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I had the following task (on duolingo): translate "where do they keep the chickens?"

Of course "dove tengono i polli" is correct, however my answer "loro dove tengono i polli" was considered as wrong.

So I have two questions: is my answer in fact correct and is there any stylistical difference between these two answers (with and without omitting loro)?

3 Answers 3

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Your answer is correct and would certainly be said by a native speaker (there might be some nitpicking about the use of "loro" as the subject, instead of the more old-fashioned "essi"; it's accepted in most cases, and in the spoken language, it's used all the time. The question is not about this, however).

There is virtually no difference between the two forms, except perhaps (depending on the context) a bit more emphasis on the fact that you're specifically talking about "loro".

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    I'd put even more emphasis on the emphasis. :) One would never explicitly mention the subject in such a sentence, unless the subject itself were the important thing: “I know where X keep the chickens, but what about Y? Where do they keep the chickens?” So, in absence of a context where loro is clearly important, I would consider the version with loro wrong too.
    – DaG
    Jul 10, 2022 at 8:38
  • The version with "loro" wouldn't sound too strange to me in a casual conversation, might be a regional thing and/or that my ear is only accostumed to the language used in some parts of Italy. Good point anyway, thanks.
    – persson
    Jul 10, 2022 at 14:26
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    I agree, @persson. The prescription that essi is to be used as a subject and loro for other complements, like the analogous ones for egli/lui and so on are quite old-fashioned, and not even schoolbooks enforce them anymore.
    – DaG
    Jul 10, 2022 at 14:56
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In normal contexts you wouldn't mention explicitly the pronoun acting as the subject. Since apparently the exercise didn't give a context but just asked for a “neutral” translation of that question, the correct answer is without the loro.

You might phrase the question with an explicit subject if the context opposed loro to another group of people; for instance: So che gli italiani di notte tengono i polli nei pollai, ma non so niente di come fanno i francesi. Loro dove tengono i polli?, that is, “I know that Italians keep chickens in chicken coops at night, but I don't know anything about how French people do it. Where do they keep the chickens?”, and notice the emphasis in English, often expressed in italics.

The same holds for most situations where a pronoun acts as the subject. The normal way to express “I'm going home” is Vado a casa. You'd say Io vado a casa if you're implying “Oh, so you're going to stay here some more time? As for me, I'm going home”.

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  • Thanks, now I understand. But let's now imagine the situation in your example where it may be necessary to include pronoun as the subject. Do we always put pronoun in the beginning of sentence?
    – giochi
    Jul 10, 2022 at 9:05
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    @Egor It could be “Loro dove tengono i polli?”, “Dove tengono loro i polli?” or even “Dove tengono i polli loro?" depending on the emphasis you want to give to one or the other part. But, as DaG writes, the subject is used only if you want some emphasis on it.
    – egreg
    Jul 10, 2022 at 12:28
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"loro dove tengono i polli?" is almost right.

The pronoun "Loro" would only used for emphasis since the Subject is 'implicitly' in the verb conjugation.

It would still roll very badly without some meaningful, dramatic, pauses:

"Loro. Dove tengono i polli"? "Dove tengono i polli, Loro?" "Dove, Loro, tengono i polli"?

The example is a bit off since the use of a pronoun (Loro) imply some context already established.

If out of the blue I would want to ask where "(the) Americans" keep their chickens the sentence "Dove gli Americani tengono i polli?" would sound much more natural than using the pronoun.

As @Dag and @Federico-Poloni pointed out in the comments "Dove tengono i polli gli Americani?" would be the best version.

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  • Do you really consider “Dove gli Americani tengono i polli?” natural? As an Italian, I'd see it as a too-literal translation from English...
    – DaG
    Jul 10, 2022 at 8:34
  • @DaG is my translation grammatically correct? Or there is something like tautology?
    – giochi
    Jul 10, 2022 at 8:58
  • I've written an answer, @Egor. Let me know if something isn't clear. The short answer is: your translation is a grammatically correct sentence, but has a (slightly) different meaning.
    – DaG
    Jul 10, 2022 at 9:01
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    Just a data point, but "dove tengono i polli gli americani?" sounds more natural to me. Jul 11, 2022 at 14:25

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