Articles are a real challenge for Italian students… But we like difficult challenges, don’t we?
Definite and Indefinite Articles in Italian
Italian articles are always followed by nouns (with which they agree in gender and number).
When articles are followed by invariable nouns their presence is fundamental to understand gender and number. Invariable nouns are those that have only a gender and number, for example “il cantante” and “la cantante” (only one gender) or “l’attività” and “le attività” (only one number).
There are three article categories in italian:
1. Definite articles
They are used with things or people known and determined (already mentioned).
Feminine singular definite article: LA
La casa, la strada, la rosa…
N.B. The vowel of the article LA disappears before nouns that begin with a vowel. We’ll replace it with an apostrophe ‘.
L’isola, l’ancora, l’iniziativa
BE CAREFUL: If the noun begins with ie-, the “a” of the article doesn’t disappear: la iena
Masculine singular definite article: IL / LO
We tend to use IL before masculine nouns that begin with a consonant (apart from some “exceptions” where we use LO)
Il cane, il ristorante, il quadro…
Instead, we use LO before masculine nouns that begin with:
- vowel: l’albero (originally, it should be “lo albero”, but, as for LA, when LO precedes a word that begin with vowel, the vowel disappears and we use the apostrophe)
- y, x, z: lo yogurt, lo zucchero…
- s + consonant: lo sport…
- gn, pn, ps: lo gnomo, lo pneumatico, lo psicologo…
- i + vowel: lo iato…
Feminine plural definite article: LE
le case, le strade, le rose…
N.B. It is also used before those words that begin with a vowel: le isole, le iene…
Masculine plural definite article: I / GLI
We use I in the same cases in which, in the singular, we use IL:
i cani, i ristoranti, i quadri…
We use GLI in the same cases in which, in the singular, we use LO:
gli alberi, gli zuccheri, gli sport, gli psicologi…
2. Indefinite articles
They are used with things or people indeterminate, unknown or not mentioned before.
Feminine singular indefinite article: UNA
una casa, una strada, una rosa…
N.B. If the word that follows begins with a vowel, the article UNA loses its final vowel and we use the apostrophe: un’isola…
Masculine singular indefinite article: UN / UNO
The article UN precedes the masculine nouns that begin with a consonant (except for those cases in which we use UNO) BUT ALSO before masculine nouns that begin with a vowel (without apostrophe)!
un cane, un ristorante, un quadro, un albero…
The article UNO is used when the following noun begins with:
- y, x, z: uno yogurt, uno zucchero…
- s + consonant: uno sport…
- gn, pn, ps: uno gnomo, uno pneumatico, uno psicologo…
- i + vowel: uno iato…
The indefinite articles don’t have the plural. Therefore, we have to use the plural of the partitive articles in order to express an indefinite quantity in the plural.
C’è (there is) or ci sono (there are)? Review them!
3. Partitive articles
they express an indefinite quantity, a part of a whole.
In the singular, they precede the uncountable nouns and they indicate “a little bit of“, “some“; in the plural, they are used for plural of indefinite articles and they indicate “some“.
Singular feminine partitive article: DELLA
della pasta, della marmellata (uncountable nouns)
Masculine singular partitive article: DEL/ DELLO
We use DEL in the same cases in which we use IL, while we use DELLO in the same cases in which we use the article LO.
del pane, del formaggio (uncountable nouns)
dello zucchero, dello stufato, dell‘amido (uncountable nouns)
Feminine plural partitive article: DELLE
delle case, delle strade, delle rose, delle isole… (used for the plural of indefinite articles: una casa → delle case)
Masculine plural partitive article: DEI/ DEGLI
dei cani, dei quadri (plural of UN, used in the same cases in which we use IL, UN)
degli alberi, degli sport (plural of UNO, used in the same cases in which we use LO, UNO)
SPECIAL USES OF ARTICLES
- They are not used before proper names and surnames of people, if they’re not introduced by a common noun:
laMaria / ilRossi BUT la signora Maria / il signor Rossi / lo scultore Michelangelo
- But they are used before surnames to indicate an entire family (i Rossi / i Bruno…) or a woman whose proper name is not there (la Curie)
- They are not used before singular family members’ names if preceded by a possessive adjective (except for loro):
lamia madre / ilmio figlio BUT il loro fratello
- They are used, instead, if the family nouns are plural or if they are preceded by an adjective: i miei cugini / il mio caro padre
- They are used before geographical names (mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, continents, states, regions): il Tevere, il Pacifico, l’Africa, la Spagna, la Sardegna…
- They are not used, instead, before city names:
- Before foreign nouns, the article is usually chosen on the basis of the pronunciation, by respecting those rules that are valid for the Italian language: lo show (because sh- in Italian is pronounced sc-) / il jazz
- In Italian, the h is silent, therefore the article takes an apostrophe as if there were directly the vowel: l’hamburger, l’hotel
Do you want to learn all the secrets of the adjectives?
Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!
Have you still doubts about how to use the articles? Leave us a comment, we will answer as soon as possible!