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Italian Grammar: Nouns and Gender

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

Italian has masculine and feminine nouns like other Romance languages. Learn how to identify the different gender endings and how to make regular Italian nouns plural.

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    Like in other Romance languages, words in Italian have either a maschile (masculine) or femminile (feminine) grammatical gender. Luckily, however, many nouns in Italian have noticeable endings for the gender.

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    Masculine Nouns—Singular

    When nouns end with -o, it is usually masculine:

    • il bambino (baby)

    Some nouns that end with -e are also masculine:

    • il professore (professor)
    • il padre (father)
    • il cane (dog)
    • il pane (bread)
    • il dottore (doctor)

    An ending of -a can indicate a masculine noun as well. Examples of -a endings include -ma, -ista and -a:

    • il problemma (problem)
    • il tema (theme)
    • il cinema (theater)
    • il sistema (system)
    • il programma (program)
    • il clima (climate)
    • l'artista (artist)
    • il dentista (dentist)
    • il giornalista(journalist)
    • il poeta (poet)
    • il pilota (pilot)

    Other endings that can indicate a masculine noun include:

    • il fiore (flower) [-ore]
    • il sapone (soap) [-one]
    • il giornale (newspaper) [-ale]
    • il fucile (rifle) [-ile]

    In addition, nouns that end in a consonant are usually masculine. These words are mainly derived from foreign words such as il bar and lo sport.

    Names of mountains, lakes, rivers and seas are usually masculine. The months of the year and days of the week are also masculine nouns. However, there is an exception: la domenica (Sunday) is a feminine noun.

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    Feminine Nouns—Singular

    While some nouns that end with -a are masculine, the majority of nouns that have an -a ending is feminine:

    • la bambina (baby)

    Some -e ending nouns are also feminine:

    • la chiave (key)
    • la madre(mother)
    • la pace(peace)
    • la classe (class)

    While it can be confusing, some -o ending nouns are feminine. The feminine -o nouns are often shortened words, like:

    • la radio (radio)
    • la foto (photo)
    • la moto (bike)
    • l'auto (car)
    • la mano (hand)

    Nouns that end with either -tà and -tù are feminine:

    • la libertà (liberty)
    • la gioven (youth)

    In addition, nouns that end with -i are usually feminine:

    • la crisi (crisis)
    • l'analisi (analysis)
    • la sintesi (synthesis)

    Other words with special ends that are also feminine include:

    • la lezione (lesson) [-ione]
    • la serie (series) [-ie]
    • la lavatrice (washing machine) [-ice]

    Also, names of continents, countries, regions, islands, towns and cities are usually feminine nouns.

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    Masculine Nouns—Plural

    Now that we know the general endings of masculine nouns, let's go over how to make them plural. However, note that these changes are for regular nouns.

    Masculine nouns that end with -o change to -i when it becomes plural:

    • il telefonoi telefoni (telephone)

    If a masculine noun ends with -e, it becomes -i when it becomes plural:

    • il cane → i cani (dog)

    If a masculine noun ends with -a, it becomes -i when it becomes plural as well:

    • il sistema → i sistemi (system)
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    Feminine Nouns—Plural

    We need to go over a few more plural changes when it comes to feminine words. Like the masculine words, these changes apply to regular nouns:

    If a feminine noun ends with -a, it becomes -e when it becomes plural:

    • la scuolale scuole (school)

    If a feminine noun ends with -e, it becomes -i when it becomes plural:

    • la chiave → la chiavi (key)

    If a feminine noun ends with -, it stays the same when it becomes plural:

    • la liber → le liber (liberty)

    Just like feminine nouns that end with -, feminine nouns that end with -tù stay the same when it becomes plural:

    • la giovenle gioven (youth)

    If a feminine noun ends with -i, it keeps the same ending when it becomes plural:

    • la crisi → le crisi (crisis)

    Finally, if a feminine noun ends with -o, it becomes -i when it becomes plural:

    • la mano → le mani (hand)
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    For more information on the gender of Italian nouns, please read Italian Words and Their Gender.

References

  • Mezzadri, Marco. Essential Italian. Guerra Edizioni, 2004

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