Italian Articles, Gender & Number - How to Use Them

Italian Articles, Gender & Number

Articles, gender and number are the first steps to learn Italian properly. Let's start to practice these very important elements of Italian grammar.

Definite Articles – Gli articoli determinativi

Italian articles identify the gender and number of nouns; they can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural.

In Italian, we have 2 feminine definite articles for the singular form and 1 for the plural form: 

SingularPlural
Before consonant

la

la pennalele penne
Before vowel

l’

l’isolale isole

Here are some examples:

  • La borsa The bag – Le borse  The bags
  • La finestra The window – Le finestre The windows
  • La porta The door – Le porte The doors
  • L’ora The hour – Le ore The hours
  • L’alba The dawn – Le albe The dawns
  • L’aula The classroom – Le aule The classrooms

The masculine definite articles in Italian are 3 for the singular form and 2 for the plural form:

SingularPlural
Before consonant

il

il libro

i

i libri
Before vowel

l’

l’orologio

gli

gli orologi
Before

S + consonant

Z

GN

PS

Y

PN    

lo

lo studentelo zaino

lo gnocco

lo psicologo

lo yogurt

lo pneumatico

gli studentigli zaini

gli gnocchi

gli psicologi

gli yogurt

gli pneumatici

Here are some examples:

  • Il tavolo The table – I tavoli The tables
  • Il letto The bed – I letti The beds
  • Il cane The dog – I cani The dogs
  • L’amico The friend – Gli amici The friends
  • L’orto The garden – Gli orti The gardens
  • L’uomo * The man – Gli uomini * The men
  • Lo scoiattolo The squirrel – Gli scoiattoli The squirrels
  • Lo zio The uncle – Gli zii The uncles
  • Lo gnomo The gnome – Gli gnomi The gnomes
  • Lo psichiatra The psychiatrist – Gli psichiatri The psychiatrists
  • Lo yeti The yeti – Gli yeti The yetis
  • Lo pneumologo  The pulmonologist – Gli pneumologi The pulmonologists

Definite articles are used:

  • To indicate specific people or objects

Questa è la macchina di Luca – This is Luca’s car
La borsa di Paola è molto bella – Paola’s bag is very beautiful

  • With possessive adjectives and pronouns

Mi piace il mio lavoro – I like my job
La tua stanza è al terzo piano, la mia è al secondo – Your room is on the third floor, mine is on the second

  • With abstract and general nouns, including colours

L’amicizia è molto importante per me – Friendship is very important to me
Mi piace il nero – I like black

  • With parts of the body and clothes

Stasera mi metto la cravatta – Tonight I’m going to wear a tie
Mi sono rotto il braccio – I broke my arm

  • With dates, *if the day of the week is not mentioned before

Il mio compleanno è il 7 Aprile – My birthday is the 7th of April
*Il mio compleanno è giovedì 7 Aprile – My birthday is Thursday the 7th of April
Mi sposo il 2 Giugno 2020 – I’ll get married on the 2nd of June 2020

  • With times or other expressions of time

Sono le cinque e mezza – It’s half past five
La mattina mi sveglio alle 7:00 – I wake up at 7 in the morning

  • With the days of the weeks to show habitual actions

Il martedì e il giovedì andiamo a lezione di italiano – Every Tuesday and Thursday we go to Italian lessons
Il sabato e la domenica esco sempre con i miei amici – On Saturdays and Sundays I always go out with my friends

  • With physical descriptions when the verb “avere” (to have) is used

Luca ha gli occhi azzurri – Luca has blue eyes
Maria ha i capelli rossi – Maria has red hair

  • With titles and qualifications used with names

Il Dottor Bianchi è molto bravo – Doctor Bianchi is very good
Il principe William si è sposato nel 2011 – Prince William got married in 2011

  • With most geographical names, *except for city names and when the prepositions “in” or “di” come before feminine singular geographical names

L’italia ha 20 regioni – Italy has 20 regions
La Lombardia è una regione italiana – Lombardy is an Italian region
*Vado a vivere in Italia – I’m going to live in Italy
*Il mio ragazzo è di Roma – My boyfriend is from Rome

  • Sometimes with famous people:

Il Botticelli dipinse la Nascita di Venere – Botticelli painted the Birth of Venus

  • Sometimes when talking about friends or family members colloquially

La Giulia viene a cena con noi sabato sera – Giulia is coming to dinner with us on Saturday night
Il Mauri è troppo simpatico! – Mauri is too kind!

! Definite articles are not used:

  • When talking about languages, they cannot be used after the verbs “parlare, insegnare, studiare” and after the prepositions “in” and “di”

Capisco lo spagnolo, ma non l‘italiano – I understand Spanish but not Italian
Alex parla italiano abbastanza bene – Alex speaks Italian quite well
Non so scrivere in inglese – I can’t write in English

  • With singular possessive adjectives when talking about family members, *except for singular family members with the possessive adjective “loro” or when names have been made more colloquial

Mio fratello si chiama Stefano – My brother is called Stefano
Mio padre ha 62 anni – My father is 62 years old
*Il loro zio vive a Mosca – Their uncle lives in Moscow
*Sono felice di conoscere la loro figlia – I am happy that I met their daughter
*Il mio fratellino si chiama Gabriele – My little brother is called Gabriele
*La mia cuginetta ha 2 mesi – My little cousin is 2 months old

  • With city names, *although there are some exceptions such as La Spezia, L’Aquila, L’Avana, Il Cairo, La Mecca

Firenze è una città antica, New York è una città moderna – Florence is an old city, New York is a modern city
*La Spezia si trova in Liguria – La Spezia is in Liguria

Indefinite Articles – Gli articoli indeterminativi

Indefinite articles are used to introduce someone or something new, not previously mentioned; or to talk about someone or something in a more general and undefined way.

Just as with the definite articles, in Italian there are 2 feminine indefinite articles for the singular form and 1 for the plural form:

SingularPlural
Before consonantunauna pennadelledelle penne
Before vowelun’un’isoladelle isole

Here are some examples:

  • Una ragazza A girl – Delle ragazze Some girls
  • Una mela An apple – Delle mele Some apples
  • Una studentessa A student – Delle studentesse Some students
  • Un’insalata A salad – Delle insalate Some salads
  • Un’aula A classroom – Delle aule Some classrooms
  • Un’ora An hour – Delle ore Some hours

And for the masculine form, there are 2 indefinite articles for the singular form and 2 for the plural form:

SingularPlural
Before consonant      unun librodeidei libri
Before vowel                unun orologiodeglidegli orologi
Before:

S + consonant

Z

GN

PS

Y

PN    

unouno studente

uno zaino

uno gnocco

uno psicologo

uno yogurt

uno pneumatico

degli studenti

degli zaini

degli gnocchi

degli psicologi

degli yogurt

degli pneumatici

! Pay attention: with indefinite articles an APOSTROPHE is used only with FEMININE nouns (eg. “un’amica”) and NOT with MASCULINE ones (eg. “un amico”)

Here are some examples for the masculine form:

  • Un bicchiere A glass – Dei bicchieri Some glasses
  • Un coltello A knife – Dei coltelli Some knives
  • Un telefono A phone – Dei telefoni Some telephones
  • Un amico A friend – Degli amici Some friends
  • Un orto A garden – Degli orti Some gardens
  • Un uomo * A man – Degli uomini * Some men
  • Uno scoiattolo A squirrel – Degli scoiattoli Some squirrels
  • Uno zio An uncle – Degli zii Some uncles
  • Uno gnomo A gnome – Degli gnomi Some gnomes
  • Uno psichiatra A psychiatrist – Degli psichiatri Some psychiatrists
  • Uno yeti A yeti – Degli yeti Some yetis
  • Uno pneumologo A pulmonologist – Degli pneumologi Some pulmonologists

Indefinite articles are used for:

  • People, animals or things which are not known by the person speaking

Una persona ha suonato il campanello – A person rang the bell
Ieri ho trovato un cane – Yesterday I found a dog

  • Undefined people, animals or things

Vorrei un gelato – I would like an ice cream
Prendi un libro in libreria – You take a book from the library

  • Parts of the body (of which there are more than one)

Maria si è rotta un ginocchio – Maria broke her knee
[ma: *Maria si è rotta il ginocchio sinistro – but: * Maria broke her left knee]

Stefano ha un occhio gonfio – Stefano has a swollen eye
[ma: *Stefano ha gli occhi gonfi – but: * Stefano has swollen eyes]

Noun and Gender (Masculine and feminine) – Il nome e il genere (maschile e femminile)

Nouns are words that refer to a person or a thing and they can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural.

Singular nouns ending in – O are masculine, and change to end in -I in the plural form:

SingularPlural
Masculine -oil dizionario

il libro

lo zaino

lo sbaglio

l’aereo

-ii dizionari

i libri

gli zaini

gli sbagli

gli aerei

Singular nouns ending in – A are feminine, and change to end in -E in the plural form:

SingularPlural
Feminine -ala finestra

la porta

la penna

l’ora

l’amica

-ele finestre

le porte

le penne

le ore

le amiche

Singular nouns ending in -E can be either masculine or feminine: there is no special rule to help identify them, only studying and practicing them!
However, the plural form always ends in – I,
as shown in these examples:

Masculine-eil padre

il pesce

il bicchiere

il mare

il dolce

il fiore

-ii padri

i pesci

i bicchieri

i mari

i dolci

i fiori

 

Feminine-e la madre

la lezione

la chiave

la nave

la situazione

la volpe

-ile madri

le lezioni

le chiavi

le navi

le situazioni

le volpi

Some exceptions to the rules:

  • La radio The radio – Le radio The radios
  • Il programma The programme – I programmi The programmes
  • L’uovo The egg – Le uova The eggs
  • L’uomo The man – Gli uomini The men
  • Il problema The problem – I problemi The problems
  • La mano The hand – Le mani The hands
  • Il bar The bar – I bar The bars
  • Il cinema The cinema – I cinema The cinemas

Nouns that have been taken from other languages or that end in an accent are invariable, and so we just change the article in the plural form:

  • Il computer The computer – I computer The computers
  • La email The email – Le email The emails
  • Il caffè The coffee – I caffè The coffees
  • Il papà The dad – I papà The dads

! PAY ATTENTION: to change a noun from singular to plural, always remember to change both the article and the ending!

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