All About Italian Nouns

By optilingo

 

Brief introduction to Italian nouns, including masculine and feminine nouns in Italian

Understanding grammar will help you on your way to foreign language fluency. When learning the Italian language, it is important to note that all nouns are either masculine or feminine, with the balance being fairly evenly. If noun gender is a new concept to you, then it may be tempting to think that masculine and feminine nouns are driven by gender; while this is sometimes the case, it isn’t guaranteed. If it is true that words like “father” and “brother” (“padre” and “fratello”) are masculine, and “mother” and “sister” (“madre” and “sorella”) are feminine, the gender of a noun can often be determined by the last letter of the noun.

There a couple of rules that will help you be successful about 75 to 80% of the time. As a general rule of thumb:

A noun is feminine if it ends in “-a”.
A noun is masculine if it ends in “-o”.
Nouns ending in “-e” could be either masculine or feminine. This means you will need to memorize the gender of nouns ending in “-e”, which will make them more challenging.

Plural Nouns

Plural nouns are tricky in Italian because the ending of the noun will depend on the gender. The following guidelines will help you to navigate the different plural endings.

1. Masculine nouns ending in “o” will change to “-i”, as well as changing the article.

Singular Plural
il teatro (the theater) i teatri (the theaters)
il campo (the field) i campi (the fields)
l’albero (the tree) gli alberi (the trees)

2. Masculine nouns ending in “a” will change to “-i”, as well as changing the article.

Singular Plural
il poeta (the poet) i poeti (the poets)
l’edificio (the building) gli edifici (the buildings)

3. Feminine nouns ending in “-a” will change to “-e”, as well as changing the article.

Singular Plural
la sedia (the chair) le sedie (the chairs)
la finestra (the window) le finestre (the windows)
l’amica (the friend) le amiche (the friends)

4. Nouns that end with “-e”, regardless of gender, change to “-i”.

Singular Plural
la madre (the mother) le madri (the mothers)
il padre (the father) i padri (the fathers)
il ponte (the bridge) i ponti (the bridges)
l’ape (the bee) le api (the bees)

There are some nouns that don’t follow the usual rules in Italian. Fortunately, they do tend to follow a pattern.

1. Masculine nouns ending in a stressed “-io” change to “-i”; nouns ending in an unstressed “-io” drop the “-o”.

Singular Plural
lo zio (the uncl) gli zii (the uncles)
il figlio (the sone) i figli (the sons)

2. Masculine nouns ending with “-co” and “-go” may have an “-h” added to them, before changing the “-o” to “-i”.

Singular Plural
il lago (the lake) i laghi (the lakes)
il medico (the doctor) i medici (the doctors)

3. Feminine nouns ending with “-ca” and “-ga” always have an “-h” added to them, before changing “-a” to “e”.

Singular Plural
la paga (the salary) le paghe (the salaries)
l’amica (the friend) le amiche (the friends)

4. Nouns with an accented vowel don’t change when pluralized. You can tell that it is the plural version because of the article.

Singular Plural
la città (the city) le città (the cities)
il caffè (the coffee) i caffè (the coffees)

Some words have irregular plural forms, like the word “l’uomo” (man), whose plural is “gli uomini”.

Lastly, there are some words that are masculine in singular and become feminine in plural.

Singular Plural
il braccio (the arm) le braccia (the arms)
l’uovo (the egg) le uova (the eggs)
il paio (the pair) le paia (the pairs)

Suffixes

Italian grammar is unique in that the addition of a suffix can essentially act as an adjective, giving details about the word without adding another word. For example, by changing the ending of “ragazzo” (boy) to “ragazzino”, it means “little boy”. By changing it to “ragazzone”, you are now talking about an overgrown boy. And a “ragazzaccio” is a bratty boy.

Definite Articles

Italian has eight versions of the English definite article “the”. This accommodates the two genders and plurals of those genders based on the initial of the noun.

Singular masculine il,lo,l’
Plural masculine i,gli
Singular feminine la,l’
Plural feminine le

“il” is used for masculine words that begin with a consonant, expect “s” followed by a second consonant, “z”, “y”, “x”, “pn”, “ps” and “gn”. Its plural version is “i”.

Singular Plural
il fratello (the brother) i fratelli
il libro (the book) i libri (the books)

“lo” is used for masculine nouns that begin with either the letter “s” followed by a second consonant or the consonants “z”, “y”, “x”, “pn”, “ps” and “gn”. Its plural version is “gli”.

Singular Plural
lo sbaglio (the mistake) gli sbagli (the mistakes)
lo zio (the uncle) gli zii (the uncles)
lo yogurt (the yogurt) gli yogurt (the yogurts)
lo xilofono (the xylophone) gli xilofoni (the xylophones)
lo pneumatico (the tire) gli pneumatici (the tires)
lo psicologo (the psychologist) gli psicologi (the psychologists)
lo gnomo (the gnome) gli gnomi (the gnomes)

“l’” is used for both masculine and feminine nouns that begin with a vowel. Its plural version is “gli” for masculine words and “le” for feminine words.

Singular Plural
l’anno (the year) gli anni (the years)
l’opera (the opera) le opere (the operas)

“la” is used for feminine words that begin with a consonant. Its plural version is “le”.

Singular Plural
la signora(the lady) le signore (the ladies)
la zia (the aunt) le zie (the aunts)

With some prepositions Italian definite articles are contracted together.

The singular articles change based on the following patterns.

Preposition

il

lo

la

l’

a (to, at)

al

allo

alla

all’

da (from, by)

dal

dallo

dalla

dall’

di (of)

del

dello

della

dell’

in (in)

nel

nello

nella

nell’

su (on)

sul

sullo

sulla

sull’

con (with)

per (for)

tra / fra (between, among)

The plural articles change based on the following patterns.

Preposition

i

gli

le

a (to, at)

ai

agli

alle

da (from, by)

dai

dagli

dalle

di (of)

dei

degli

delle

in (in)

nei

negli

nelle

su (on)

sui

sugli

sulle

con (with)

per (for)

tra / fra (between, among)

The price of the ticket is fifty euros. Il prezzo del biglietto è cinquanta euro.
Let’s go to the part with the others. Andiamo alla festa con gli altri.