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In this article on COVID-19, we have:

Inoltre, pensando al 1630, ci si immagina un mondo buio, tra lazzaretti dove venivano ricoverati i malati e figure dei presunti untori che si riteneva diffondessero volontariamente la malattia...

Also, considering 1630, one imagines a gloomy world, with the sick recovering in quarantine hospitals, and the alleged 'untori' who were thought to have intentionally spread the plague...

My question is around the construction ritenersi + subjunctive, without an intervening "che" — is this syntax permitted in Italian, and if so, what is its stylistic effect?

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    A note: ricoverare does not mean “to recover”. It's a false friend (known to deceive people in both directions). Instead, ricoverare means “to shelter, to admit (to hospital), to hospitalise”.
    – DaG
    Aug 25 at 8:30
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    For the record, I think this is not what an Italian would perceive as the verb "ritenersi". When an Italian refers to the verb "ritenersi", he thinks about the verb "ritenere" used with the reflexive-"si" construction (e.g. io mi ritengo, tu ti ritieni, egli si ritiene, ...). This one is an impersonal-"si".
    – Gae. S.
    Aug 28 at 15:56
  • @Gae.S.: Quite, but not even that. It's just the verb ritenere, which can be used in several different ways: ritengo che Luigi abbia torto, ti ritengo un buon amico, mi ritengo un buon amico, si ritiene che X sia un buon amico... But the same holds – with the due differences – for more or less all transitive verbs: mangio a casa, ti mangio (as said to a steak), qui si mangiano buone bistecche, qui si mangia bene and so on.
    – DaG
    Sep 18 at 21:11
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Yes, the syntax is fine; sometimes we omit the "che" in order to avoid repetitions ("presunti untori che si riteneva (che) diffondessero") or, more rarely, just to keep the sentence shorter ("si ritiene siano stati i primi a..." = "it is believed they were the first to...").

Usually we can omit the "che" when in the subjunctive clause the subject is implied; if the subject is explicitly mentioned, omitting the "che" does not sound quite right.

E.g.

  1. Lucy è l'ominide più famoso al mondo. Si ritiene (che) sia morta di sfinimento. Lucy is the World's most famous hominid. It is believed she died by exhaustion.

  2. Si ritiene che Lucy, l'ominide più famoso al mondo, sia morta di sfinimento. It is believed that Lucy - the World's most famous hominid - died by exhaustion.

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