In Italian, we say “There’s always the exception to the rule”, but in this video-lesson there are more exceptions than rules!!!
How to form MASCULINE and FEMININE in Italian
In Italian, there are two genders: MASCULINE and FEMININE.
Generally, for the animated beings the grammatical gender is determined by their own gender (if it’s a woman, the gender will be feminine; if it’s a man, the gender will be masculine: il postino, la postina → the postman, the postwoman). For the non-animated things, instead, the gender is conventional and it has to be learnt as it is (il cioccolato, la schiuma → the chocolate, the foam).
A belief became widespread: that the nouns ending with -a are feminine, while those ending with -o are masculine. That’s true in many cases, BUT NOT ALWAYS!
- Masculine nouns ending with -a: il problema (the problem), il tema (the theme)…
- Feminine nouns ending with -o: la mano (the hand), l’eco (the echo)…
- Nouns ending with consonant: il bar (the cafè), lo sport (the sport), l’email (the email)…
It is only a habit, like many others!
Nouns that tend to be feminine:
- names of fruit: la mela (the apple), la banana (the banana), la fragola (the strawberry)…
- names of sciences and disciplines: la matematica (the mathematics), la fisica (the physics), la pedagogia (the pedagogy)…
- names of military activities: la guardia (the guard), la pattuglia (the patrol)…
- names of cities, islands, regions, states, continents: Venezia è bella (Venice is beautiful), la Corsica (Corsica), la Germania (Germany), la Puglia (Apulia), l’Australia (Australia)…
- names of sport associations: la Fiorentina, la Juventus…
Nouns that tend to be masculine:
- names of trees: il pero (the pear tree), il pesco (the peach tree), il mandorlo (the almond tree), il pino (the pine tree)…
- names of metals and chemical elements: il piombo (the lead), l’azoto (the nitrogen), l’idrogeno (the hydrogen)…
- names of months and days: un bel maggio (a nice May), un bel giovedì (a nice Thursday)
- names of seas, mountains, lakes, rivers: il Tevere (the Tiber), il Monte Bianco (the Mount Blanc), il Garda (the Garda), il Mediterraneo (the Mediterranean)…
- names of wines, prayers, cardinal directions: il Chianti (the Chianti wine), il Padre Nostro (the Lord’s Prayer), il Nord (the North)…
Doubts about singular and plural in Italian? Review them with us!
How to transform a masculine noun into a feminine noun?
It can be done in many different ways. The most frequent and natural way is to replace the ending of the masculine with -a: il pensionato, la pensionata (the retired man, the retired woman)/ il gatto, la gatta (the male cat, the female cat). But it is not always so easy!
Sometimes, for example, the feminine is formed by adding the suffix -essa:
Professore → Professoressa (professor)
Poeta → Poetessa (poet – poetess)
Principe → Principessa (prince – princess)
Leone → Leonessa (lion – lioness)
Studente → Studentessa (student)
Conte → Contessa (count – countess)
Barone → Baronessa (baron – baroness)
Dottore → Dottoressa (doctor)
Except for this last one, the masculine nouns ending with -tore form the feminine with -trice:
Attore → Attrice (actor – actress)
Imprenditore → Imprenditrice (businessman – businesswoman)
Lettore → Lettrice (lecturer)
Pittore → Pittrice (painter)
Traduttore → Traduttrice (translator)
Few nouns, instead, form the feminine with -ina:
Eroe → Eroina (hero – heroine)
Gallo → Gallina (rooster – hen)
Re → Regina (king – queen)
Zar → Zarina (Tsar)
BE CAREFUL! Don’t forget that, in Italian, there are also the so-called common gender nouns, that is those nouns that never change according to the gender: in this case, articles and adjectives play an important role in order to understand if it’s a man or a woman (because they must agree to the gender)!
Il/la giornalista (the journalist), il/la turista (the tourist), un/un’insegnante (a teacher), il/la giudice (the judge) …
Finally, it is useful to take into account those nouns that are completely irregular, which change completely in the feminine, that is certain nouns of people and animals:
Dio → Dea (god – goddess)
Marito → Moglie (husband – wife)
Fratello → Sorella (brother – sister)
Uomo → Donna (man – woman)
Maschio → Femmina (male – female)
Padre → Madre (father – mother)
Cane → Cagna (dog)
Maiale → Scrofa (pig – sow)
Toro → Vacca (bull – cow)
Doubts about how to agree the adjectives in Italian?
If something is still not clear, leave us a comment! 😀