INVARIABLE Nouns and Adjectives in Italian: What are they?

A common mistake among foreign students is about the incorrect use of plural forms of nouns and adjectives that are actually invariabili (invariable) like “cinemi” as plural of “cinema” or “viste mozziafiate” as plural of “vista mozzafiato”… Therefore, in the following lesson we are going to see those Italian nouns and adjectives that never change, that remain the same and keep the same form both in the singular and in the plural.

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The most common invariable nouns and adjectives in Italian 

 

In order to make everything clear, we are going to have the invariable nouns and adjectives into categories:

INVARIABLE NOUNS

1)  nouns ending with an accented vowel

If a noun ends with a vowel and on that vowel there’s an accent, then it will remain unchanged in the plural

Examples:

  • la città – le città (city/cities)
  • il babà – i babà (baba/babas)
  • la tribù – le tribù (tribe/tribes)
  • il caffè – i caffè (coffee/coffees) 
  • il bebè – i bebè (baby/babies)
  • il martedì – i martedì (Tuesday/Tuesdays)
  • la virtù – le virtù (virtue/virtues)
  • il falò – i falò (bonfire/bonfires)

The monosyllabic nouns, namely the ones that are formed by a single syllable,  fall into this category.

Note: In this case you won’t always see a graphic accent written on the vowel, but it’s there!

Examples:

  • il re – i re (king/kings)
  • la gru – le gru (crane/crane)
  • il – i (tea/teas)
  • il gol – i gol (goal/goals)
  • lo sci – gli sci (ski/skis)
    ecc.

 

2) masculine nouns ending in -a… 

but not all of them (in fact, we say “il tema – i temi” (topic/topics), “il problema – i problemi” (problem/problems)).
There’s not a specific rule those that change and those that remain unchanged, thus they must be memorized.

Example:

  • il lama – i lama (lama/lamas)
  • il gorilla – i gorilla (gorilla/gorillas)
  • il cobra – i cobra (cobra/cobras)
  • il boia – i boia (executioner/executioners)
  • il sosia – i sosia (double/doubles)
  • il vaglia – i vaglia (money order/ orders)

 

3) shortened nouns, thus coming from longer nouns

In this case, the plural form only changes when we take into consideration the entire noun,but not the shortened one!

Examples:

  • l’auto – le auto (but l’automobile – le automobili) (car/ cars) (motorcar/motorcars)
  • la bici – le bici (but la bicicletta – le biciclette) (bike/bikes) (bicycle/bicycles)
  • la foto – le foto (but la fotografia – le fotografie) (photo/photos) (photograph/photographs)
  • il cinema – i cinema (but il cinematografo – i cinematografi) (cinema/cinemas / theater/theaters)
  • la moto – le moto (but la motocicletta – le motociclette) (motorbike/motorbikes / motorcycle/motorcycles)

 

4) feminine nouns ending in -ie

  • la barbarie – le barbarie (barbarity/barbarities)
  • la serie – le serie (series)
  • la specie – le specie (species)

 

5 ) nouns ending in -i in the singular 

Examples:

  • l’analisi – le analisi (analysis)
  • l’ipotesi – le ipotesi (assumption/assumptions (hypothesis))
  • la nevrosi – le nevrosi (neurosis/neuroses)
  • il brindisi – i brindisi (toast/toasts)
  • la crisi – le crisi (crisis/crises)

 

6) nouns composed by two verbs or by a verb and a noun

Examples:

  • lo scioglilingua – gli scioglilingua (tongue-twister/tongue-twisters)
  • il posacenere – i posacenere (ashtray/ashtrays)
  • l’asciugacapelli – gli asciugacapelli (hairdryer/hairdryers)
  • il viavai – i viavai (coming(s) and going(s))
  • il caricabatterie – i caricabatterie (battery charger/chargers)
  • il passamontagna – i passamontagna (ski mask/masks)
  • il va e vieni – i va e vieni (back-and-forth)
  • l’asciugamani – gli asciugamani (towel/towels)
  • il cacciavite – i cacciavite (screwdriver/screwdrivers)
  • il montacarichi – i montacarichi (freight elevator/elevators)
  • il saliscendi – i saliscendi (up(s) and down(s))
  • l’apribottiglie – gli apribottiglie (bottle opener/openers)
  • il passaparola – i passaparola (word-of-mouth)

 

7) Loanwords, namely those foreign words we use just the way they are, without translating them into Italian

Examples:

  • lo sport – gli sport (sport/sports)
  • il film – i film (film/films)
  • la mousse – le mousse (mousse/mousses)
  • lo chalet – gli chalet (chalet/chalets)
  • la performance – le performance (würstel/würstels)
  • il würstel – i würstel (toreador/toreadors)
  • il toreador – i toreador (toreador/toreadors)
  • la paella – le paella (paella/paellas)
  • il kimono – i kimono (kimono/kimonos)

 

Note: You can understand whether the invariable noun you’re looking at is singular or plural from the article or the adjective accompanying them since they agree in number with the noun.

Examples: “La pallacanestro e il tennis sono due bellissimi sport” (Basket and tennis are both amazing sports)

Abbiamo fatto un giro per la città con le nostre bici” (We’ve taken a tour around the city with our bikes)

INVARIABLE ADJECTIVES

1) The adjective of some colors:

  • blu (blue), rosa (pink), viola (purple), indaco (indigo), lilla (lilac), amaranto (amaranth)

Examples: “Delle scarpe blu(a pair of blue shoes)

Dei vestiti indaco (the indigo clothes)

Delle decorazioni lilla(the lilac decorations)

 

2) The adjectives that are composed by a verb and a noun

  • mozzafiato (breathtaking), rompipalle (pain in the neck), attaccabrighe (brawler), ficcanaso (nosy)

Examples: “Capri ha delle viste mozzafiato(Capri has some breathtaking views)

I miei fratelli sono due rompipalle e mi prendono sempre in giro(My brothers are a couple of pains in my neck and always make fun of me)

Laura è una vera attaccabrighe e per questo litiga sempre con tutti(Laura is a true brawler and for this reason always fights with everyone)

I miei amici non sono per niente ficcanaso e rispettano la mia privacy (My friends aren’t nosy at all and respect my privacy)

 

3) The adjectives that are composed by “anti-” + a noun

  • antifurto (anti-theft), antinebbia (anti-fog), anticellulite (to treat…), antigraffio (scratch-resistant)

Examples: “I dispositivi antifurto delle nostre tre auto di famiglia sono molto sicuri!(The anti-theft devices of our three family cars are very safe!)

Si sono rotti i fari antinebbia della mia auto: domani la porto dal meccanico(The fog lights of my car are broken: I’m going to have it fixed by the mechanic tomorrow)

Ha provato moltissimi prodotti anticellulite, ma con scarsi risultati (I tried many products to treat cellulite, but with poor results…)

Le superfici di questa cucina sono tutte antigraffio(All the surfaces of this kitchen are scratch-resistant)

 

4) the adjectives “pari (even) / dispari (uneven)/ impari (unequal)”

Examples: “Una lotta impari(An unequal fight)

Due squadre dispari(Two uneven teams)

Un numero pari(An even number)

 

5) The sequences formed by adjectives of color + noun that specifies the color

Examples: “I pantaloni verde bottiglia (The bottle green pants)

Le scarpe grigio topo(The mouse gray shoes)

Le pareti grigio perla(The pearl grey walls)

Il maglione rosso ciliegia” (The cherry red sweater)

 

6) The adjectives of foreign origin

  • snob (snobby), bordeaux, kitsch, chic

Examples: “Due ragazze snob(Two snobby girls)

Delle magliette bordeaux (Bordeaux t-shirts)

Una casa kitsch (A kitsch house)

Una signora chic(A chic lady)

 

7) The compound adjectives (originally adverbial locutions) in which the second element is ” -bene, -modo, -poco”

  • perbene (decent), ammodo (proper), dabbene (respectable)

Examples: “Delle persone perbene(decent people) 

Una ragazza ammodo (proper young lady)

Una famiglia dabbene” (onesta) (honest) (respectable family)

 

At last, we have:

8) a couple of adjectives that doesn’t fit into any category, so they must be memorized:

  • arrosto (roast), avvenire (coming) (namely “futuro” (future))

Examples: “La carne arrosto” (The roast beef)

Gli anni avvenire” (The coming years)

 

Well, these are the invariable nouns and adjectives. Try writing in the comment section a sentence including one of these nouns and adjectives. If you want to improve your everyday Italian, don’t miss our video devoted to the Italian expressions including the word CI and our book Italiano Colloquiale!

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