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I have heard the following sentence in a TV series:

Ce li hai gli occhi?

The intended meaning is "Can't you see it?" (a rhetorical question). I know that "ce" and "li" are respectively, an indirect object pronoun and a direct object pronoun, but what do they mean here? Are they redundant or would "Hai gli occhi?" would mean something different?

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    I appreciate a question from “real-life” (even though it's a TV series) Italian. – DaG Oct 7 at 14:31
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    As you said, it's a sort of "redundance" and used to make the phrase more incisive; "Hai gli occhi" has the same meaning, but not the same strength. The translation in English could be, "The eyes, do you have them?" – Riccardo De Contardi Oct 7 at 14:42
  • @RiccardoDeContardi I understand that "li" = "them" in your translation, but I am not sure what the indirect object pronoun "ce" means here. Maybe "at it"? If so, the sentence would mean something like "The eyes, do you have them looking at it ?". – Alan Evangelista Oct 7 at 15:07
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    @AlanEvangelista the usage of the particle "Ce" in this case does not mean "us/to us" (like in "ce lo disse lui"= he told us that); it is a kind of "reinforcement of possession" used only in an informal way or in spoken language; It is almost always used if the subject has already been named in the phrase: "Le hai le chiavi? Sì, ce le ho" = Do you have the keys? Yes, I have them). I found this article on the topic: lavocedinewyork.com/arts/lingua-italiana/2016/04/17/… – Riccardo De Contardi Oct 7 at 15:23
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    The uses of “ci” (of which ce is just a variant used in some collocations) is indeed a hurdle for non-Italians. This site has tackled some aspects of it (1, 2, 3) and @RiccardoDeContardi clarifies the present use (write an answer!), but oversimplifying it is almost the same as ci in c'è. – DaG Oct 7 at 15:52
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"Ce li" is a way to strengthen the question.

Trying to deconstruct it:

A: Hai gli occhi?

B: (No response)

A: Ce li hai?

merging the two we have

A: Ce li hai gli occhi?

so in a single question you ask two questions in one. "Ce li hai gli occhi?" is not a gentle question. An angry teacher could tell this to a student, not for sure an innamorato to his innamorata in a romantic moment...

I doubt that Italian grammar explains this perfectly, it is more about spoken language. At first it sounds grammatically incorrect, I personally don't like this use of "Ce li", you can acknowledge it exists and continue living like if it does not exist.

  • Thanks for the answer! In fact, I can't continue living like if it does not exist because people in the TV series Suburra, which takes place in Rome, use it all the time. I guess the same happens in spoken Italian in the real Rome. – Alan Evangelista Oct 29 at 16:28
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    Also, AFAIK "ce li" is not a monolithical block (as it looks like from your answer). On the one hand, "ce" does not translate to English in this context, it is used specifically together with "avere" to reinforce possession. On the other hand, "li" is a redundant direct direct object which could be used with any other transitive verb. For instance, I have heard many times: "C'hai [qualcosa] ?" (without the redundant direct object pronoun). It'd be nice to make that clearer in your answer. – Alan Evangelista Oct 29 at 16:34
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"Ce li hai gli occhi?" and "Hai gli occhi" mean the same, but the former uses 2 mechanisms to strengthen the idea of possession:

  • redundant direct object pronoun "li" before the verb. Usually one would say "hai gli occhi" or "li hai", but both are combined here in the redundant expression "li hai gli occhi". This could be used with any transitive verb.

  • redundant pronoun "ce" (variation of "ci" used before a direct object pronoun) , often used in informal speech together with "avere" (ex: C'ho fame). This reinforcing usage is restricted to some verbs, such as "avere".

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