Italian Adjectives

By OptiLingo

Learn how Italian adjectives work, including Italian comparative adjectives and Italian superlative adjectives

Understanding grammar will help you on your way to foreign language fluency. When learning the Italian language, it’s important to note that adjectives change based on the gender and number of the noun they describe. Fortunately, the case does not change based on the case of the noun, so you only need to learn a few rules and memorize a number of common exceptions.

Adjectives – By Gender and Plurality

Unlike a lot of other languages with gendered nouns, Italian makes it very easy to reflect the gender of the noun through its adjective.

For all adjectives with an “-o” ending after a masculine noun, make the following changes based on the noun gender and number.

Masculine Singular

Masculine Plural

Feminine Singular

Feminine Plural

-o

-i

-a

-e

Singular Plural
l’uomo italiano (the Italian man) gli uomini italiani (the Italian men)
il vestito rosso (the red dress) i vestiti rossi (the red dresses)
la donna italiana (the Italian woman) le donne italiane (the Italian women)
la scatola aperta (the open box) Ie scatole aperte (the open boxes)

For all adjectives with an “-e” ending after a masculine noun, you don’t need to make changes based on gender, only changes based on number as following.

Masculine and Feminine Singular

Masculine and Feminine Plural

-e

-i

Singular Plural
il film triste (the sad movie) i film tristi (the sad movies)
la volpe intelligente (the clever fox) le volpi intelligenti (the clever foxes)

Note that both singular forms end in “-e” and both plural forms end with “-i”.

Adjective Placement

Typically, the adjective follows the noun that it describes.

A white sheet un lenzuolo bianco
Some long trips dei viaggi lunghi
A difficult language una lingua difficile

However, there are some adjectives that usually come before the noun. These are the most common.

beautiful bello
ugly brutto
good bravo
buono good
caro dear
long lungo
new nuovo
young giovane
old vecchio
short breve
small piccolo

When numbers are used as adjectives, they also preced the the noun.

love at first sight amore a prima vista
the sixth sense il sesto senso
the last time l’ultima volta

With many adjectives, when you place them before the noun, you are actually changing the meaning of the phrase. When an adjective follows a noun, then you should take it literally. When an adjective precedes the noun (and it usually wouldn’t), then it has a figurative meaning.

the poor boy (lacking money) il ragazzo povero
the poor boy (unfortunate) il povero ragazzo
a dear price (high price) un prezzo caro
a dear friend (beloved) una cara amica

The following adjectives usually precede the noun they describe and have several singular and plural forms, depending on the inizial of the noun that follows. The different forms of “bello” (beautiful) and “buono” (good) take different endings when they precede a noun. Each of them changes based on the gender and number of the noun, and you should take the time to memorize the way they are used before different words.

“bello” changes in a way that is a similar pattern to the articles, which may make it a little easier to figure out which form to use.

Singular masculine bel,bello,bell’ Plural masculine bei,begli
Singular feminine bella,bell’ Plural feminine belle

There is another masculine plural form, which is “belli”, but is only used when the adjective follows the noun.

Because of its ending, “buono” is a little more difficult to memorize.

Singular masculine buon,buono Plural masculine buoni
Singular feminine buona,(buon’) Plural feminine buone

Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstratives are used to point to specific objects without naming them: “this” and “that”. Italian uses the words “questo” and “quello”. However, these words do change based on the gender and number they represent. This means that in plural they can also act as the words “these” and “those”. In singular you use them with apostrophe before both masculine and feminine words starting with a vowel.

Singular masculine questo,quest’ Singular feminine questi
Plural masculine questa,quest’ Plural feminine queste
Singular masculine quel,quello,quell’
Plural masculine quella,quell’
Singular feminine quei,quegli
Plural feminine quelle

Comparatives and Superlatives

In English, you either use the words “more” or “less” before a noun, or add “-er” to the end of an adjective to show how it compares to something else.

This shirt is shorter than the one I’m wearing.
The area is larger than my last sales area.
He is more obstinate than his brother.
This village is less interesting than the one we visited earlier.

With grammar in the Italian language there is only one way of expressing comparatives and superlatives.

more/-er più
most/-est il più, la più, i più, le più
less/-er meno
least/-est il meno, la meno, i meno, le meno

This shirt is shorter than the one I’m wearing.
Questa camicia è più corta di quella che indosso.

The area is larger than my last sales area.
La zona è più grande della mia ultima zona di vendita.

He is more obstinate than his brother.
È più ostinato di suo fratello.

This village is less interesting than the one we visited earlier.
Questo paese è meno interessante di quello che abbiamo visitato in precedenza.

That was the prettiest lamp in the store.
Quella era la lampada più bella nel negozio.

The least pleasant experience offers a valuable lesson.
L’esperienza meno piacevole offre una lezione preziosa.

There are irregular comparatives and superlatives.

Base

Comparative

Superlative

buono (good)

più buono or migliore (better)

il più buono or il migliore (best)

cattivo (bad)

più cattivo or peggiore (worse)

il più cattivo or il peggiore (worst)

piccolo (small)

più piccolo or minore (smaller)

il più piccolo or il minore (smallest)

grande (big)

più grande or maggiore (bigger)

il più grande o il maggiore (biggest)

Italian does have another degree that has no English equivalent called the absolute superlative. This form is an extreme form of superlative and you simply add “-issimo”, “-issima”, “-issimi” or “-issime” to the end of an adjective. You can think of it as being equivalent to adding the bland “very” before a word, but it holds a lot more weight in Italian as it provides additional emphasis (the same way that “-est” expresses a greater weight than “-er”).

She is my very dear friend.
È la mia carissima amica.