use of capitals for lei, voi in formal letter writing

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by I Am Herenow, Mar 12, 2007.

  1. I Am Herenow Senior Member


    I'm trying to learn Italian and am using various sources to do this. In one text book, "lei" [she] and "lei" [you, polite sing.] were both written the same and no disctinction was made. However, another one pointed out that "lei" [you] must always, in fact, be written with a capital (i.e. so it's always "Lei") when it means "you", as "lei" with a lowercase "l" always means "she".

    I am confused! Is it "Lei" or "lei" or up to personal opinion or what do I do?!

    Please answer in English, I don't know Italian that well yet :)

  2. Talant

    Talant Senior Member

    Hi You Are Therenow,

    I was told that "Lei", "La",... have to be in capital letters when they are used as polite pronouns.

  3. I Am Herenow Senior Member

    Thanks :)

    But what does "La" mean in Italian if it's a pronoun? :S
  4. MünchnerFax

    MünchnerFax Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    It's what you'd call accusative in Russian, and we call pronome oggetto:
    I'll call you tomorrow = La chiamo domani.
  5. sam1978

    sam1978 Senior Member

    italy - italiano
    Icould try to explain it in Russian, but I don't know if I can here! :confused:
  6. Londoner06

    Londoner06 Senior Member

    London, UK
    US/English, Spanish
    Click HERE for a handy Italian pronoun chart you can print out to help you identify them. The pronouns marked * are formal. Maximize the picture so it can be read clearly.

  7. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    No, not here, please. But I Am Herenow may take you up on that offer and open a thread in the Slavic forum. :)
  8. Karl!!!! Senior Member

    Derby. England
    Hi. My dictionary claims that Lei is the traditional way of writing 'you' politely, but that in modern Italian there is no distinction, i.e. lei is used both for 'you' (polite) and 'she'. Maybe a native can confirm or refute this for me!
  9. gabrigabri

    gabrigabri Senior Member

    Italian, Italy (Torino)
    If I write an important email or letter, I write "Lei" (you) or "lei" (she").

    Come Lei ben sa, etc
    Has you know.

    The same in an interview, journal article, etc.

    "Lei" polite: always with "L"
    So: Suo, Le, Vi, Vostri (Vostro dipends on the situation: if I speak with friend I wirte "vostri").
  10. virgilio Senior Member

    English UK
    I am Herenow,
    You wrote: " But what does "La" mean in Italian if it's a pronoun?"
    It means "you".e.g.
    ArrivederLa - Till I see you again"
    Of course, if it is the first word in a sentence, it would have an initial capital letter anyway and so in that case, it could mean "her" (accusative of "she") or "it", if it referred to a thing of feminine gender.
    Dov'è la mia matita?
    La vedo lì sul tavolo.

    There is, of course, an advantage in always writing the "you" - type "Lei" with a capital initial. In that way its meaning is clear, even in the middle of a sentence.
  11. StaceyLee Senior Member

    USA/ English
    Hi All,

    I am having a little debate with a member of this forum that I hope you can solve:

    My Italian teacher (from Perugia, has taught me that in formal letter writing in Italian, I should always capitalize Lei and Voi and pronouns referring to lei and voi, even when attached to infinitives. Vi faccio qualche esempio:

    1. La ringrazio della Sua attenzione e Le porgo i miei piu' cordiali

    2. ho ricevuto il Suo messaggio e credo di averLe mandato un'email dicendo che non c'erano problemi

    Also I have a small related question: Often I notice in Italian letters/ emails the first letter of the first word is not capitalized, but it is not always the case. Is this optional? Is there any rhyme or reason to capitalizing or not with the first letter?

    My friend from the forum, also in Italy, said he has never seen or heard of the capitalization of the Lei and Voi in formal letters. So who's right?

  12. irene.acler Senior Member

    Trento - Italy
    I think you can find both versions. Generally, I personally write with capitalization of the pronouns in formal letters.

    As far as the first letter is concerned, to be honest I don't know whether there's a rule or not, but I write with the capitalize letter for example!
  13. StaceyLee Senior Member

    USA/ English
    Thanks, Irene. Is this the only kind of writing in which you capitalize these pronouns?
  14. irene.acler Senior Member

    Trento - Italy
    Yes, I capitalize only in formal writing.

    But then it depends. For example: if I write to one of my teachers for the first time, I'm going to use capitalization. Then, when I write for the second, third, fourth time and so on, I'll tend no to use capitalization, because it's like I know him/her better.
  15. StaceyLee Senior Member

    USA/ English
    Oh- that's very interesting, but you will continue to use the lei form, just no capitals, right? Just want to be sure. :)
  16. irene.acler Senior Member

    Trento - Italy
    Yes, I continue using the "lei" form, but without capitalization.
    I don't know if it's only my way of writing..I'd be interested in seeing what other Italians think about this topic!
  17. federicoft Senior Member

    As regards capitalizing the first letter of the first word, in Italian it's not capitalized.

    Caro Mario,

    While in English you have:
    Dear John,

    which I personally find rather strange, because it's after a comma.
  18. StaceyLee Senior Member

    USA/ English
    But is more common for natives to use capital or lower case in the first word of formal letter writing? Is it more common for natives to capitalize the use of Lei/ Voi pronouns or to use lower case? Just curious.

    By the way federicoft- this makes total sense to me, but never would have occured to me if you hadn't pointed it out!:idea:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2009
  19. federicoft Senior Member

    In formal writing, especially professional letters, Lei is usually capitalized. The first letter is never capitalized, no matter if formal or informal writing.
  20. irene.acler Senior Member

    Trento - Italy
    Maybe I'm influenced by the Spanish language, and I write the first letter capitalised!
  21. SunDraw

    SunDraw Senior Member

    Veneto (Italia)
    I subscribe it fully, and I like it.
    Thereafter, let's use the "tu".

    Since a while, i.e. since we are more technologicized (si dice così?), I (feel justified to) use:

    Caro Mario [NO COMMA]

    That is: "Caro Mario" has the same function of the address isolated up there on the letter (label).
    Fubbo, no?!
    (Please forgive & correct my English, thank you)
  22. topazsummer New Member

    English - British
    If I am writing a formal letter to a company, but not to a specific person, should I use the Voi or Lei, voi or lei?
    eg Vi ringrazio della Vostra attenzione or Le ringrazio della Sua attenzione

    If I useVoi, can I then use phrases like this during the same letter:
    Speriamo che si capisca la nostra posizione in questa questione

    Many thanks for your help, I am confused and it is many years since I last spoke Italian.
  23. Correctrix

    Correctrix Member

    Standard English
    Well, it's not the first word then, is it?

    Ahem. Some people treat the salutation as not part of the sentence.

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