Dictionaries translate addosso to on, a preposition.

I saw some example sentences and I'm having trouble understanding some of them. For example, I don't understand this sentence:

ci viene addosso (it comes on us)
gli è caduto il ramo addosso (the branch fell on top of him)

IMO, it would look more intuitive if written as this:

viene addosso a noi
il ramo è caduto addosso a lui

Can anyone explain the first sentence, with addosso at the end and not followed by a?

  • In your examples, "gli" takes the role of "a lui" and "ci" takes the role of "a noi" - in Italian they're called indirect pronouns see for example locuta.com/pronind.html Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 7:18

1 Answer 1


The sentences

ci viene addosso

viene addosso a noi

are “grammatically equivalent”, but not strictly “semantically equivalent”. The pronoun ci has the same role as a noi, but it's a question of emphasis. Similarly for gli which stands for a lui, a lei or a loro.1

With gli è caduto il ramo addosso the emphasis is on the person who’s hit by the branch, rather than on the branch; to the contrary, il ramo gli è caduto addosso would put more emphasis on the branch. A third form is possible: il ramo è caduto addosso a lui would convey the idea that the branch fell onto him and not other people.

Similarly, viene addosso a noi could imply that it came against us and not other people.

Nuances, but they're important. I'd say that ci viene addosso would be the preferred form unless a particular shift on emphasis is needed.


1 Prescriptive grammars may say that gli for a loro is an error; they're contradicted by many authoritative writers and speakers.

  • 1
    Are there still actually recent grammars that say that plural gli is an error?
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 9:01
  • @DaG I hope not.
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 9:16
  • So the "addosso at end" structure is just a noi turned into ci and then moved to before the verb, as well as the emphasis change, right?
    – iBug
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 10:53
  • @iBug Basically so; addosso is an adverb that modifies the verb. The position of the pronoun can change: a not so easy feature of Italian, because also the form changes (mi=a me, ti=a te, gli=a lui/lei/loro, ci=a noi, vi=a voi).
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 12:09
  • @iBug: Let me stress that the emphasis is very important. You'd use “viene addosso a noi” almost only in a situation like “Ah, viene addosso a Gigi?” “No, viene addosso a noi!”. Used in an unmarked way, “viene addosso a noi” could sound even somewhat unnatural.
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 12:21

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