By- Claudia Quesito
The particles ne and ci pop up very often in Italian, both in conversation and in the written language. They both convey a number of different meanings. Here are the most common ones.
Ne can be used as a partitive, meaning “a bit, a part [of it / them],” as in Hai del pane? Sì, ne ho un po’. (Do you have some bread? Yes, I have a bit [of it].) Ne can additionally work as a direct pronoun. Consider this sentence: Adoro i cani, ne ho 6! (I love dogs, I have 6 of them!) In the phrase ne ho 6, ne stands for “of them.”
Ne can also be used to replace phrases introduced by the preposition di. Sai qualcosa della festa di ieri? No, non ne so niente. (Do you know anything about yesterday’s party? No, I don’t know anything about it.) Here ne replaces della festa di ieri. As in the previous instance, avoiding repetition make conversations smoother and more incisive.
Along these same lines, ne can used to replace phrases introduced by the preposition da. Sono entrata al centro commerciale e ne sono uscita dopo 4 ore. (I entered the mall and I came out [of it] after 4 hours.) Here, ne replaces dal centro commerciale.
As you may notice from these examples, while “it” is often omitted in English, ne is mandatory in Italian when conveying these meanings.
The other particle often dreaded by learners is ci. Just like ne, ci covers several grammar rules and subsequently has several meanings. It can work as a direct, indirect, or reflexive pronoun, meaning noi, a noi (us/ourselves), as in Nostro figlio ci chiama tutte le sere e ci racconta la sua giornata (Our son calls us every night and tells us about his day) and Ci laviamo i denti tre volte al giorno (We brush our teeth three times a day).
It can also designate a location, meaning “here, there, in that place.” Quando vai a Roma? Ci vado l’anno prossimo:ci here replaces “a Roma.” Finally, like its friend ne, ci can replace entire phrases—ones starting with a, in, su, and con, to be precise, as in Domani esci con Marco? No, ci sono uscita ieri.