Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The definite article

Masculine/Feminine, Singular/Plural

Definite article are literally how you say "the" in Italian.


Nouns are the things people talk about, use or have. They're just things.
All nouns in Italian have a gender. I don't know where this comes from but words are either said to be masculine or feminine.

As well as their gender, they can also be singular or plural. This is to distinguish between the "thing" and the "things".

You can find the gender of a noun from a dictionary. There's either a small 'm' or 'f' before the translation. The other way is to take a guess based on the ending of the word but this can be risky as there are some common exceptions.

The rough guide to the gender of Italian nouns is like this:

Singular (1)Plural (1+)

See how the endings of words change when you make the plural? I'm sure there's a word for this but I don't know it.

Definite articles describe nouns

In any sentence, the definite article must agree with the noun. That means, if a noun is feminine and plural like macchine (cars) the definite article needs to be feminine and plural too. We do that by using the femine, plural definite article which is le, so The complete phrase is le macchine – the cars.

Here are the Definite Articles in Italian:

Singular (1 thing) Plural (1+ things)
Masc. il i
lo gli
l' gli
Fem. la le
l' le

Notice how the masculine column has an extra set of articles? That's for nouns that begin with "s" + consonant, "z", "gn", "x", "y" + vowel, "i" + vowel, "pn" and "ps". Complicated I know, but I only remember these as being slightly special words. You rarely use them except for the "s" + consonant one. You'll get the hang of it.

With that, we're done. This is all the ways you can say "the" in Italian. Exercises next so you can see the theory in practice.


If you use the wrong article, don't worry about it. I do it all the time. People need to know what you're talking about, and how many of them you're talking about. The rest they can figure out. I guess this is more important in written Italian but when you're over there on holiday, don't worry too much about it.


l'angolo – the angle
la bicicletta - the bicycle
la carta – the paper
il dolore – the pain
l'elephante – the elephant
la farfalla – the butterfly
il generale – the general
l'handicap – the handicap
l'inglese – the English
i jeans – the jeans
il kayak – the kayak
il lavoro – the work
la mano – the hand
la nascita – the birth
l'opera – the opera
la problema – the problem
la questione – the matter, question
la ragù – the ragù, sauce
lo spettacolo – the spectacle
la tivù – the TV
l'umano – the human
il valore – the value
il weekend – the weekend
la xenofobia – the xenophobia
lo yogurt – the yoghurt
lo zucchino – the courgette

This is a bit different. It requires you to know about prepositions:

Finalmente sono arrivate le vacanze! l'anno scorso siamo andati in Italia, nella regione che si chima Liguria. Siamo andati in macchina da casa fino a Folkestone, poi abbiamo preso il traghetto per Boulogne. Siamo arrivati in Italia ventiquattro ore dopo il viaggio in macchina fino in Liguria è durato più o meno dieci ore. Siamo arrivati al campeggio alle sei di sera.
Abbiamo trascorso molto tempo nella piscina, ed abbiamo anche visitato i paesi e le città dei dintorni. Abbiamo anche visto lo spettacolo folchoristico in un paese vicino al campeggio. Dopo due settimane di vacanze e sole siamo tornati a casa.

I'm finally on holiday! Last year we went to Italy, to a region called Liguria. We went by car to Folkestone, then took a ferry to Boulogne. We arrived in Italy 24 hours after our car journey ending in Liguria, give or take, another ten hours. We arrived at the campsite at six in the evening.
We spent a lot of time in the pool, and we visited the towns and cities nearby. We also saw the folklore spectacle in a town near to the campsite. After two weeks of holidays and sun we went back home.

There you go. That's everything you need about definite articles.

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