The pronoun ne
Ne is a tricky little word because it is essential in Italian while there is no exact equivalent in English. Consider the example:
- Hassan: Quanti pomodori usi per fare il sugo? [How many tomatoes are you using to make the sauce?]
- Giuseppe: Ne uso sei o sette. [I use six or seven (of them).]
As you can see, in English it is not necessary to say of them, but in Italian you absolutely have to use ne (which here means “of them”). Keep in mind the following:
- Ne means of it or of them.
- Ne usually answers the questions Quanto? Quanta? Quanti? Quante? [How much? How many?], whether the question is explicit or just implied.
- Ne is usually followed by a quantity of some kind, like a number or an amount.
Some more examples:
- Quanti anni hai? > Ne ho 19.
- Non mangio molto pesce: ne mangio solo un po’ la domenica.
- Hai della farina? > No, non ne ho.
As is the case for ci, ne always goes before the conjugated verb, i.e.: ne mangio, ne ho 20, etc. However, when there is a verb + an infinitive, it can go either before the conjugated verb or be attached to the end of the infinitive after you have dropped the last letter of the infinite, as in comprare > comprar. Consider the two possible answers to the following question:
Hai già comprato la farina per fare la focaccia?
- Sì, ma ne devo comprare ancora un po’.
- Sì, ma devo comprarne ancora un po’.
Ne is also used in many common phrases not only to mean of it/of them, but also to mean about it. We are not going to go into detail on this in this course; simply memorize the following expressions:
- Cosa ne dici? [What do you say about it?]
- Cosa ne pensi? [What do you think about it?]
- Cosa ne sai? [What do you know about it?] and Ne sai qualcosa? [Do you know anything about it?]
- Non me ne importa; non me ne importa niente [I don’t care about it; I don’t care about it at all.]
- Non me ne frega niente! [I don’t give a damn about it!] and Chi se ne frega! [Who cares!] which are not very nice things to tell someone.