Why do we say ce l’ho in Italian?

The Italian pronoun ci is quite special. When used with the verb avere, it means you have it.

Ce l’ho is actually the shortened form of ce lo ho, but it’s never written that way. Instead, we have to use an apostrophe, as in…

Hai il biglietto? – Sì, ce l’ho.
Do you have the ticket? – Yes, I have it.

You can’t translate I have it referring to your property as simply “l’ho”. You can’t say “sì, l’ho” to say you have an object (a direct object). You have to add ce.

When used together with the verb avere, ce… really has no reason to be there. It’s just how this expression works.

To say you don’t have “it”, simply add non before ce.

Hai il libro? – No, non ce l’ho.
Do you have the book? – No, I don’t have it.

boy struggling to get out a pile of books

Of course, this rule is valid for all subject pronouns. We’ve seen how to conjugate this expression in the first person singular, but we can form sentences with ce + avere for all other persons, as you can see in the table below.

I have itce l’ho
you have itce l’hai
he/she has itce l’ha
we have itce l’abbiamo
you have it (pl)ce l’avete
they have itce l’hanno

Ce l’ho in Italian: Examples

Ragazzi, avete con voi il passaporto? – Ce l’abbiamo.
Do you guys have your passports with you? – We do.

Chi ha la mia penna? Chi ce l’ha?
Who has my pen? Who has it?

Volete una fetta di torta? – Ce l’abbiamo già, grazie.
Would you like a piece of cake? – We already have it, thank you.

four women celebrating

Make sure you don’t use an apostrophe when you are using plural direct object pronouns like li and le.

I have themce li/le ho
you have themce li/le hai
he/she has themce li/le ha
we have themce li/le abbiamo
you have them (pl)ce li/le avete
they have themce li/le hanno

Non ho io i biglietti. Non ce li ho io.
I don’t have the tickets. I don’t have them.

Quei ragazzi hanno delle matite? – No, non ce le hanno.
Do those guys have pencils? – No, they don’t.

Expressions with ce in Italian

The expression ce l’ho in Italian is not the only case where ce is used. This pronoun is found in a number of other common expressions:

  • non potercela fare (to fail to do something)
  • mettercela tutta (to give it your all)
  • avercela con qualcuno (to have it in for somebody)

For example, you can say…

Non ce la posso fare da solo!
I can’t make it alone!

Ce l’ho messa tutta.
I gave it my all.

boy sweating profusely

More free Italian resources

You might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!

❤️ If you liked this guide on using ce l’ho in Italian, share it with your friends!