Learn Italian: articles and demonstratives

There are two main types of article in Italian, as there are in English: the indefinite article (articolo indeterminativo) and the definite article (articolo determinativo). They distinguish the generic from the specific, the known from the unknown. In Italian the form of the article has to agree with the gender and number of the noun it is attached to, but also according to the initial letter of the word immediately following it, whether noun or adjective. This applies also a third type of article,
the partitive article.

Definite Article – The

  • Masculine

il eel sing., before consonants
lo low sing., before z, gn, or s + cons.
l’sing., before vowels
i ee plural, before consonants
gli lyee plural, before vowels, z, gn, or s + cons.

In the singular, masculine nouns normally take the article il but they take lo before a word starting with s + a consonant, gn, pn, ps, x, z, semivowel i (j, y) and l’ before words starting with a vowel. In the plural, masculine nouns take the article i but they take gli before a word beginning with s + a consonant, gn, pn, ps, x, z and semivowel i (j, y).

EXAMPLES
il famoso cantante – the famous singer
lo strano inglese – the strange Englishman
lo Ionio – the Ionian (sea)
lo yogurt – the yogurt
l’inglese pazzo – the mad Englishman
i ragazzi italiani – the Italian boys
gli studenti italiani -the Italian students
gli stranieri – the foreigners
gli zii americani – the American uncles
gli yacht – the yachts

  • Feminine

la lah sing., before consonants
l’sing., before vowels
le leh plural, before consonants and vowels

In the singular, feminine nouns take the article la, but take l’ before a word beginning with vowel. In the plural, they take the article le, which is never abbreviated.

EXAMPLES
la cioccolata calda – the hot chocolate
la spremuta – the fresh fruit juice
l’aranciata – the orangeade
le automobili bianche – the white cars
le studentesse – the students (female)

Indefinite Articles – A, an, some

A, An

Masculine
un oon before consonant or vowel
uno oon-oh before z, gn, or s + consonant

Feminine
una oon-ah before consonants
un’ oon before vowels
dei day before consonants

EXAMPLES: The form of the indefinite article for a masculine singular noun is un, becoming uno before a word starting with s + a consonant, gn, pn, ps, x, z and the semivowel i (j, y).

un telefono (a telephone)
un espresso (an espresso)
un nuovo studente (a new student)
uno studente nuovo (a new student)
uno spuntino (a snack)
uno gnomo (a gnome)
uno psichiatra (a psychiatrist)
uno zoo (a zoo)
uno yogurt (a yogurt)

With a feminine singular noun the indefinite article is una, but this changes to un’ before a word starting with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u)

una bottiglia (a bottle)
una spremuta (a fresh fruit juice)
un’aranciata (an orangeade)
un’ampia distesa di neve (a wide expanse of snow)

The use of the definite or indefinite article depends on whether the person or object is known or unknown, or whether an individual or class/species is being referred to.

Some

With plural nouns the function of the indefinite article is taken by the partitive article, translated by English ‘some’
degli deh-lyee before vowels, z, gn, or s + cons.
delle dell-eh before vowels and consonants

EXAMPLES:

dei libri (some books)
degli studenti (some students)
degli amici (some (male) friends)

delle amiche (some (female) friends)
delle camere (some rooms)

The partitive article indicates some part (an unspecified number) of a group or category of things/people; it is formed by the preposition di combined with the definite article, and following a similar pattern, changes according to gender, number and the word that follows (see examples above).
A partitive article can also be used in the singular, indicating a quantity of uncountable things, people or abstract concepts:
Vorrei del pane – I’d like some bread.
Ho visto della gente che correva – I saw some people running.
C’è ancora della speranza – There is still some hope.

Demonstratives – This, that, these, and those

This These
Masc.
questoquesti before a consonant
quest‘-questi before a vowel
Fem.
questaqueste before a consonant
quest‘-queste before a vowel

That and those
Masc.
quelquei before a consonant
quell‘-quegli before a vowel
quelloquegli before z, gn, or s + consonant
Fem.
quellaquelle before a consonant
quell‘-quelle before a vowel

*Note: If you use that and those as a subject, use these four forms: quello for masculine singular, quella for feminine singular, quelli for masculine plural, and quelle for feminine plural.

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