It may seem a stupid question, but I was surprised that we use lei as "you" formally. I don't understand why using same pronoun for she and you, and do we use lei è like she is or lei sei? Excuse my ignorance 😅 I only know the basics

  • Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Jul 18, 2022 at 7:37
  • Well, although nowadays most people use "lei" meaning "she", the grammatically correct translation of "she" (subject) would be "ella", while "lei" translates both "her" (complement) and the formal "you" (subject). When used as subject, "lei" always requires the third person singular.
    – secan
    Jul 22, 2022 at 16:32
  • 1
    I would strongly discourage teaching foreign students with a basic or intermediate level that ella is a correct translation of she, because this is never used in current Italian, unless in ironic or extremely formal contexts.
    – Andrea M
    Aug 5, 2022 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


When addressing someone formally with "lei", you must conjugate the verb in third person singular. In the chapter "Il verbo [1]" of the book Grammatica e pratica della lingua italiana per studenti stranieri, by Federica Colombo, you can read:

Per la forma di cortesia si usa la 3ª persona singolare.

Some examples from this book are the following:

Signora, ha fame?
Professore, lei è egiziano?
Signora, prende un caffè?

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