0
0
Subtotal: £0.00

No products in the cart.

The eight pronominal verbs most used in Italian

Pronominal verbs

Some of the most difficult verbs to learn are the pronominal verbs (verbi pronominali). Despite this, these are very commonly used in everyday life, so it is important that you become familiar with them.

These are the eight most common pronominal verbs used in Italian:

  • Volerci
  • Cascarci
  • Rimetterci
  • Andarsene
  • Fregarsene
  • Smetterla
  • Cavarsela
  • Sentirsela

But, before we analyse each one individually, let’s answer the question: why are pronominal verbs difficult and how can I learn these easily?

What are pronominal verbs in Italian?

These verbs are the category of verbs called ‘verbi pronominali’. They are made up of a basic verb which is used together with one or more pronouns. A pronominal verb has a different meaning than the basic verb. The conjugation of each pronominal verb follows a special pattern.

If you are not yet familiar with the basic conjugation of verbs, then before you tackle the pronominal verbs, familiarise yourself with these. You can find a simple yet comprehensive guide here. If you are already familiar with the basic verbs, then carry on.

Metterci

Here is a pronominal verb use as an example: metterci. The basic verb is mettere (to put, to place), however, used with the pronoun ci, the meaning of the verb changes completely. The meaning of metterci is related to the time required to do something by someone/something. For example: It takes me ten minutes to do it = ci metto dieci minuti a farlo.

How commonly used are pronominal verbs in Italian?

These verbs are very common and are widely used especially in conversational Italian. For example, these expressions are all translated with a pronominal verb:

  • Hurry up: sbrigati (sbrigarsi) See also my post on instagram here.
  • Stop it: smettila (smetterla)
  • You can do it: ce la fai (farcela)
  • I don’t care: me ne frego (fregarsene)

Why are they difficult to learn?

Pronominal verbs are not always easily translated, and they require many examples in context in order to calibrate their exact meaning. This is because their meaning might be covered by one translation in one context but not in another. But don’t worry, we’ll explain each one and give you examples.

How to conjugate pronominal verbs

In order to conjugate these verbs, you need to learn their pattern. Let’s go back to our previous example: metterci.

The conjugation of the present tense is as follows:

Presente indicativo

Io ci metto

Tu ci metti

Lei/lui ci mette

Noi ci mettiamo

Voi ci mettete

Loro ci mettono

As you can see nothing too scary here, the basic verb does not change just add the pronoun ci before it and that is it.

Here is the conjugation of the past tense passato prossimo:

Passato prossimo

Io ci ho messo

Tu ci hai messo

Lei/lui ci ha messo

Noi ci abbiamo messo

Voi ci avete messo

Loro ci hanno messo

In some cases, like this one, the pronoun does not change. In others, however, it does so it is important that you study each pronominal verb as it follows its own pattern.

Today we will introduce the eight most used pronominal verbs. We will delve into their meaning first, the register, in other words the situation in which these words are used, and then we’ll show you how to conjugate them.

The eight most used pronominal verbs in Italian

This is our list of verbs, which ones do you know already?

  • Volerci
  • Cascarci
  • Rimetterci
  • Andarsene
  • Fregarsene
  • Smetterla
  • Cavarsela
  • Sentirsela

1. Volerci

This verb has a similar meaning to metterci. However, if metterci is related to the time required to do something by someone/something, volerci is related to the time required by something to be done. For example: It takes ten minutes to do it = ci vogliono dieci minuti per farlo.

Here are more examples:

  • Quanto tempo ci vuole per fare la pizza? Ci vuole mezz’ora.

How long does it take to make pizza? It takes half an hour.

  • Ci vuole un’ora per andare a Milano.

It takes an hour to go to Milan.

  • Per fare i miei compiti ci vogliono tre ore.

It takes three hours to do my homework.

  • Ci è voluta una giornata per salire in montagna.

It took a day to get up the mountain.

Register

In terms of register (in other words: the way the speaker uses language differently in different circumstances) this verb is used in all situations and contexts.

Note that this verb is only used in the third person singular and the third person plural.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Ci vuole                                 Ci è voluto/a

Ci vogliono                           Ci sono voluti/e

2. Cascarci

The pronominal verb cascarci means to be taken in, to fall for, or to rise to the bait. It can also mean to be swindled. 

Here are examples:

  • Ha giocato a carte con dei truffatori, gli hanno fatto credere di essere bravo. Lui ci è cascato e ha perso migliaia di soldi.

He played with some swindlers, they made him think that he was good, he fell for it and lost thousands of pounds.

  • Gli abbiamo fatto uno scherzo e ci è cascato.

We did a practical joke on him, and he fell for it.

  • Ha detto una bugia e ci sei cascato.

She told you a lie and you have believed her.

Register

In terms of register, this verb is used in all informal contexts.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io ci casco                             Io ci sono cascato

Tu ci caschi                           Tu ci sei cascato

Lui/lei ci casca                     Lui ci è cascato/lei ci è cascata

Noi ci caschiamo                Noi ci siamo cascati

Voi ci cascate                       Voi ci siete cascati

Loro ci cascano                   Loro ci sono cascati

Notice that this verb follows the same pattern as metterci, it uses the same pronouns and so the same structure.

3. Rimetterci

This verb means to loose something, to loose out on something. It can also mean to ruin something.

It can also mean to be in shape to do something not necessarily difficult, but which requires some energy. In this case, it means to feel like doing something.

Here are examples:

  • Ho fatto degli investimenti sbagliati e ci ho rimesso tutti i miei risparmi.

I have made some bad investments and lost all my savings.

  • Ha gridato così tanto che ci ha rimesso la voce.
    He screamed so much he lost his voice
  • Nevicava e ci ho rimesso le scarpe nuove.

It was snowing and I have ruined my new shoes.

  • Ho fumato tutta la vita e ci ho rimesso la salute.

I have smoked all my life and ruined my health.

Register

In terms of register, this verb is used in all contexts forma and informal.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io ci rimetto                         Io ci ho rimesso

Tu ci rimetti                          Tu ci hai rimesso

Lui/lei ci rimette                 Lui/lei ci ha rimesso

Noi ci rimettiamo               Noi ci abbiamo rimesso

Voi ci rimettete                   Voi ci avete rimesso

Loro ci rimettono               Loro ci hanno rimesso

Notice that this verb follows the same pattern as the previous as it uses the same pronouns and so the same structure.

4. Andarsene

Andarsene means to go away, to leave, to go somewhere else and this is usually done in order to leave a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Here are examples:

  • I miei genitori erano soffocanti così me ne sono andato di casa.

My parents were oppressive so I moved out.

  • La festa era noiosa e alle 10.00 me ne sono andata.

The party was boring so I left at 10pm.

  • Vivere in campagna non mi piaceva così me ne sono andato in città.

I didn’t like country living so I left for the city.

Register

In terms of register, this verb is used in informal Italian.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io me ne vado                     Io me ne sono andato

Tu te ne vai                           Tu te ne sei andato

Lui/lei se ne va                    Lui se n’è andato/lei se n’è andata

Noi ce ne andiamo             Noi ce ne siamo andati

Voi ve ne andate                 Voi ve ne siete andati

Loro se ne vanno                Loro se ne sono andati

In this particular case, notice that we have two pronouns used for this verb, ne does not change while the first pronoun is the reflexive pronoun which combined with ne takes the form ending with an e.

In the past tense remember to agree the past participle as you normally do when using the verb essere.

5. Fregarsene

This pronominal verb means not to care in the least, not giving a monkey’s, to be so not bothered, not to care about someone or something.

Here are examples:

  • Me ne frego dei politici, sono tutti falsi.

I don’t care about politicians they are all false.

  • Me ne frego delle regole, voglio essere libero.

I don’t care about the rules, I want to be free.

  • Il calcio non m’interessa, me ne frego della tua partita importante

I’m not interested in football, I don’t give a monkey’s about your important game.

Register

In terms of register, this verb is widely used in informal, colloquial Italian, so use this with your friends and family, or people you know well.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io me ne frego                     Io me ne sono fregato

Tu te ne freghi                     Tu te ne sei fregato

Lui/lei se ne frega               Lui se n’è fregato /lei se n’è fregata

Noi ce ne freghiamo          Noi ce ne siamo fregati

Voi ve ne fregate                Voi ve ne siete fregati

Loro se ne vanno                Loro se ne sono fregati

Notice that this verb includes the same pronouns as the previous ones and follows the same pattern. So, learn these together.

6. Smetterla

Smetterla means to stop doing something, usually something annoying.

It is very common to hear ‘smettila’ which means ‘stop it’.

Here are more examples:

  • I bambini facevano troppo rumore ma l’hanno smessa quando è arrivata l’insegnante.

The children were making a lot of noise, but they stopped it when the teacher arrived.

  • Mi stai dando fastidio, smettila.

You are annoying me, stop it.

  • Mi ripeti sempre la stessa cosa, smettila.

You are telling me the same thing over and over, stop it.

Register

In terms of register, this verb is used in spoken, colloquial Italian.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io la smetto                          Io l’ho smessa

Tu la smetti                           Tu l’hai smessa

Lui/lei la smette                  Lui/lei l’ha smessa

Noi la smettiamo                Noi l’abbiamo smessa

Voi la smettete                    Voi l’avete smessa

Loro la smettono                Loro l’hanno smessa

Notice that the pronoun la does not change. Furthermore, it affects the verb in the past tense following the rule of the passato prossimo preceded by the pronoun. When there is an object pronoun before the verb the past participle is accorded with it.

7. Cavarsela

This pronominal verb has at least three different meanings:

  1. It means to manage to overcome a difficult or dangerous situation.

To scrape through a situation. So, to just manage to overcome it.

  • It can also mean to get away with it by using ones own astuteness or intelligence or by luck.
  • It can also mean to have a good ability with something.

Here are examples:

Meaning 1:

  • L’esame era molto difficile, ma me la sono cavata e l’ho passato.

The exam was very difficult, but I managed to pass.

  • Non ho studiato ma me la sono cavata per miracolo.

I hadn’t studied but I managed to scrape through, passing the test.

Meaning 2:

  • I carabinieri mi hanno fermato per eccesso di velocità ma essendo simpatico, me la sono cavata solo con un rimprovero.

The police stopped me for speeding, however, I used my charm and got away only with a reprimand.

  • Ho avuto un brutto incidente, ma la macchina era molto solida e me la sono cavata senza ferite.

I was in a terrible car accident, fortunately the car was really solid, and I got away with it, I wasn’t even injured.

Meaning 3:

  • Me la cavo bene con l’italiano, l’ho studiato per cinque anni.

My Italian is good, I have been studying for five years.

  • Me la cavo bene con il tennis, è la mia passione.

I’m quite good at tennis, it’s my passion in life.

Register

In terms of register, this verb is used widely in informal Italian.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io me la cavo                       Io me la sono cavata

Tu te la cavi                          Tu te la sei cavata

Lui/lei se la cava                 Lui se l’è cavata /lei se l’è cavata

Noi ce la caviamo               Noi ce la siamo cavata

Voi ve la cavate                   Voi ve la siete cavata

Loro se la cavano                Loro se la sono cavata

Notice that this verb also includes two pronouns, the first is the reflexive pronoun and the second the direct pronoun la which does not change throughout and affects the past participle which has to end
in -a.

8. Sentirsela

Sentirsela means to have the strength, courage, energy (or skill) to do something which is perceived as difficult or taxing, burdensome. It means to feel up to.

It can also mean to be in shape to do something not necessarily difficult, but which requires some energy. In this case, it means to feel like doing something.

Here are examples:

Meaning 1:

  • Hai una gamba rotta, te le senti di uscire?

You have a broken leg, do you feel up to going out?

  • Il marito era così sconvolto che non se l’è sentita di andare al funerale della moglie

The husband was so distraught that he couldn’t go to her wife’s funeral.

  • Oggi nevica, te la senti di uscire con la macchina?

Today it is snowing, do you feel up to going out with the car?

Meaning 2:

  • Hai lavorato duramente per tutto il giorno, te la senti di andare a ballare?

You’ve worked hard all day, do you feel like going dancing?

Register

In terms of register, this verb is used in all contexts.

Here is the conjugation:

Presente                              Passato prossimo

Io me la sento                     Io me la sono sentita

Tu te la senti                        Tu te la sei sentita

Lui/lei se la sente                Lui se l’è sentita /lei se l’è sentita

Noi ce la sentiamo             Noi ce la siamo sentita

Voi ve la sentite                  Voi ve la siete sentita

Loro se la sentono              Loro se la sono sentita

Notice that this verb follows the same pattern as the previous as it uses the same pronouns and so the same structure.

Is there a verb that you have difficulties with? Let us know and we’ll write a blog post to explain it.

The pronoun CI in Italian

In Italian, the pronoun “ci” is versatile, serving as a direct, indirect, and reflexive pronoun. It takes on various roles, acting as a pronoun of location and forming various pronominal verbs. Its multifunctionality can make “ci” confusing, but examining each function separately can clarify its meaning in different contexts.

Read More »

Italian culture: The family

Explore Italian culture, improve your reading skills, and enrich your vocabulary by reading this blog. Delve into the significance of family in Italy while you discover new vocabulary.

Read More »

Ode all’autunno

Here is a blog in Italian graded A2+. This is designed to develop your reading skills and widen your vocabulary. At the end you’ll find some very common way of saying related to chestnuts. The piece has been translated and you can find the English version at the end.

Read More »

Enjoyed this blog?

Don't miss my next one!

Get my Friday blog delivered directed to your inbox each week.
By submitting this form you agree that your details will be added to our mailing list to receive mailings about Parla Italiano. 

And share to your friends and family

Looking for an Italian course?

Send me a message here (stating your current level) and I'll help you select the most appropriate one for you. Look forward to hearing from you, Laura