OMISSION of the ARTICLE in Italian: When NOT to use it with Proper Nouns and Complements

In this lesson we are going to talk about a super interesting topic for anyone who is learning Italian as a foreign language: how many times have you wondered whether to use the article or not? Well, in this lesson I want to list some very common situations in which the article (whether determinative or indefinite) should NOT be used. In particular, we will be looking at nouns, all those cases where nouns do not need the article. In Italian, however, there are also many verbal and adverbial locutions and as many, more or less, fixed expressions in which the article is NOT used, but we will talk about these in a separate lesson.


Facebook logo Instagram logo Twitter logo YouTube logo TikTok Logo Pinterest logo

When to use articles in Italian

Proper nouns, first names and city names

First of all, the article is not used in front of proper nouns, either of person or city.

Example:

–  Marta vive a Parigi. Lorenzo, invece, a Città del Messico.

(Marta lives in Paris. Lorenzo, on the other hand, lives in Mexico City.)

 

Names of continents, countries and regions

With names of continents, countries, and regions, we generally use the article:

– La Francia è una bella nazione.

(France is a beautiful country.)

– La Sardegna è un’isola meravigliosa.

(Sardinia is a beautiful island.)

– L’Asia è il continente più grande del mondo.

(Asia is the largest continent in the world.)

 

However, the article is not used with names of continents, countries and regions when these are preceded by the preposition in.

– Francesca si è trasferita in Germania, in Baviera.

(Francesca has moved to Germany, Bavaria.)

 

With the names of countries introduced by the preposition in there are, however, some exceptions. Obviously, we’re talking about the Italian language… How could there be no exceptions?

We say nel Regno Unito (United Kingdom), nei Paesi Bassi (Netherlands), negli Stati Uniti (United States), nell’Unione Sovietica (Soviet Union), etc., because in these cases we have a noun (i.e., Regno, Paesi, Stati, Unione) accompanied by an adjective (Unito, Bassi, Uniti, Sovietica).

The general rule is: country names are introduced by the article when accompanied by an adjective.

– Stefano ha viaggiato tantissimo: è stato in Irlanda, nel Regno Unito, in Svizzera, nei Paesi Bassi, in America, in Australia e ora vive nella Repubblica del Congo.

(Stefano has traveled so much: he has been to Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, America, Australia and now lives in the Republic of Congo.)

This also applies to the names of cities, regions and continents. For example, we say: “nella bella Italia” (in beautiful Italy), “nella meravigliosa Roma” (in wonderful Rome), “nella fredda Lombardia” (in cold Lombardy), “nella torrida Africa” (in torrid Africa) and so on.

 

WARNING!

It is said nella Repubblica del Congo (but, for example, in Congo) because the name of the country contains the noun “Republic”, which is usually accompanied by the article. An exception to this rule is: “in Repubblica Ceca” (in the Czech Republic).

(Note: you can also nella Repubblica Ceca, but it is less common).

 

City names

Regarding city names you have to be especially careful, because when they are accompanied by the article they usually indicate the soccer team of that particular city.

For example:

– Ieri sera la Roma ha vinto lo scudetto e abbiamo festeggiato tutta la notte.

(Last night Roma won the Scudetto and we celebrated all night long.)

– Hai visto la partita del Napoli? Che spettacolo!

(Did you see Napoli‘s game? Such a great match!)

 

First names

As far as first names are concerned, it is important to know that in some areas of Northern Italy it is very common to use the article in front of the first name, especially feminine names (but not only):

Hai presente la Giulia? Ecco, ieri sera è uscita col Ludo e hanno incontrato la Fede, la ex del Ludo. Non ti dico il dramma. Pensa se avessero incontrato il Marco, l’ex di lei!

(You know Giulia? That’s it, last night she went out with Ludo and they met Fede, Ludo‘s ex. You can’t imagine the drama. Imagine if they had met Marco, her ex!)

Ludovica > la Ludo; Federica > la Fede; Francesca > la Fra; Ginevra > la Gine; Giulia > la Giuli; Serena > la Sere; e così via.
Ludovico > (il) Ludo; Gabriele > (il) Gabri; Federico > (il) Fede

Either way, it’s grammatically incorrect, so it’s important to know that it exists, that you might hear it, but it’s best not to imitate it.

 

Relative nouns

The third situation where the article is not used is with singular relative nouns when accompanied by a possessive adjective.

For example:

– Quando vedo mia zia le chiedo se ha ancora il regalo per tua mamma: mio zio dice sempre che è talmente sbadata che non sa neanche dove ha la testa!

(When I see my aunt I’ll ask her if she still has the present for your mom: my uncle always says that she is so careless that she doesn’t even know where her head is!)

Nostro padre ha iniziato a lavorare in azienda da suo cugino quando aveva 15 anni.

(Our father started working at his cousin‘s company when he was 15 years old.)

Even in this case, of course, there are exceptions: it is not uncommon to hear the expressions “la mia mamma” (my mommy) and “il mio papà” (my daddy), but these are marked uses, emphatic because they are affectionate nicknames, often with the explicit intention of sounding “childish”, usually for fun. For example, a mom might say to her 3-year-old: “vieni qui a dare un bacio alla tua mamma!” (come here and give your mommy a kiss!)

Also, you have to remember that the possessive adjective “their” is an exception, so it takes the article (il loro zio, la loro madre, il loro fratello…)

(their uncle, their mother, their brother…)

In the plural, however, the rule lapses and then you always use the article (i miei genitori, i loro nipoti, le vostre sorelle…)

(my parents, their nephews, your sisters…)

Time complements

The fourth case where the article is not used is within time complements with the name of months and days of the week.

For example:

Ad aprile andrò in vacanza in Giappone per vedere i ciliegi fioriti.

(In April I will be going on vacation to Japan to see the cherry blossoms.)


Luglio è il mese peggiore per prenotare un volo: i prezzi sono altissimi!

(July is the worst month to book a flight: prices are very high!)

 

Mercoledì ho un appuntamento dal dentista.

(Wednesday I have a dentist appointment.)

– Ho deciso che fino a domenica non mangerò più biscotti: ne ho fatto indigestione!

(I’ve decided that until Sunday I won’t eat any more cookies – I’ve had too much of them!)

 

If, however, we want to indicate a particular day or month (and then later on we go to specify it, to indicate “just that one”), then we will need the article:

Nel maggio del 1895 fu organizzata una rivolta armata.
(An armed revolt was organized in May 1895.)
> in May of that year.

Il gennaio 1956 fu il mese più freddo della storia.
(January 1956 was the coldest month in history. )
> January of that year.

Il lunedì di Pasqua di solito si festeggia con una grigliata.
(Easter Monday is usually celebrated with a barbecue.)
> that specific Monday.

We will also use the article in front of the names of the days of the week when we want to indicate “ogni…” (every), “tutti i…”, so something that happens every week on that day..

Il martedì ho un corso di Pilates, mentre il sabato vado a yoga.
(I have a Pilates class on Tuesdays and yoga on Saturdays.)
> every Tuesday and every Saturday.

Complement of matter

The fifth case in which the article is not used is with the complement of matter, which indicates the material with which something is made.

So we will have un tavolo di legno, un quaderno di carta riciclata, degli stivali di gomma, un muro di mattoni, un bicchiere di vetro and so on.

(a wooden table, a notebook made of recycled paper, rubber boots, a brick wall, a cup of glass)

Complement of place 

The sixth case is with some complements of place, particularly when introduced by the preposition in. So we’ll say: in camera, in cucina, in salotto, in giardino, in centro, in campagna, in città, in periferia, in hotel.

(in the room, in the kitchen, in the living room, in the garden, in the center, in the country, in the city, in the suburbs.)

(In fact, notice that it is much more common to find the article when the complement of place is introduced by a > al parco, al ristorante, al supermercato…)

(at the park, at the restaurant, at the supermarket…)

The exception is again when you have the adjective, so we’ll say: nella mia cucina, nel luminoso salotto, nel giardino fiorito, nel centro storico, nella grande città and so on.

(in my kitchen, in the bright living room, in the flower garden, in the old town, in the big city)

But since possessive adjectives never leave us alone, you should know that if they follow the noun instead of preceding it, the article should not be used: therefore we will not say nella mia camera BUT in camera mia, nella tua casa BUT in casa tua.

Complement of manner or mode 

The seventh and last case we are going to look at today is the complement of mode or manner introduced by the prepositions con (with) and senza (without) when referring to abstract concepts.

In fact, we say: senza senso, con passione, con forza, con pazienza, senza scrupoli, senza rancore and so on.

(without sense, with passion, with strength, with patience, without scruples, without rancor)

When the preposition con accompanies concrete objects, the article is normally used: con le mani, con i piedi, con la testa, col coltello.

(with the hands, with the feet, with the head, with the knife)

With the preposition senza, on the other hand, the article is almost never used, even if they are concrete things: senza mani, senza testa, senza giacca, senza scarpe, senza guanti, senza patente and so on.

(without hands, without head, without jacket, without shoes, without gloves, without license)

Obviously, though, if you go to specify the name by adding information afterwards, the article reappears: senza la mano destra, senza la giacca di cotone, senza le scarpe da ginnastica….

(without the right hand, without the cotton jacket, without the sneakers….)

 

Here we are at the end! As you can see, there are some rules, but there are also a lot of exceptions. That’s why I’ve tried to give as many examples as possible and to give you a chance to learn the different expressions in context, so that it’s easier for you to memorize them.

If you want to better understand the structure of the sentence and the names of all the elements that make it up (such as the complements we mentioned in this lesson), you can watch the video dedicated to logical analysis in Italian: trust us, it’s worth it!

 

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

 

Leave a Reply