Relative clauses in Italian: Explained
When we talk, in any language, we often find ourselves connecting sentences that have an element in common. To do this, we use relative pronouns. These are usually short words that, by themselves, have no meaning, but that we can use to link two clauses.
- Ieri ho visto uno spettacolo. Lo spettacolo è stato incredibile!
Yesterday I watched a show. The show was incredible!
For example, the two sentences above have one element in common: lo spettacolo (the show). To connect them, we can use the relative pronouns che:
- Lo spettacolo che ho visto ieri è stato incredibile!
The show that I watched yesterday was incredible!
In this lesson, we will have a look at two Italian invariable relative pronouns: che, and cui. These are invariable in the sense that they only exist in this one form and never change.
CHE in Italian: How to use
We use the relative pronoun che in place of a subject or a direct object (thing or person). In English, it can often be translated as “that” or “who”.
Remember, it never changes!
- Il cane che sta abbaiando è di mio cugino.
The dog that is barking is my cousin’s.
Here che takes the place of a subject: il cane.
- La ragazza che hai visto con Luca è mia sorella.
The girl that you saw with Luca is my sister.
Here, che takes the place of a direct object: la ragazza.
CUI in Italian: How to use
By contrast, cui can have many different translations, as it indicates an indirect object. The pronoun itself never changes, but it can take various preposiotions:
- Questo è il ristorante di cui ti ho parlato.
This is the restaurant that I talked to you about.
Here we use di cui because the verb is parlare di qualcosa (to talk about something.)
- L’azienda per cui lavoro è chiusa per ferie.
The company I work for is closed for vacation.
Here we use per cui because the verb is lavorare per qualcuno (to work for someone).
We can also use the relative pronoun cui preceded by an article to join two related sentences to express a form of possession. In this case, it can be translated as “whose”.
- Giulia, la cui sorella lavora con me, ha la mia età.
Giulia, whose sister works with me, is my age.
- Quel cane, i cui padroni sono Giorgio e Marta, da cucciolo era bellissimo.
That dog, whose owners are Giorgio and Marta, was very cute as a puppy.
Remember, when using this form, that the article has to agree with the object in possession!