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Italian Interrogative Pronouns

Pronomi Interrogativi in Italiano


Italian interrogative pronouns (pronomi interrogativi) are used in both direct and indirect interrogative sentences to formulate questions, and can perform the function of both subject and complement.

The interrogative pronoun chi (who) is used only to indicate people or living things, and is invariable in the masculine and feminine in both the singular and plural:

Chi è venuto? Chi è stata? Chi siete? Chi sono quelle signore? Chi chiami? Di chi parli? A chi ti rivolgi? Con chi esci? Per chi parteggi? Dimmi chi preferisci dei due. Non capisco a chi alludi. Non so con chi partire.

Who came? Who was it? Who are you? Who are those ladies? Who are you calling? Of whom are you speaking? Who are you addressing? Who are you leaving with? Whose side are you on? Tell me who you prefer between the two. I do not know who you are alluding to. I do not know who I am leaving with.

In direct interrogatives (interrogative dirette—complete sentences that ask a question) the interrogative pronoun chi occurs before the verb both when it is the subject and when it is the direct object. The lack of two distinct forms for the subject pronoun and complement (in English "who" functions as the subject and "whom" functions as the complement) can give rise to ambiguous sentences, such as the following: Chi ha salutato Giovanni? Chi ha invitato Claudia?, which can be interpreted either as: Qualcuno ha salutato Giovanni; Qualcuno ha invitato ClaudiaSomeone greeted Giovanni; Someone invited Claudia (if chi is considered the subject) and: Giovanni ha salutato qualcuno; Claudia ha invitato qualcuno—Giovanni greeted someone; Claudia invited someone (if chi, conversely is considered the direct object complemento oggetto).

An unambiguous interpretation of the two sentences can be produced by changing the syntactic construction and moving the direct object; for example: Chi l'ha salutato, Giovanni? Chi l'ha invitata, Maria?—Who greeted him, Giovanni? Who invited him, Maria?

The interrogative pronoun che (which, who, what, whom) is invariable and only refers to things; therefore it has a neutral value and is equivalent to qualche cosa (something):

Che è successo? Che vuoi? Di che ti preoccupi? A che pensi? Da che lo deduci? Con che lo aggiusti? Non so che fare. Non vedo di che tu possa lamentarti.

What has happened? What do you want? What are you worried about? What are you thinking? How do you figure? Who are you making arrangements with? I do not know what to do. I do not see that you can possibly complain.

In place of che the terms che cosa or cosa can be substituted:

(Che) cosa è successo? (Che) cosa vuoi? Di (che) cosa ti preoccupi?

What happened? What do you want? What are you worried about?

The interrogative pronoun quale (which) is invariable in the masculine and feminine and has both a singular and plural form. It is used to inquire about quality or identity, and can refer both to people as well as things:

Quale dei tuoi amici ti è più simpatico? Quale dei due sarà stato? Di questi libri quali preferisci? A quale di questi argomenti sei più interessato? Sono indeciso su quale comprare; Non so quali scegliere.

Which one of your friends will be more sympathetic? Which one was it? Which of these books do you prefer? Which of these topics are you most interested in? I am undecided on what to buy; I do not know which to choose.

The interrogative pronoun quanto (how much, how many) is variable in gender and number. It is used to ascertain the quantity of people as well as things:

Quanto mancherà alla partenza? Vorrei della stoffa. Quanto gliene occorre? Quanti hanno aderito alla nostra proposta? In quante eravate? Non so quanti saranno ad accettare. Starò via alcuni giorni. Dimmi esattamente quanti.

How much time before the departure? I would like some fabric. How much do you need? How many have agreed to our proposal? How many were there? I do not know how many will accept. I'll be away a few days. Tell me exactly how many.

  • All interrogative pronouns may be used in exclamatory sentences:

A chi lo dici! Che vedo! Ha scelto questo quadro orribile. Quale! Quanti sono!
Tell me about it! I see! He chose this horrible picture. What! How many are there!


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