MISTAKES with Indefinite ADJECTIVES and PRONOUNS in Italian (qualche, alcuno, nessuno…)

In this lesson, we will explore the most common mistakes made by foreigners with Italian indefinite adjectives and pronouns, such as QUALCHE, ALCUNO or NESSUNO.

Common Mistakes and Use of Italian Indefinite Pronouns and Adjectives

«Ci sono ancora qualche argomenti di cui non hai parlato nei video? Alcuno te li suggerisce? Come funziona? Me lo sono sempre chiesta. Chiunque vuole farti delle domande, può scriverle nei commenti e tu poi rispondi nei video? So niente di tutte le dinamiche dietro i video! Dimmi di più, altrimenti non ti aiuto più! Non ho alcuna voglia di aiutarti rimanendo all’oscuro!»

Did you notice anything strange in the previous sentence?

Well, this sentence contains several mistakes, all related to indefinite pronouns and adjectives: in this article, we will identify them, I will explain them to you, and show you how to avoid making them!

1. QUALCHE + PLURAL (Qualche argomenti)

Qualche is an indefinite adjective indicating a small, unspecified quantity of something.

Clearly, the quantity corresponds to ‘more than one’.

Therefore, a very common mistake among students of Italian is to use a plural noun after ‘qualche‘, because it is thought to refer to more than one thing.

So, forms like qualche persone, qualche mele, qualche libri are wrong!

Examples:

C’era qualche persona in fila prima di noi.
Ho mangiato qualche mela prima di venire qui.
Gli ho prestato qualche libro.

But if you want to use the plural noun, then you should change ‘qualche’ with its synonym (alcuni, alcune). This word (which has the same meaning as ‘qualche’) should always be followed by a plural noun, and varies from masculine to feminine. So, you can say ‘alcune persone, alcune mele, alcuni libri‘.

2. ALCUNO in affermative and interrogative sentences (Alcuno te li suggerisce?)

Be careful!

We have seen ‘alcuni‘ as a synonym of ‘qualche’, but it is actually very different from the singular ‘alcuno‘.

Their use is different and so is its meaning!
In fact, alcuno, alcuna and alcun can only be used in negative sentences and in the singular, meaning ‘nessuno‘.

Examples:

Non mi ha fatto alcuno sconto!
Non c’è alcuna ragione per arrabbiarsi così tanto.
Non c’è alcun dubbio riguardo alla sua identità.

Alcuno, alcuna and alcun can never be used in affirmative and interrogative sentences.

So, sentences like…

Alcuno ha visto i miei occhiali?

or

C’è alcuna persona ad aspettarti.

…are wrong!

In these cases, ‘alcuno‘ should be replaced by other words.

Qualcuno ha visto i miei occhiali?

C’è qualche persona ad aspettarti.

3. CHIUNQUE/QUALUNQUE: indicative or subjunctive? (Chiunque vuole)

The matter gets a little bit more complicated here.

In fact, the indefinite pronoun ‘chiunque‘ (meaning “any person”) as well as the adjective ‘qualunque’ (meaning “any”) can be followed by either the indicative or the subjunctive, depending on what it expresses:

  • When it’s used with the sense of ‘everyone’ and ‘any person’, then it is followed by the indicative (Chiunque può apprezzare la sua bellezza / Qualunque persona può apprezzare la sua bellezza)
  • When it’s used with the sense of ‘everyone who’, ‘any person who’, then it is followed by the subjunctive (Chiunque studi l’italiano teme questo argomento. / Qualunque sia la ragione, non ti perdonerò)

4. NULLA, NIENTE, NESSUNO with other negations (So niente)

Nulla, niente e nessuno are indefinite pronouns negating the verb.

But be careful with how you use them!

They can be used in two different ways:

  • If they follow the verb, then the so-called ‘double negation’ will be necessary, adding ‘non‘ before the verb (Non ho visto nessuno / Non ho nulla da dire / Non ho mangiato niente)
  • If they precede the verb, then the double negation won’t be necessary (Nessuno mi ha visto / Nulla mi spaventa / Niente ha senso)

The same rules apply to other negations, such as ‘nessun‘ (adjective), ‘mai‘, ‘mica‘ and so on.

Examples:

Non ho incontrato nessun amico. = Nessun amico ho incontrato.
Non vado mai in montagna. = Mai vado in montagna.
Non andremo mica in vacanza! = Mica andremo in vacanza!

5. ALCUNO OR NESSUNO? (Non ho alcuna voglia)

Although they often create doubts, these two indefinite adjectives are actually synonyms, so they are completely interchangeable.
Both can be used after the verb and must be ‘supported’ with another negation (non) before the verb.
So:

Non ho nessun dubbio = Non ho alcun dubbio
Non ho nessuna notizia = Non ho alcuna notizia

Be careful!

The adjective ‘nessuno‘, as we saw, can also be used before the verb (in this case alone, without another negation).

But this rule cannot be applied to ‘alcuno‘, so it can never be used before the verb.

So, we can say:

Nessun amico mi ha salutato.

But we cannot say:

Alcun amico mi ha salutato.

Now that you’ve learnt these new grammatical rules, why don’t you take a look at the class on the most common mistakes with the subjunctive?

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