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Italian Definite and Indefinite Articles

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

Studying Italian grammar? The Italian language has different definite articles (the) and indefinite articles (a) for masculine and feminine nouns, and there are several for each gender based on what letter the word starts with. Learn the different definite and indefinite articles in Italian.

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    Picking the Right Article to Precede a Noun

    In Italian, a noun must be preceded by an article. The article can be a definite article (the equivalent to “the" in English) or an indefinite article (the equivalent to “a/an" in English). The articles must match the noun in both gender and quantity. Some of the articles in Italian change if the noun starts with a vowel or a “special" consonant.

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    Definite Articles

    Let's start with definite articles. With feminine nouns, there are only four definite articles to learn: two singular and two plural definite articles. If we have a feminine noun that starts with a consonant, we use la. For example:

    la borsa (the purse)

    If the noun is plural, the definite article changes to le:

    le borse (the purses)

    However, if the noun starts with a vowel, we use l' instead:

    l'acqua (water)

    When these nouns are plural, the definite article is le as well:

    le acque (waters)

    Now let's move over to masculine nouns: masculine nouns have an extra group of definite articles. First, we will go over the definite article for masculine nouns that start with a consonant. If the noun is singular, we use il:

    il gatto (cat)

    When the noun becomes plural, the definite article becomes i:

    i gatti (cats)

    However, if the masculine noun begins with either s + consonant, z, ps, gn or x, the definite article is lo:

    lo stadio (stadium)

    lo zio (uncle)

    lo psicologo (psychologist)

    lo gnomo (gnome)

    lo xilofono (xylophone)

    When these nouns become plural, the definite article becomes gli:

    glistadii (stadiums)

    gli zii (uncles)

    gli psicologi (psychologists)

    gli gnomi (gnomes)

    glixilofoni (xylophones)

    If a masculine noun starts with a vowel, it also has the definite article l':

    l'attore (actor)

    When the noun becomes plural, the definite article changes to gli:

    gliattori (actors)

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    Indefinite Articles

    Indefinite articles follow a pattern similar to definite articles — there are four feminine indefinite articles and six masculine indefinite articles. Since we now know the different groups of nouns for the articles, let's go over the indefinite articles:

    Feminine Indefinite Articles:

    consonant, singular: una

    consonant, plural: delle

    vowel, singular: un'

    vowel, plural: delle

    Masculine Indefinite Articles:

    consonant, singular: un

    consonant, plural: dei

    S + consonant, Z, PS, GN, X, singular: uno

    S + consonant, Z, PS, GN, X, plural: degli

    vowel, singular: un

    vowel, plural: degli

    Now that we know both our definite and indefinite articles, they can also help us identify if the noun is masculine or feminine, in case we forget or do not know the different endings.


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


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