What are relative pronouns and how do I use them in Italian?

Relative pronouns are used to connect two clauses by substituting the noun. There are three main relative pronouns used in Italian. These are:

il quale / la quale / i quali / le quale

Some of these are used with prepositions and some of them are not, and it is important to know how to differentiate between them. 

Let's look at them one by one. 


Che is used without prepositions, and does not change gender or number. It is used as the subject or object of a subsidiary clause.


Che as subject:

Ho letto il libro che era sul tavolo.
I mediciche hanno partecipato alla conferenza, erano americani.

Che as direct object:

La ragazzache hai incontrato ieri, è mia cugina.
Le signoreche hai visto alla festa, sono molto ricche.

Il quale / la quale / i quali / le quale

These are only used as the subject of a subsidiary clause, especially where there is ambiguity. They change based on gender or number. They are not used as a direct object, and can be used either with or without prepositions. 


Without prepositions:

Ho letto il libro, il quale era sul tavolo.

Ho rivisto Laurala quale parte per il Giappone la prossima settimana.

(Compare: Ho rivisto Laura che avevo già incontrato a Roma)


With prepositions:

Le scarpe delle quale [di + la quale] ti ho parlato sono in afferta oggi!


Cui is only used with prepositions as an indirect object.


L'avvocatoa cui ho scritto una lettera, non mi ha ancora risposto.

Le questionidi cui ti devo parlare, sono lunghe e complesse.

L'estate è la stagione in cui si prende tanto sole e si fanno tanti bagni al mare. 

Il / la / i / le + cui + noun

Cui, when used with definite articles, indicates possession.


Le sorelle di Gianni vivono una in Australia. I mariti delle sorelle di Gianni sono inglesi.

--> Le sorelle di Gianni, i cui mariti sono inglesi, vivono in Australia. 

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