Se tu non ce l'hai, allora dov'è la borsa?

I totally lost the function of "ce" in this sentence. Any input would be helpful.


2 Answers 2


"Ce" is the form that the "ci" particle assumes when put in front of "lo", "la", "li", "le", or "ne":

ce1 pron. e avv. – Forma che il pron. o avv. atono ci assume davanti a lo, la, li, le, ne; per es.: ce lo disse, ce le diede, ce ne vollero; anche in posizione enclitica: spiegàrceli, pàrlacene.


Speaking of "ci" itself, "ci" in this case is known as "ci attualizzante":

[...] Nel parlato e nello scritto informale è molto diffuso l’uso di ci per rafforzare il verbo avere (il cosiddetto ci attualizzante) [...]
In alcuni casi, l’uso di ci è obbligatorio [...]


Giving up finding a translation of "ci attualizzante" which could convey the exact meaning the expression has in Italian, the concept is that putting "ci" in front of "avere" strengthens the meaning of the verb:

C(i) ho caldo

C(i) hai sonno?

C(i) avevamo fame


But in an handful of cases, such as this one, "ci" / "ce" is straight mandatory:

«ce l’hai l’ombrello?» «ce l’ho» (non l’ho)


(as Fabio F. remarks, differently from what Treccani seems to state, in "non l'ho" "ce" is mandatory as well, and the phrase should rather be "non ce l'ho")

Which, in the end, narrows down the reasons behind the use of "ce" in "Se tu non ce l'hai, allora dov'è la borsa?" simply to an idiomatic matter.

  • 3
    I'd like to specify that ci is mandatory in the answer ce l'ho / non ce l'ho (l'ho / non l'ho would sound very strange) and not in the question. Hai l'ombrello? is a common usage. Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 16:24
  • @FabioF. Indeed, thanks. I've pointed that out in the answer.
    – kos
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 17:17
  • 1
    Another way in which "ci/ce" appears, which I don't see above is in the meaning of non succeeding in accomplishing something. Esempio: "Io avevo cercato di farlo, però non ce l'ho fatto." And then [not] seeing something specific: "Pur troppo, non ci vedo." Is this also "Ci attualizzante?" I'm Barry, a white South African, who started learning this wonderful language 54 years ago... have loved it... and am still learning... I've still got one dream I hope to fulfil and that is to read "La Divina Commedia" in Dante's original text. I'll have to hurry, because in a week's time I shall be starting Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 9:36
  • Welcome to Italian.SE, @Barry! If you're trying to ask something, please use "Ask Question". This place is reserved for giving an answer to the question. If you are trying to comment a given answer, you will have to wait until you have enough reputation.
    – Charo
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 11:29

Here ce means it.

A proper translation could be:

If it's not you who has the bag (it), then where is the bag.

A bad but literal translation could be:

If you don't have it, where is the bag?

Se tu non cel'hai

also means

If you are without a penis (ie. dickless), which also means, if you have no guts.

Since borsa is also the stock market, it could also mean

If you have no guts, then what the heck are you doing with your stock market skills.

Italian language can be quite flexible.

  • 1
    Not at all. "It" is represented by "l'", that is, "la". And the rest about the penis and so on is an invention of yours. Here "l(a)" clearly refers to the bag.
    – DaG
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:00
  • Sure, a bit of colloquial humor doesn't hurt. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:38
  • 1
    So, if I understand correctly, the first part is factually wrong, while the rest is a hilarious, but potentially misleading sample of your fine humour?
    – DaG
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 15:08

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