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Italian Language/use of relative pronoun "chi"


Dear Lauren,

My question is about the use of the word “chi” as a relative pronoun to express “who”.

Could you please give me some rules or guidelines as when I should  use “chi” to say “who” as a relative pronoun and when I should use “che” to express the relative pronoun “who”.

In the past,  I only used “che” to express the English relative pronoun “who”.

I have just recently discovered that “chi”  is also used for this purpose.  I am left wondering when   to use “chi” and when to use “che”.

Thank you.



Hi Rich,

Thank you for your question. Yes, when to use 'chi' and 'che' can be rather tricky.

I must say that most of time, it will be correct to use 'che' other than 'chi'. However, there are a few exceptions.

Firstly, chi normally functions as both subject and object and so roughly corresponds to a relative pronoun preceded by a demonstrative:
Non mi piace chi è maleducato (I don't like those who are rude)
Mi piace chi lotta per i propri ideali (I like those who fight for their own ideals)

Chi can also be used invariably in pronouns and sayings to refer to one person:
Chi rompe, paga (He who breaks it, pays for it)
Chi mangia bene, vive bene (He who eats well, lives well)

It can also be used as an indirect complement when preceded by a preposition:
Mi rivolgo a chi è veramente bravo in italiano (I was referring to those who are genuinely brilliant at Italian)
Il calcio è di chi lo ama (Football is for those who love it)

Hope this helps,
Kind regards,

Italian Language

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Lauren O' Hagan


Although not my mother tongue, I have spoken Italian fluently for more than 12 years so I am very confident to answer any questions about the Italian language. I am also competent in Roman Dialect if there are any questions relating to this.


MA Applied Linguistics First Class Honours in Modern Language Studies (Linguistics, Italian, Spanish) Received the top grade in the whole of UK for GCSE Italian, receiving a letter of congratulations from the Italian Consulate Completed my two-year A Level in 1 year with a grade A country. Carried out many translation jobs for a wide range of clients and topics including self-help, literature and exam papers. For personal reference, I have also translated Federico Moccia's Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo and 2 of Francesco Totti's book.

El Pensador, University of Bristol

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