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the pronoun CHI

edited February 2016 in Italian
I have a question regarding the discussion of relative pronouns in the Living Language Advanced book. On pages 132 and 133, the pronoun CHI is described as a relative pronoun, but this does not seem right to me. Relative pronouns connect two clauses and introduce a clause that gives more information about a noun in the independent clause, but CHI (in the uses shown on page 133) is a subject pronoun meaning "whomever", no? I can't think of any examples in which CHI would be a relative pronoun. Can someone please help? Thank you!


  • Hi Kate! 
    This is a great question. I wanted to give my perspective as a non-Italian speaking linguist, and then the Italian e-Tutor will you the examples and explanation you're asking for. 
    As you noted, chi serves as the subject of sentence, and from the looks of it, doesn't have an antecedent (a thing it modifies) like other relative pronouns.  In the example "Chi rompe, paga" chi acts as the subject of the verb rompe, which like all verbs used with chi, is in 3rd person singular form (he/she/it). I see your point that in this sense, it is acting more like a subject pronoun, such as lui/lei/Lei, than a relative pronoun such as che as in the example "I medici che lavorano al pronto soccorso sono molto gentili." But if we think of what the meaning of "Chi rompe, paga" is and try to come up with an equivalent phrase in English, you could imagine it being translated as "He who breaks it, buys it" which is the same in meaning to "Who breaks it, buys it." Both of these sound pretty archaic because we have other more common ways of saying this, but you can see that 'who' in the first sentence acts like a relative pronoun that modifies "He" and in the second sentence, this pronoun is left out but the meaning is the same.  I doubt that you can use the a pronoun like lui before CHI (we can ask the tutor), but do you see how this is like "who" in "he who" or "one who" and how this makes it a bit clearer that it is relative pronoun? In the end, the important thing is that you understand how to use the word, not classify it, so I'll ask our tutor to give you some more examples. 
    Thanks for the interesting question!
  • Dear Kate,
    In sentences like "Chi rompe, paga," "chi" is a relative pronoun because it stands for "colui che" (lit. he who) as Erin explained in her message. Other examples are: "Chi dorme, non piglia pesci" (lit. "He who who sleeps doesn’t catch fish"); "Chi ben comincia, è a metà dell'opera" (lit. "He who begins well is already halfway there"; "Chi va piano va sano e lontano" (lit. "He who goes slowly, goes safely and far." While this use of "chi" is often found in proverbs and sayings in Italian, you can also use it in regular sentences, for example: "Chi fa tanto sport si mantiene in forma" ("People who play sports stay in shape"), "Chi ha bisogno di aiuto può chiamarmi al telefono" ("Who needs help can call me on the phone"), etc.
    I hope this helps!

    Italian e-Tutor 
  • Hi Erin and Roberta,
    Thanks for the great explanations -- I do understand now, though it seems to be a somewhat tricky point of grammar. But as Erin says, the important thing is to know how to use it, so thank you for the examples.
    Grazie mille e buona serata,

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