The little Italian word ne is extremely useful as it replaces English words like some of it/them, none of it/them (in which case it’s called a partitive pronoun) but can also replace a whole phrase already used. Furthermore, you need to remember that if it follows a reflexive pronoun like mi/ci (me/us) then the possessive pronoun needs to change to me/ce. Here are a number of examples.

To the question Vuoi ancora pane? (Do you want more bread?) you could answer in the affirmative Si, grazie, ne voglio ancora (Yes thanks, I’d like some more) or in the negative  No, grazie, non ne voglio più (No thanks, I don’t want any). Pay attention to the different way you answer in the positive (ancora) and the negative (non… più)

Quanti bicchieri di vino hai bevuto stasera? (How many glasses of wine have you had this evening? Ne ho bevuti solo tre (I only had three [of them])

Hai letto i romanzi di Donna Leon? (Have you read Donna Leon’s novels?) Ne ho letto solo uno (I’ve only read one of them)

I bambini hanno divorato quasi tutte le paste: ce ne hanno lasciate solo due (The children devoured almost all the pastries – they only left us two)

Pierino perde sempre le penne a scuola: questa settimane gliene ho date cinque (Pierino keeps losing his pens at school: this week I gave him five of them)

Lo sai che sua sorella ha il cancro ai polmoni? (Do you know that his/her sister has lung cancer?) Sì, me ne ha parlato due settimane fa (Yes, he/she talked to me about it two weeks ago)

And now a not-so-elegant expression which is in common use. To convey the sense not giving a damn/not caring at all about something, the colloquial Italian verb is the reflexive fregarsene. Eg Me ne frego di loro – sono dei cretini (I don’t give a damn about them – they are idiots).

Yvette Devlin