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I found this sentence on https://context.reverso.net/translation/italian-english/esorterai: "Quando avremo finito qui, le porterai alla tua gente e li esorterai ad accettarle." As I understand it, the "li" in "li esorterai" refers to "gente". But "gente" is singular: "la gente". So, shouldn't it be "la esorterai"? Of course "gente" contains many persons but that doesn't make a collection of persons a plural thing. Otherwise literally everything is plural, since everything is a collection of things (molecules, etc). Excepting, perhaps, the components of an atom. Thus, "li" should be "la". Or - entirely possible - I don't understand the sentence. Would appreciate clarification. Thanks, Ben Crain

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  • Honestly both solutions sound "odd" to me. I would avoid the problem by changing the object, for instance "le porterai alla tua gente ed esorterai tutti ad accettarle". "li esorterai" sounds like an implicit change of object, and "la esorterai" does not sound correct because you can't push "gente". Anyway this is a comment and not a reply since this is just based on my own "feeling", and not backed by explicit grammar rules, so maybe this is influenced by my regionalism
    – frarugi87
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 11:50

2 Answers 2

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Yes, you're right. In general the “collective nouns” such as gente agree in the singular. It's a singular noun, even though it refers to several people. So it's never wrong to have it agree with singular adjectives, pronouns, verbs.

On the other hand, along the history of Italian language there are always been cases of agreements ad sensum (i.e., following the meaning, rather than the grammatical form of the word) for such nouns. This article goes in some depth, in particular about the cases where the “plural” agreement may happen: https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/nomi-collettivi_(Enciclopedia-dell'Italiano) But keep in mind that, if not done being well aware of what one's doing, it may just sound plain wrong.

As a final note, I would always be very wary (as you rightly do) of anything I find in that Reverso site: it collates correct stuff, wrong stuff, automatically translated stuff, amateurishly translated stuff and so on. That particular example seems to come from amateur Italian subtitles to an American TV series.

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"Quando avremo finito qui, le porterai alla tua gente e la esorterai ad accettarle." is the right version. You can talk to your "gente" (puoi parlare alla tua gente), you can help your "gente" (puoi aiutare la tua gente) so "gente" is something concrete, to which you can refer to. (sorry for my english, I'm from Italy :-) )

When you say: "Quando avremo finito qui, le porterai alla tua gente e li esorterai ad accettarle." you intrinsecally intend to say "Quando avremo finito qui, le porterai alla tua gente ed esorterai loro ad accettarle." and since "loro" is the same for both males and females, and since we live in a male-oriented society, when I (italian) think to "loro", I think to "essi" (masculine) and therefore I can replace "... ed esorterai loro ..." with "e li esorterai ..."

This is, to me, te reason of that "li": a general tendency to consider everything as "male", when not a clear gender, or when it's plural (and then a mix of males and females).

It might also be that the context for the original; "Quando avremo finito qui, le porterai alla tua gente e li esorterai ad accettarle." is, for example, a warrior movie, where there is a prevalence of male warriors, and therefore "gente" is mailny warriors, or, again, that "le porterai" is, for example, "porterai le armi" (weapons) and usually weapons are delivered to male fighters...

so, basically, who wrote that italian sentence, might have in mind what he/she was going to take to the "gente" and therefore had an idea of which gender was the main recipient for that stuff".

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