Italian Language Blog

Pronomi Personali Indiretti part 2: Forme Atone Posted by on Sep 7, 2009 in Grammar

In part 1 of this article I introduced the forme toniche (stressed forms) of the indirect personal pronouns; in this second part we’re going to have a look at the forme atone or ‘unstressed forms’, which are less emphatic than the forme toniche. In more technical terms, the forme atone have the grammatical function of the complemento di termine or dative.

Here is the complete list: 

mi (to me)

ti (to you, singular, informal)

gli (to him)

le (to her / to you, singular, formal)

ci (to us)

vi (to you, plural)

gli / loro (to them); in spoken Italian the form gli is now commonly used also for the plural, instead of the more correct loro.

Forme atone are more commonly used in everyday language than forme toniche preceded by the preposition a. Here are two examples that illustrate the difference between the two forms: 

Forme atone: gli ho dato il libro (I gave him the book). Forme toniche: ho dato il libro a lui (I gave the book to him).

Forme atone: Gianni: Ti assicuro che è tutto vero! Luca: Va bene, ti credo (Gianni: I assure you that is all true! Luca: OK, I believe you). Forme toniche: Gianni: A chi credi, a me o a Bruno? Luca: Va bene, credo a te (Gianni: Who do you believe, me or Bruno? Luca: OK, I believe to you).

Because of its dative value, la forma atona is normally used with the verb piacere, e.g. mi piace il mare (I like the sea); le piace la montagna (she likes the mountain). However, if you need to emphasize the pronouns, you should use the forme toniche, for example: a me piace il mare, ma a lei piace la montagna (I like the sea, but she likes the mountain).

Because of their lack of stress, le forme atone normally come immediately before the verb, but in the following cases they are joined onto the end of the verb:

after an infinitive: siamo venuti per parlarvi (We have come to talk to you)

after a gerundive: non voglio offendere Giorgio dicendogli questo (I don’t want to offend Giorgio by telling him this)

after the imperative: non ditele nulla (do not tell her anything); parlami! (talk to me!).

The forme atone cannot be used in the following situations:

With the prepositions di, da, in, con, su, per, tra / fra

In comparisons after come (like/as) or quanto (as much as), e.g. A Gianna piace il gelato al cioccolato come a me (Gianna likes chocolate ice cream like me)

After the conjunctions anche (also, too), neanche (not even, neither), pure (even), and neppure / nemmeno (not even), e.g. Mario: mi piace il mare. Luca: Anche a me (Mario: I like the sea. Luca: me too), Mario: Non mi ha dato il libro Luca: Neanche a me (Mario: He didn’t give me the book. Luca: He didn’t give it to me either).

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  1. Nathan:

    Salve Serena,

    Great post. Is it true that in Toscana both the atone and toniche form of the same pronoun is frequently used in the same sentence? For example: <> And if so, why? My family originally came from Pistoia and Lucca so the dialect of Tuscany is something I always find interesting.

    Grazie Mille.

  2. Nathan:

    Hi again,

    For some reason my example got cut off. It was “A me mi piacce leggere questo blog.”

    Mi dispiace.

  3. Serena:

    Salve Nathan! Thank you for your compliments. Yes, in Toscana they say “A me mi piace”, or more characteristically “A me mi garba” (in Toscana they use the verb “garbare” instead of “piacere”). Also, around the Firenze area, it’s very common to hear the use of the double direct pronoun, in fact if somebody wants to imitate a Fiorentino, a classic expression is: “Oh che te tu fai?” (What are you doing?).


  4. Karen:

    Can I just check something please.

    If gli is often used instead of the more correct loro, is it correct to say ‘gli piace’/’a gli piace’ for ‘they like’ as well as ‘he likes’?

    Thanks, Karen

    • Serena:

      @Karen Salve Karen!
      Yes, in spoken Italian ‘gli’ is often used instead of the more correct ‘a loro’ (not ‘loro’), therefore it’s correct to say ‘gli piace’ instead of ‘a loro piace’, or ‘gli ho detto’ instead of ‘ho detto a loro’. However, we never use ‘a gli’, because these is a repetition, i.e. ‘a a loro’.

      Saluti da Serena

  5. steph:

    This isn’t a question, but I just wanted to say that this blog has been more helpful to me in learning Italian than both my professor and textbook combined, so thank you!

    • Serena:

      @steph Salve Steph, grazie tante per il complimento … lo devo far vedere al mio manager! 😉

      Saluti da Serena

  6. Rita Kostopoulos:

    Moltissime grazie per questo blog molgto utile per la mia classe di adulti.
    Tantissimi saluti

  7. Luis:

    Salve Serena,
    There is a particular direct object pronoun combination that is rare (I presume) and not easy to find examples about it, and I would like to hear your comment about it. It is a combination of a direct object tonic pronoun (me, te, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro, loro) followed by a direct object atonic pronoun (mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, le) of the same person as the respective tonic pronoun. As an example, we can say: Lui lo vedo spesso. Question: based on this example, is it grammatically correct to say that there are as many as eight possible combinations of them. Some other examples are really appreciated.

    Thank you very much for your time in advance,

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