Here is the full sentence: "Bisogna sempre spiegargliele le cose, ai grandi."

The word "spiegargliele" confuses me. First, I know it comes from spiegare.

But what does "glie" stand for? Does the indirect object pronoun "loro" transform into "glie" inside a verb? And also, why is there "le" if it is followed by "le cose"?

I translate it as "Explain them (ai grandi) them (le cose) the things". What doesn't really make sense is the presence of "le" if "le cose" is mentioned afterwards?


  • 1
    Welcome to Italian.SE! – Charo Dec 14 '18 at 23:49
  • 3
    These are called "redundant pronouns" and are used for emphasis in oral speech. – Charo Dec 15 '18 at 0:07
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    In fact, “gli(e)” is in the same way redundant with respect to “ai grandi”, but so is life, and Italian language, and other languages, among which English itself. Just think – but I'm sure there are better examples – about a sentence such as “It is nice to walk along the sea”. One could say: why do we say “it” if “to walk...” is mentioned immediately afterwards? Why don't we always say just “To walk... is nice”? Part of the answer is in the concepts of “topic” and “comment”, or “theme” and “rheme” (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topic_and_comment). – DaG Dec 15 '18 at 0:38

Your translation is correct, and your assumption about "gli" is correct, too. This kind of suffix formed with a pronoun in Italian is called clitico.

The whole phrase becomes:

"Bisogna sempre" = it is always necessary

"spiegare (to explain) + "gli" = a loro (to them) + "le" = le cose (the things)

Why "le cose" is repeated as "le" has the same function in the sentence? Well, as Charo wrote in the comments, it is a kind of redundancy typical of spoken language to achieve emphasis. In fact, as said by DaG in his comment, “gli(e)” is in the same way redundant with respect to “ai grandi”.


In addition to what is explained in @RiccardoDeContardi's answer, notice that, as it's explained by Federica Colombo in her book Grammatica e pratica della lingua italiana per studenti stranieri

indirect object pronouns gli and le + direct object pronouns lo, la, li, le and the pronominal particle ne become respectively glielo, gliela, glieli, gliele and gliene.

This book also explains that

With a verb at infinitive, gerund or imperative (but not the imperative of the courtesy forms) these and other combinations of two pronouns follow the verb and are written attached to it. For instance,

  • Ricordati di dargliele!
  • Trovandomelo davanti, l'ho dovuto salutare.
  • Portatecelo qui!
  • Dammelo!

You should also know that

With modal verbs, these combinations of pronouns can have two possible positions: they may precede the conjugated modal verb or they may be written attached at the end of the infinitive. For instance, you may both write

  • Glielo devi restituire.
  • Devi restituirglielo.

(Quoted texts are free translations of the information contained in the above mentioned book.)

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