Comparison of Italian and Spanish
The Italian personal pronouns are summarized in the following table:
|1st pn sg.||io||mi||mi||me||mi
|2nd pn sg.||tu||ti||ti||te||ti
|3rd pn sg.||lui/lei||lo/la||gli/le||lui/lei||si
|1st pn pl.||noi||ci||ci||noi||ci
|2nd pn pl.||voi||vi||vi||voi||vi
|3rd pn pl.||loro||li/le||gli||loro||si
Here, stressed means following a preposition. Sometimes, stressed pronouns
are called disjunctive.
Now compare this with the corresponding table for Spanish:
|1st pn sg.||yo||me||me||mí||me
|2nd pn sg.||tú||te||te||ti||te
|3rd pn sg.||él/ella||lo/la||le||él/ella||se
|1st pn pl.||nosotros||nos||nos||nosotros||nos
|2nd pn pl.||vosotros||os||os||vosotros||os
|3rd pn pl.||ellos/ellas||los/las||les||ellos/ellas||se
Note the switch of 'i' and 'e' in the first and second person singular forms,
and also in the third person reflexive forms. This can lead to confusion and
needs to be memorized. (Compare mi piace, ti dico and
si lavano with me gusta, te digo and se lavan,
Here are some remarks about usage:
- In Italian, one uses 'Lei' followed by the third person singular form to
address somebody in formal speech, as in Di dov'è Lei?. One can
also use 'Loro' to address more than one person, as in Di dove sono Loro?,
but this is now regarded as very formal and old-fashioned. In Spanish formal
speech, one uses 'usted' followed by the third person singular form when
addressing one person, as in ¿De donde es usted?, and 'ustedes'
followed by the third person plural form when addressing more than one person, as
in ¿De donde son ustedes?.
- In both languages, subject pronouns are optional. That is, in Italian one
can say either Hai mangiato tutto or Tu hai mangiato tutto, and in
Spanish one can say Has comido todo or Tú has comido todo.
The pronoun is only included when necessary to avoid confusion, for emphasis,
or to make it obvious that formal speech is being used.
- In Spanish it is common to add redundant indirect object pronouns to
sentences, as in Le hablo a él and A mí me gusta.
This is regarded as substandard in Italian and is best avoided. One would simply
say Parlo a lui and A me piace, respectively.
- On the other hand, there is one situation where Italian uses a redundant
direct object pronoun. This is when a direct object is moved to the
beginning of a sentence for emphasis. Compare La carne non la mangio
with Carne no como. (This example also illustrates the fact mentioned
above, that Italian uses articles more frequently than Spanish.)
- The 'personal a', mentioned in the section on prepositions, causes problems
in Spanish. It makes it hard sometimes to tell whether a person is a direct or
indirect object. A sentence like 'I saw him' can be translated as either
Lo vi or Le vi. It varies from one region to another. For an
Italian speaker, it is easier to use lo/la/los/las here.
- Complications arise when an indirect object pronoun is immediately followed
by a direct object pronoun. In Italian, 'gli lo' and 'le lo' are contracted to
'glielo'. In Spanish, 'le lo' becomes 'se lo'. So, for example,
'I have given it to him' becomes Gliel'ho dato in Italian and
Se lo he dado in Spanish.
- Finally, I should mention the stressed version of the reflexive third person
pronouns, which are 'sé' or 'se stesso' in Italian and 'sí' or
'sí mismo' in Spanish. So, for example, 'He is talking to himself'
becomes Parla con se stesso in Italian and Habla con sí
mismo in Spanish. Note yet again the irritating switch of 'i' and 'e'.
Last updated December 2016 by Adam N. Letchford.