I know that 'ci' can mean 'us' and 'there', but it appears it can also mean 'it'. For example:

ci penso su - I'll think about it

I've heard that it means kind of "it, in general" but I find the rules for it confusing. Are there any hard and fast rules? When and where can 'ci' be used in this way, e.g.

ci leggo
ci parlo
ci dico
ci metto

Also, in the case when it can mean 'it', how could you say whether it means 'it' or 'us' in a phrase such as, for example:

ci parliamo

2 Answers 2


Ci is indeed a tricky italian word, has it has several different uses and I'm afraid there are no fast rules, as its meaning greatly dependends on the context.

I'll try to go through some of the most common uses

It can be

direct personal pronoun

Il professore ci ha visto copiare.

which corresponds to

Il professore ha visto noi copiare

The professor saw us copying

indirect personal pronoun

Il professore ci ha detto di non copiare

which corresponds to

Il professore ha detto a noi di non copiare

The professor told us not to copy

reciprocal pronoun

Ci vediamo spesso

We see each other often


Ci sono stato

which corresponds to

Sono stato

I've been there

redundant use as adverb

Ci sto proprio comodo qui

I'm really comfortable here

verb compounds

In some cases ci can be incorporated in a verb, some notable examples being: esserci (to be there/here), volerci (to be needed/required), and metterci (take).

Ci sono I'm here


C'è qualcuno? Is there anybody?


Ci vuole una laurea per fare quel lavoro

A degree is needed to do that job


Ci si mette un'ora per tornare a casa

It takes an hour to get home

And really, many many other uses, especially in combinations with verbs.

  • 1
    This is very useful in general, but it doesn't address the usage of 'ci' to mean 'it', such as with 'ci penso' and I believe, 'ci parlo'.
    – Groky
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 1:58
  • @Groky ‘Ci penso’ is in the same class as ‘ci metto‘; usually ‘ci parlo‘ is regional ‘incorrect‘ usage for ‘I talk to him/her‘.
    – egreg
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 9:13
  • 1
    @Groky Yes, it does: "ci penso" is equal to "penso a questo/quello", i.e., falls in the category of the indirect pronoun. "Ci parlo" is the same: "parlo a lui/lei". That indirect pronoun is a demonstrative one in the first case and a personal one in the second, but the idea is the same. Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 9:13
  • @martina: indirect pronoun? Sorry, I still don't follow. From what I understand 'ci' as an indirect pronoun means 'us'. You mean it changes its meaning according to the verb?
    – Groky
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 13:09
  • 1
    Indirect pronoun: when the pronoun is accompanied by a preposition. So, "ci penso" (penso A questo/quello) is "I think ABOUT this"; "ci parlo" (parlo A lui/lei oppure CON lui/lei) is "I talk TO him/her". Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 13:35

If we had to read those examples as you listed them, verbatim, the only one that makes sense is the second one: ci parlo?

The other ones don't convey any meaning. If you take a look, all of them require Direct Objects, except parlare which in Italian requires an Indirect Object (parlare a chi?).

As far as I know there are no hard rules, except for those cases that you listed, but if I find something I'll make sure to edit my answer.

  • 1
    Actually some others make sense too. Non ci leggo (I can't read), Ci metto 5 minuti (It takes me 5 minutes) Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 1:54
  • @Groky, absolutely. The only one I cannot come up with a valid use for is Ci dico. Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 1:55
  • @GabrielePetronella Indeed, that's why I pointed out that I was taking the examples as they were presented. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 1:55
  • 1
    oh ok, I missed it. Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 1:56
  • 1
    @mucio I'm not sure that's Standard Italian. I've heard people using it, but they were all from the same place. I think it's dialectal/regional use.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 2:22

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