There are words in a language that are considered very difficult to master by language learners – have a look at the meanings and uses of the word ci in italian in this article -> What’s the meaning of the word ci in Italian?
Let’s take the word ne in Italian. It is considered one of the most complex words to master in Italian by many students.
This is probably both because the word ne in Italian carries out many different functions, and because these same functions in many other languages are either carried out by other structures or are non-existent.
However, mastering the word ne in Italian is of extreme importance. Firstly, because it’s widely used by native Italians, and secondly because if misused, allows native speakers to spot a foreigner a mile away.
For example, you can hear an Italian language learner saying: “Guarda, ho appena ritirato l’anello di fidanzamento, cosa pensi dell’anello? Ti piace?”.
Now, while this sentence cannot be considered wrong, it’s generally not very used by native speakers, who prefer avoiding the repetition – anello – using ne: “Guarda, ho appena ritirato l’anello di fidanzamento, cosa ne pensi? Ti piace?”
So, today, I’m going to explain to you the meanings and functions of the word ne in italian.
Ne in Italian can have different meanings. It can be an adverb of place, a pronoun, and it can have other uses too.
ADVERB OF PLACE
• Ne in Italian can indicate a place
Ex: Arrivò al bar alle 9, ma dopo pochi minuti se ne andò
He arrived at the bar at 9, but after few minutes he left
To really understand the meaning of ne, let’s try to rewrite the sentence above without using ne:
Ex: Arrivò alle 9, ma dopo pochi minuti andò via dal bar -> Ne replaces the word bar.
• Ne in Italian can also be a pronoun. In this case, ne replaces the structure
di + noun/sentence or da + noun/sentence
+ Sapevi che Luca ha una sorella?
Did you know that Luca has a sister?
– Sì, ma non ne parla mai – > Sì, ma non parla mai di sua sorella
Yes, but he never talks about her
Roberto non sembra una persona affidabile. Se fossi in te, io ne starei alla larga -> Io starei alla larga da lui.
Roberto doesn’t seem a trustable person to me. If I were you, I’d stay away from him.
+ Avete voglia di andare al cinema?
Do you want to go to cinema?
– Ma sì, certo che ne abbiamo voglia.
Sure we do
• As a pronoun, ne can also replace a noun that comes after a number or an expression of quantity.
+ Quanti libri compri di solito?
How many books do you usually buy?
– Ne compro tre -> Compro tre libri
I buy three books
• When ne has this function, and is used in a sentence with a verb in the past, the verb agrees in gender and number with the noun ne is replacing.
+ Quanti libri hai comprato ieri?
How many books did you buy yesterday?
– Ne ho comprati cinque -> ho comprato cinque libri
I bought 5 books
• Ne in Italian is also used to indicate the date
+ Quanti ne abbiamo oggi?
What date is it today?
– Oggi ne abbiamo 5
Today it’s the 5th
• Finally ne is used in some peculiar expressions like:
Averne fin sopra i capelli/non poterne più
Ex: Ne ho fin sopra i capelli delle sue maniere/Non ne posso più delle sue maniere
I’m fed up with his bad manners
Ex: Fate attenzione! Ne va della vostra vita
Be careful! It’s your life that is at stake
Ex: Non me ne volere, sono stato costretto a farlo
Don’t be mad at me, I was forced to do it
Ne generally precedes verbs. However, when verbs are at the infinitive, imperative, or gerund, ne is generally placed after them.
Questi biscotti sembrano buonissimi, posso prenderne uno?
These biscuits look very good, may I take one?
Questi biscotti sono buonissimi, prendine uno.
These biscuits are really good, take one
I really hope I managed to help you understand how to use ne in Italian.
And now, if you want, here is an exercise about ci and ne.
If you need to master or revise intermediate Italian grammar, have a look at my book Sos Italian grammar B1-B2.
Original image by DomenicBlair