Italian pronominal verbs?” They are verbs that are combined with one or more pronouns that either reinforce the meaning of that verb, slightly alter the meaning, or change the meaning completely!

2 - Italian pronominal verbs are not easy

It is true and I am not going to lie to you saying there is a method to avoid these troubles. But as is for everything in life, realizing what makes this topic complex is the first step towards comprehension and then mastery.

When you are first faced with Italian pronominal verbs, the first two hurdles are:

- The meaning can be idiomatic (far away from the original meaning of the verb). Let’s look at an example of the pronominal verb BERSELA. I am sure that you recognize the verb BERE, but the meaning of BERSELA is to believe in a lie. Not your first guess, was it? 

-Once you know the meaning of the pronominal verb, the new challenge will be figuring out where the pronoun belongs in the sentence. It can be quite like doing a puzzle!

3 - The pronouns are tricky

I am by no means a perfectionist of grammar but with pronominal verbs, perfection can be needed to have the expression mean what you want.
For pronominal verbs, the pronoun can behave in a different way than what it is normally. This can come out of the blue and not be referred to by any other element of the sentence. Or it can be a repetition of a complement that was expressed earlier in the sentence. In this last case, you might wonder why we need to repeat the concept… well you are right, but we still do it anyway!
The pronoun can also either reinforce the original meaning of the verb or change it completely!

4 - Three main pronouns used with pronominal verbs 

I like grouping Italian pronominal verbs according to their pronoun.
The main pronouns used in pronominal verbs are CI, LA, and NE.
There are some other pronouns that can be used like LE or even a combination of more than one pronoun. An example of this would be FARCELA, where you have the verb FARE combined with the pronouns CI and LA.

5 - Italian pronominal verbs can be reflexive

This probably is not good news to hear because it makes the sentence even more crowded with pronouns that need to go somewhere. But you definitely need to know that many pronominal verbs are used in the reflexive form, like with BERSELA, which we have already seen.

6 - There are vulgar pronominal verbs

Oh yes! There are a handful of Italian pronominal verbs that can have quite vulgar meanings. A general rule to help with this is that a lot of times with the pronouns LO (masculine) and LA (femine) it is referring to the respective sexual body parts.

Start learning Italian pronominal verbs today!

You can start my course regarding Italian pronominal verbs for free right here! The first lesson and the entire E-Book are completely free which lets you judge if this is the right course for you! The full course includes grammar insights regarding the position of the pronoun and an extra video lesson discussing the vulgar pronominal verbs.

Created with