Read this page, then try this practice.

Using ne and ci in your writing and speaking will make your Italian more proficient. They are a challenge for English speakers, because they do not have a direct correlate in English. Ne and ci are both pronouns, taking the place of a noun. However they are distinctive in that they take the place of a noun and a preposition. Check out the two contrasting cases which illustrate this point.

Case I

Leggi il libro?
Are you reading the book?
Sì, lo leggo.
Yes, I’m reading it.
Prepari le torte?
Are you making the cakes?
Sì, le preparo.
Yes, I’m making them.

The direct object pronoun in the first sentence is masculine singular   because it takes the place of il libro, a masculine singular noun. The direct object pronoun in the second sentence is feminine plural   because it takes the place of le torte, a feminine plural noun. For a review of direct object pronouns, go here.

Case II

Parlate del libro?
Are you all talking about the book?
Sì, ne parliamo.
Yes, we are talking about it.
Che cosa hai preso dalla pasticceria?
What did you get from the bakery?
Ne ho preso una torta.
I got a cake from it (from there).
Quale ingrediente segreto hai messo nella torta?
What secret ingredient did you put in the cake?
Ci ho messo il limone.
I put lemon in it.
Che cosa hai messo sulla torta?
What did you put on the cake?
Ci ho messo delle fragole.
I put strawberries on it.
ne = about it; from it
ci = in it; on it

In Italian, unlike in English, the pronouns ne and ci take the place of a noun and the preposition that comes before it (e.g. di, da, in, a, or su). The choice between these two special pronouns depends primarily on which preposition appears before the noun that the pronoun replaces. Read on for a summary of their uses.

Uses of Ne

I. Substitutes for a preposition + noun in expressions with the preposition di or da.

question answer
Hai bisogno degli occhiali?
Do you need your glasses?
No, non ne ho bisogno.
No, I don’t need them.
Avete voglia di un gelato?
Do you feel like an ice cream?
Sì, ne abbiamo voglia.
Yes, we feel like one.
Parlano spesso di politica?
Do they talk often about politics?
Sì, ne parlano sempre.
Yes, they always talk about it.
A che ora esci dall’ufficio?
What time do you leave the office?
Ne esco alle 6.00
I leave there at 6:00.

It is critical here that you think in Italian, not English. In English, we can say leave the office with no prepositional element at all, whereas in Italian, a preposition is used (di with casa and da with everything else). You could think of it as going out of a place, and it might make more sense. The crucial point is to notice which prepositions go with which verbs in Italian. To read more about idiomatic uses of prepositions in Italian, including their uses with verbs, read here.

II. Substitutes for a noun in an expression of quantity.

question answer
Quanti libri prendi?
How many books are you getting?
Ne prendo tre.
I’m getting three (of them).
Quanti chili di banane comprate voi?
How many kilos of bananas are you buying?
Ne compriamo quattro.
We’re buying four (of them).
Hai mangiato tutta la pizza?
Did you eat the whole pizza?
Ne ho mangiata tanta.
I ate a lot of it.
Vuoi del latte?
Do you want some milk?

No, non ne prendo.
No, I don’t take any
(of it).

Also in cases in which you use the partitive (di + article) to convey a sense of some, you use ne as the pronoun substituting for the noun, instead of lo, as in the final example above.

When you use ne in place of a quantity or partitive in a passato prossimo sentence, the ending of the past participle must agree with the noun replaced by ne:

  • Quanti chili di banana hai comprato?
    Ne ho comprati due.
  • Hai preso dell’acqua?
    Sì, ne ho presa.

Uses of Ci

I. Substitutes for a preposition + noun in expressions with the prepositions a, in, da or su.

question answer
Pensi molto agli errori del passato?
Do you think a lot about the mistakes of the past?
ci penso spesso.

Yes, I think about them often.

Credi alla magia?
Do you believe in magic?
No, non ci credo molto.
No, I don’t believe much in it.
A che ora andiamo al ristorante?
What time are we going to the restaurant?
Ci andiamo alle otto.
We are going (there) at 8:00.
Sei mai stata in Sicilia?

Have you ever been to Sicily?

No, non ci sono mai stata.
No, I have never been there
Siete saliti sul treno?
Did you get on the train?

Sì, ci siamo saliti.
Yes, we got on (it).

You do not use ci however, to substitute for nouns which function as indirect objects, which are also introduced by the preposition a. Rather, you use the indirect object pronoun.
E.g. Hai dato l’anello al tuo fidanzato? Sì, gli ho dato l’anello.

Just like the direct and indirect object pronouns, both ne and ci, (as you have noticed) go before the verb, except in cases in which there are two verbs. With two verbs, you should attach them to the infinitive of the second verb:

no pronoun pronoun w/ 1 verb pronoun w/ 2 verbs
Parliamo del viaggio. Ne parliamo. Vogliamo parlarne.
Non andiamo all’aeroporto. Non ci andiamo. Non possiamo andarci.

Ne and Ci: Practice