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italian disjunctive or "stressed" pronouns: i pronomi tonici

Ages ago we learned the direct and indirect object pronouns - mi, ti, lo, la, gli, le, etc. Unlike English, Italian has another version of these which you use after a preposition or verb, often for greater emphasis (hence the name "stressed pronouns"). First we'll learn what these pronouns are, then we'll see how to use them.

Stressed Pronouns

me (me)
te (you)
Lei (you formal)
lui (him)
lei (her)
sé (yourself, himself, herself, oneself - reflexive)
noi (us)
voi (you plural)
Loro (you plural formal)
loro (them)
sé (yourselves, themselves - also reflexive)

So they look like a hybrid of direct or indirect object pronouns and subject pronouns. But take note: although Lei, lui, lei, noi, voi and loro look like subject pronouns, when used disjunctively they are not subjects!

So how are they used?

1) after a preposition

Questo libro è per te. (This book is for you.)
Siamo usciti con loro. (We went out with them.)
Pensa sempre a . (He always thinks about himself.)
Studiano sempre da . (They always study by themselves.)
A me non piace questo vino. (I don't like this wine - a more emphatic way of saying, "Non mi piace questo vino.")
Andiamo da lui. (We're going to his place.)

2) after a verb to give the direct or indirect object greater emphasis

Lo amo. - Amo lui. (I love him.)
Ti cercavo. - Cercavo te. (I was looking for you.)
Mi abbraccia. - Abbraccia me. (She hugs me.)

The above pairs of sentences have the same meanings, but the second in each pair is more emphatic. For even greater emphasis, use anche, proprio or solamente - e.g. Cercavo proprio te. Abbraccia solamente me.

3) after a verb to distinguish between multiple objects

Riconosce me ma non lui. - He recognizes me but not him.
Ha invitato noi e loro. - He invited us and them.

4) in comparisons

Marcello è più alto di me. (Marcello is taller than me.)
Loro sono meno paurosi di noi. (They are less fearful than us.)
Tuo fratello non era intelligente quanto te. (Your brother wasn't as smart as you.) 

A very common Italian idiomatic expression that uses stressed pronouns is, "Tocca a me!" - It's my turn! Of course, you can use it with the other disjunctive pronouns too - Tocca a te, tocca a noi, etc. So when the waiter brings you the bill and someone asks, "Chi paga oggi?" just say, "Eh purtroppo oggi tocca a te!" (Who's buying today? - Unfortunately today it's your turn!) C4N!

Reader Comments (3)

Thank you for clearing this up! Many web sources of information on object pronouns, e.g. About.com blithely skip past this even though they unthinkingly use examples with the disjuntives and create a lot of confusion.
November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWill
hey, just letting you know, this discription of pronomi tonici realy helped. i have an italian test later with a section on this and i dont remember learning this. thanks so much! it was very easey to understand
September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGiustina
I thought that when using 'anche' you used a subject pronoun for example "anch'io" - "me too", anche tu - you too.

Maybe I am confused!
July 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

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