Ci metto: Explained
Many students struggle the use of the particle ci in Italian, because ci has several different meanings. This lesson focuses on a very common use of ci: the idiomatic expressions metterci, such as in ci metto.
Being an idiomatic expression, its meaning is not related to the verb mettere (= to put), which can be confusing for Italian learners.
Instead, ci paired with the verb mettere is used when we want to talk about a period of time that a specific person needs to do something (such as completing an action) or go somewhere (get to a destination). In English we can translate this expression as: it takes someone a certain time to perform a certain action.
Let’s take a look at this example:
(Io) Ci metto almeno 30 minuti a prepararmi.
It takes me at least 30 minutes to get ready.
The present tense is used to describe the period of time it typically takes to complete an action or reach a destination. The action is usually introduced by the preposition “a” + verb in infinitive tense.
Note: we need to conjugate the verb metterci according to the person who is completing the main action in the sentence:
(io) ci metto – it takes ME
(tu) ci metti – it takes YOU
(lui / lei) ci mette – it takes HIM / HER
(noi) ci mettiamo – it takes US
(voi) ci mettete – it takes YOU
(loro) ci mettono – it takes THEM
(Tu) Quanto ci metti ad arrivare in ufficio?
How long does it take you to get to the office?
(Lui) Quanto tempo ci mette a finire?
How long does it take him to finish?
(Noi) Ci mettiamo un’ora a preparare la cena.
It takes us one hour to cook dinner.
(Voi) Quanto ci mettete ad andare a Venezia in treno?
How long does it take you to get to Venice by train?
(Loro) Di solito ci mettono poco tempo.
It usually doesn’t take them long
Ci metto: Comparison with ci vuole
As you might know, another idiomatic expression used to indicate how long it takes to complete an action is ci vuole / ci vogliono. What is the main difference between metterci e volerci?
- When we use metterci we emphasize how long it takes TO A CERTAIN PERSON to complete an action. This is why metterci is conjugated according to the person who performs the action.
- When we use volerci the person who completes the action is not emphasized. It has an impersonal use (the meaning applies to everyone or anyone). The emphasis is instead on the period of time needed to complete the action. This is why volerci is conjugated according to the singular/plural meaning of the time expression.
Let’s compare two similar sentences, one with metterci and one with volerci.
Ci metto un’ora ad arrivare in centro.
It takes me one hour to get to the office (to me specifically)
Ci vuole un’ora ad arrivare in centro.
It takes one hour to get to the city center (to anyone, to people in general)