Summing Up Italian Articles, Nouns, and Adjectives

Part of the Italian All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

In Italian, nouns have gender and number — masculine or feminine, and singular or plural. Articles (a, an, the, and so on), which are associated with nouns, are also masculine, feminine, singular, or plural according to the noun they refer to. So the English definite article the is either masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, or feminine plural in Italian.

The following table shows how you can combine nouns and articles. Pay attention to the beginning letter of masculine nouns because the article changes according to this letter; this is why you see four versions of masculine nouns in the table.

Italian articles take the gender and number of the nouns they refer to, so the first thing you have to do is determine the gender and number of the noun you're working with. You'll find some examples in the first column. The second column helps you focus on the beginning letters of nouns, which is essential to find the correct definite and indefinite articles, shown in the third and fourth columns, respectively.

Gender and Number of NounsNouns Beginning with ...Definite ArticlesIndefinite Articles
Masculine singular 1. Nouns beginning with a consonant (such as libro, tavolo, and sogno) il (il libro, il tavolo, il sogno) un (un libro, un tavolo, un sogno)
Masculine plural 1. Nouns beginning with a consonant (such as libri, tavoli, and sogni) i (i libri, i tavoli, i sogni) dei (dei libri, dei tavoli, dei sogni)
Masculine singular 2. Nouns beginning with s + a consonant, z, ps, pn, gn, or y (as in specchio, stivale, scienziato, zaino, psicologo, pneumatico, gnomo, and yogurt) lo (lo specchio, lo stivale, lo scienziato, lo zaino, lo psicologo, lo pneumatico [but also il pneumatico], lo gnomo, lo yogurt) uno (uno specchio, uno stivale, uno scienziato, uno zaino, uno psicologo, uno pneumatico, uno gnomo, uno yogurt)
  Nouns beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, or u) as in aereo, amico, orso, and invito l' (l'aereo, l'amico, l'orso, l'invito) un (un aereo, un amico, un orso, un invito)
Note: Make sure you don't use an apostrophe with the masculine un.
Masculine plural 2. Nouns beginning with s + a consonant, z, ps, pn, gn, or y (as in specchi, stivali, scienziati, zaini, psicologi, pneumatici, gnomi, and yogurt) gli (gli specchi, gli stivali, gli scienziati, gli zaini, gli psicologi, gli pneumatici [but also i pneumatici], gli gnomi, gli yogurt) degli (degli specchi, degli stivali, degli scienziati, degli zaini, degli psicologi, degli pneumatici [but also dei pneumatici], degli gnomi, degli yogurt
  Nouns beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, or u) gli (gli aerei, gli amici, gli orsi, gli inviti) degli (degli aerei, degli amici, degli orsi, degli inviti)
Feminine singular Nouns beginning with a consonant (such as banca, casa, and stazione) la (la banca, la casa, la stazione) una (una banca, una casa, una stazione)
  Nouns beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, or u) as in arte and eredità l' (l'arte, l'eredità) un' (un'arte, un'eredità)
Feminine plural All nouns (such as banche, case, stazioni, arti, and eredità) le (le banche, le case, le stazioni, le arti, le eredità) delle (delle banche, delle case, delle stazioni, delle arti, delle eredità)

Also note that although definite articles are omitted in English, they're not omitted in Italian. For example, La gente dice . . . (People say . . .).

Adjectives provide details about the noun(s) they refer to. They take the noun's gender and number. Most masculine nouns end in -o (singular) or -i (plural), while most feminine nouns end in -a (singular) or -e (plural). Some nouns end in -e in their singular form and in -i in the plural, both for feminine and masculine forms.

Check the following table to see how adjectives and nouns agree in gender and number:

bianco un foglio bianco (a white sheet of paper) fogli bianchi (white sheets of paper)
bianca una pagina bianca (a white page) pagine bianche (white pages)
verde un banco verde (a green desk); una penna verde (a green pen) banchi verdi (green desks); penne verdi (green pens)

Qualifying adjectives usually follow the noun; however, all other modifiers — demonstrative, interrogative, possessive, and indefinite pronouns, as well as number — come before the noun:

Abbiamo letto un libro interessante. (We read an interesting book.)
Vorrei comprare questo libro. (I would like to buy this book.)
I tuoi libri sono nello zaino nero. (Your books are in the black book pack.)
Perché hai ordinato pochi libri? (Why did you order so few books?)
Quali libri hai preso in prestito? (Which books did you borrow?)
È il terzo libro che leggo su questo argomento. (This is the third book that I have read on this subject.)
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