Monday, 28 November 2011

A few important things to consider with relative and interrogative pronouns

The relative and interrogative pronouns often cause a little confusion for foreigners, who find it difficult to distinguish especially between the usage of che, cui and chi. In order to use Italian grammar correctly, and perhaps one day elegantly, the distinction must be made. For those who study or know another Romance language such as French, it can be easy to make mistakes with little details such as pronouns.

  • Chi is commonly found in questions, and, as such, it is an interrogative pronoun. It can function as the subject or as an indirect object or object of the preposition (complement indiretto): e.g. Chi vuole giocare con me? Chi ha fatto il bucato ieri? Da chi andiamo stasera? Con chi ti sei sposato?
  • At this point, it bears much resemblance to French where the interrogative pronoun would be qui, meaning who.
  • How do we know if chi is the subject or the indirect object/object of the preposition:

1.when chi functions as an indirect object/object of the preposition, it will have a preposition before it (di, da, con, etc.).

2. the form of the verb can also be something other than the third person singular . Otherwise, when chi is the subject, the verb is always in the third person singular (see the first two examples above).

  • Chi can join with di + tonic pronoun noi, voi or loro can have the meaning Which of in questions: e.g. Chi di noi e' piu' bravo, chi di loro vuole giocare con me?
  • Chi di me (Which of me…) may be used if you’re being existential or philosophical (more likely to be observed in songs or poetry), but it’s generally used in the plural (noi, voi, loro).
  • Note that chi can also function like this as a relative pronoun: Chi di voi vuole sapere piu' puo' mandarmi un messaggio.
  • Di chi can mean whose when used to form a question: Di chi sono queste cose? Di chi e' questo gatto?
  • NOTE that if there is an antecent, you should use cui. E.g. Alessia, di cui parlo molto, le piace molto i fiori. Elena, da cui sono andata ieri, ha una casa grande. Why? Because we know who the sentence is referring to.

Chi can also be used as a relative pronoun.
  • It appears as a relative pronoun as either the subject OR an indirect object/object.
  • Chi can mean: he person who, the one who
    the man/woman who/whom
    the people/those who/whom
    someone who/somebody who
    anyone who
    (in negative phrases)
  • Chi does not require an antecedent and is often considered a “double pronoun” because it is both the antecedent and the relative pronoun simultaneously. Chi can also be preceded by prepositions in the following combinations: a chi, con chi, per chi, da chi, in chi, su chi, tra chi.
  • The major difference between cui and chi is that chi does not require an antecedent, unlike che and cui. Since chi lacks an antecedent, it usually describes an unknown person or group of people.
  • For example Devo trovare qualcuno chi puo' aiutarmi con questo compito. (qualcuno is somebody, an unknown, non specific person)
  • Alternatively, if the person was known we should use che. Voglio trovare la mia amica Rossana che puo' aiutarmi con questo compito.
  • Chi can also can anyone or whoever. e.g. Sposati chi vuoi, e' la tua vita.
  • Chi can also mean 'some' or others when used like Chi... Chi. E.g. C'e' chi vuole sposarsi, chi vuole lavorare.

Try to avoid confusing the relative pronoun che with the conjunction che.

  • 1. Che as a relative pronoun is used as a the direct object or the subject of the dependent clause: e.g. Hai trovato i guanti che volevo comprare? Hai trovato quelli che hai perso?
  • At this point Italian grammar and French grammar can be easily muddled up. In french, qui is used as the subject whilst que is used as the direct object. We could easily just presume that qui translates literally as chi, que as che, but take care!
  • 2. Che as an interrogative pronoun e.g. Che fai domani?
  • 3. Or che as an interrogative adjective e.g. Che genere di libri preferisci?
  • 4. Che as an indefinite pronoun can sometimes be used as a synonym for qualcosa di or qualche: C'era un che di strano nel bosco quel giorno.
  • 5. Che can also be used as an exclamation: Che stronzo! Che bello! Che meraviglia!
  • 6. Che can be used as a conjunction between comparatives. It is chosen over di when comparing:
    • adjectives referred to a person or thing e.g. E' piu' bello che brutto.
    • infinitives e.g. Correre e' piu' duro che camminare.
    • participles
    • nouns referred to a person or thing e.g. Ho piu' fame che sete.
    • nouns or pronouns preceded by a preposition e.g. Mi sono divertita di piu' a milano che a roma.
  • 7. Che can be used as a conjunction to introduce a consequence. E.g. Faceva cosi' freddo che nessuno voleva uscire.
  • 8. Che can introduce a subjective or object clause. Credo che non ci sia un Dio.
  • Che as a conjunction when it introduces a purpose (you must do something for a reason or to achieve a certain result) e.g. Va’ in macchina che non devi camminare fino al supermercato.
  • 9. Che as a conjunction expresses a clause, as a synonym of perche' e.g. Devo scrivere il saggio che la scadenza e' domani!
  • 10. OR che can act as a synonym for quando, expressing time. Vado a letto che il sole tramonta. Mi sveglio che il sole sorge.

Remember That in Italian relative pronouns are NEVER omitted, unlike in English e.g.

The cat that I like. The cat I bought. Both make sense right? But to make
the frase more sophisticated, we could add that, I like the cat THAT I bought.

Cat is the antecedent in English because it precedes the relative pronoun che. That I bought becomes the relative or dependent clause because the whole sentence is now required to give it meaning.

In Italian...

  • Cui and che require noun antecedents. If there is no antecedent, quello can precede che. E.g. Quello che lei ha detto era la verita'. Also cosa is used without a antecedent. Cosa vuoi da me??