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Si Impersonale – Part 2 Posted by on Feb 29, 2012 in Grammar

A few days ago I wrote about the impersonal pronoun ‘si’: Si Impersonale – part 1

Today I’ll continue by looking at some other aspects of the si impersonale.

1. Verbi Riflessivi (Reflexive Verbs)

Let’s see how the si impersonale is used with reflexive verbs. Take for example the reflexive verb riposarsi (to rest oneself): mi riposo (I rest myself), lui/lei si riposa (he or she rests himself/herself), noi ci riposiamo (we rest ourselves) etc. Now, when we use a reflexive verb in the impersonal form, we have to make a small modification in order to avoid repeating ‘si’, therefore, instead of saying ‘si si riposa’ (one rests oneself – reflexive pronoun + impersonal pronoun) we change the first ‘si’ to a ‘çi’ to make ci si riposa (one rests oneself), e.g. la domenica ci si riposa (one rests oneself on Sundays). Follow the same rule for all reflexive verbs, e.g. ci si veste (one dresses oneself), ci si alza (one gets oneself up) etc.

2. Accordo del participio passato (Agreement with the past participle)

As I explained in part 1 of this blog, the passato prossimo (present perfect) is always built with the verb essere, even with transitive verbs that would normally have the verb avere. If you need to revise the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, you’ll find my blog on the topic here: Transitive and Intransitive Verbs. However, there are several possibilities for the ending of the participio passato (past participle). Let’s have a look at them:

a. If the verb is transitive and is not followed by a direct object, the past participle ends in o, e.g. dopo che si è studiato, ci si può rilassare (after one has studied, one can relax).

b. When the transitive verb is followed by a direct object, the past participle agrees with the object, i.e. the ending changes from masculine to feminine, and from singular to plural, e.g.:

dopo che si è messa l’acqua nella pentola (fem.singular – after you’ve put the water in the saucepan);

dopo che si sono messe le patate nella pentola (fem.plural – after you’ve put the potatoes in the saucepan);

dopo che si è messo il riso nella pentola (masc.singular. – after you’ve put the rice in the saucepan);

dopo che si sono messi gli spaghetti nella pentola (masc.plural – after you’ve put the spaghetti in the saucepan).

c. In reflexive verbs, the past participle is normally masculine plural, e.g. una volta che ci si è riposati, si può continuare il viaggio (once one has rested, one can carry on with the journey).

d. With intransitive verbs such as andare (to go), which would normally use the verb essere in the passato prossimo, the impersonal form has the past participle in the masculine plural, e.g. una volta che si è andati via, non bisogna ritornare (once you’ve gone away, you don’t need to come back).

e. With intransitive verbs such as camminare (to walk), which would normally use the verb avere in the passato prossimo, the impersonal form has the past participle in the masculine singular, e.g. fanno male le gambe dopo che si è camminato molto in montagna (your legs hurt after you’ve walked in the mountains for a long time).


OK, I’d intended to finish off this post by mentioning how the si impersonale is affected by other personal pronouns, together with a couple of curiosities linked to this construction. But the more I think about it, the more complicated it becomes … so there will be a Part 3!

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  1. Moody:

    that’s made the Si impersonale way more easy to be understood. especially when you mentioned the Accordo del participio passato and when to put plural forms is what i needed the most. thank you.. truly you’re the best!! i just wish there was a way i can download all your posts as its a great reference for me!!
    Grazie mille Serena!! and waiting part 3

    Sincerely Mo.

  2. andreas:

    Salve Serena!
    Grazie per il blog. Come mi piacciono le complicatezze della grammatica italiana. Penso che ci sia una connessione tra la complessita’ di una lingua e lo sviluppo dell’arte del paese. Quante invenzioni e il livello dell’arte(benche’ non mi piaccia la maggioranza dell’arte moderna di tutti i paesi, preferisco l’arte classica)!

  3. Julie:

    Thank you both so much for your blog. Whilst i go regularl;y to Italian classes I frequently refer to your past posts as they are so clear! Also, I love the tales about life in the Lunigiana. We have had a house there for nearly 10 years and whilst we can’t spend as much time here as previous due to elderly family commitments, we love it and your stories keep us in touch when we are not there. We are in a small village above Filattiera where the population is dwindling and no doubt the way of life will change but we feel privileged to have shared some of it with our neighbours and friends.


  4. Caroline Darton:

    Thank you for this very clear explanation of ‘si impersonale’. Really helpful.
    Have you by any chance written about the hypothetical with ‘se’? If so, what is the link?
    Is there a list of grammatical points you’ve covered and, if so, how do I access it? I am new to the world of blogs!
    Thank you again,

    • Geoff:

      @Caroline Darton Ciao Caroline, e scusa per il ritardo.
      Good question about the grammatical points, we’ve covered just about all the major ones over the last seven years, however you can search by category here: https://blogs.transparent.com/italian/archives-and-categories/
      If you need anything specific try the search box at the top right, or send us a comment.
      I doubt we’ve done anything specifically about se because it’s relatively simply, and wouldn’t meet our minimum of 400 words per blog. However, in a nutshell: se = if, e.g.: se vuoi, ti do una mano = if you want, I’ll give you a hand, or se non vengo oggi sarà domani = if I don’t come today it’ll be tomorrow, or non so se hai letto questo libero? = I don’t know if you’ve read this book? … and so on.

      Anyway, welcome to the wonderful world of blogs! Saluti da Geoff e Serena 🙂

  5. Barry:

    I was absolutely confused on how to use the si impersonale construction with reflexive verbs. Your blog cleared up my confusion in less than two minutes. This is a very valuable resource. Please, please, please continue to publish it.

    • Serena:

      @Barry Salve Barry!
      Grazie per i complimenti! Sono contenta che il nostro blog ti sia utile.
      Saluti da Serena

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