Italian Language Blog

‘Ci’ Posted by on Aug 27, 2018 in Grammar

Like an elusive butterfly, she flutters from sentence to sentence. Just when we think we can grasp her, with a swift beat of tiny wings, ‘ci‘ flies out of reach, only to alight somewhere else totally unexpected.

Luckily, I have a special grammatical butterfly net. Let’s capture her and take a closer look at her many facets …

1. ci as a personal pronoun.
The personal pronoun ci can be translated as ‘us’, ‘each other’, or ‘we’, depending on context.
ci ha chiesto di spostare la macchina = he asked us to move the car
ci siamo visti l’altro giorno = we saw each other the other day
ci vediamo domani = we’ll see each other tomorrow (see you tomorrow)
ci piace fare le passeggiate = we like to go walking
ci siamo già lavati le mani = we have already washed our hands (from the reflexive verb lavarsi = to wash oneself)

2. ci as the adverb ‘there’ or ‘here’
ci sono stato tre anni fa = I went there three years ago
ci siamo, finalmente! = we’re finally here!
ci vengo molto spesso = I come here very often
c’erano molti turisti quest’anno! = there were lots of tourists this year (see note b. below)
c’è un bar qui vicino? = is there a bar nearby? (see note b. below)

Lago Santo? Sì, c’eravamo due settimane fa. Lago Santo? Yes, we were there two weeks ago.

Important notes:
a. Sometimes we use the adverb ‘ci‘ even when it is theoretically redundant, e.g. ci sei a casa oggi pomeriggio? = are you (there) at home this afternoon?
b. When ci is followed by è (is), ero (I was), eravamo (we were), erano (they were), and so on it becomes c’. Hence: c’è (is there), c’eravamo (we were there), c’erano (there were), etc.
c. When followed by the object pronouns lo, la, li, le, (it, them) or ne (of it/of them), ci becomes ce:
question: scusi, c’è una banca qui vicino? = excuse me, is there a  bank near here?
answer: sì, ce n’è una all’angolo della piazza = yes, there’s one on the corner of the square (literally: there’s one of them on the corner)
question: sapete che il ponte è chiuso? =do you (plural) know that the bridge is closed?
answer: sì, ce l’hanno detto = yes, they told us (literally: they told us it)
question: allora, vi piace l’appartamento? = so, do you like the apartment?
answer: è troppo costoso, non ce lo possiamo permettere = it’s too expensive, we can’t afford it. (literally: we can’t allow ourselves it)

Next time: things get more complicated when we encounter ci in idiomatic verbs!

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  1. Rita Kostopoulos:


  2. Marian:

    A very useful and clear explanation. Thank you very much.

  3. giacomo coletti:

    e una tema un po confuso. Grazie per la spiegazione.

  4. Nini Rukmini:

    grazie Geoff.

  5. Bonnie Melielo:

    ci vediamo – we’ll see each other later/next time

    ci vedremo – “we’ll see” (how it goes)

    Correct o no?

    • Geoff:

      @Bonnie Melielo Ciao Bonnie.

      ci vediamo = literally ‘we see each other’ – we’ll see each other – in English we usually just say ‘see you’
      ci vediamo più tardi = literally ‘we see each other later’ – we’ll see each other later – ‘see you later’
      alla prossima = until the next time – ‘see you next time’

      ci vedremo = we will see each other – more emphatic and definite that ci vediamo, e.g. ci vedremo senz’altro alla festa! = we’ll definitely see each other at the party!

      vedremo! = we’ll see! (what happens)

      Hope that helps, saluti da Geoff 🙂

  6. Adam:

    2 Ci as the adverb “here” or “there”

    c’erano molti turisti quest’anno! = there were lots of tourists this year (see note b. below)

    c’è un bar qui vicino? = is there a bar nearby? (see note b. below)

    The last two items are not location as implied by the heading, but existence. This is common in latin based languages.

    • Geoff:

      @Adam Scusa, qual è il problema? Non ho capito!

  7. Maria:

    Tantissime grazie Geoff per questa spiegazione. Comunque ho una domanda. Come ditte voi in inglese: on the corner or in the corner? L’inglese è la mia seconda lingua, quindi ho molte difficoltà con le preposizioni.

    • Geoff:

      @Maria Ciao Maria!
      Allora, if it’s an outside corner, such as the corner of a street, we’d say ‘at the corner’ or ‘on the corner’ e.g. ‘I’ll meet you at/on the corner’, or ‘he placed the cup on the corner of the table’. But if it’s an inside corner, such as the corner of a room, we’d say ‘in the corner’, e.g. ‘put the box in the corner’, or ‘the boy stood in the corner of the kitchen’.

      Hope that helps.
      Caso mai, qual è la tua madre lingua?

  8. Maria:

    Moltissime grazie Geoff per la spiegazione. La mia madrelingua è lo spagnolo.

  9. Chippy:

    Grazie, di nuovo un blog moltissimo utile! Comunque, I like to translate it really literally as it reminds me of the word order when I want to construct my own sentence. p.e. Vi piace l’appartamento? E` troppo costoso, non ce lo possiamo permettere
    To you does it please the apartment? It is too expensive. Not ourselves it we can permit.
    BTW is ‘Caso mai’ an idiomatic expression meaning something like BTW??

    • Geoff:

      @Chippy Ciao Chippy, sì, ‘caso mai’ è probabilmente il modo più comune di dire ‘by the way’
      Grazie per il tuo commento! 🙂

  10. Chippy:

    Grazie Geoff – un’altra gemma per il mio taccuino!

  11. Tony:

    Qui c’è davvero molto aiuto. Ci vedremo di nuovo!

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