Easy Learning Italian

Using nouns - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

1   The basics

  • In Italian, all nouns, whether referring to living beings or to things and ideas, are either masculine or feminine. This is their gender.
Masculine Feminine
olio oil acquawater
uomoman donnawoman
delfinodolphin tigretiger
concettoconcept ideaidea
armadiowardrobe sediachair
  • The letter a noun ends with is often a reliable guide to its gender. For instance, words ending in –o will nearly always be masculine.
  • When you use an Italian noun you need to know if it is masculine or feminine so that you can make other words that go with it masculine or feminine too:
  • how you translate the words for ‘the’ or ‘a’ depends on the noun’s gender.
    For instance, with masculine nouns you use
    il and un, and with feminine nouns you use la and una.
Masculine Feminine
il giornothe day la nottethe night
un gelato an ice cream una mela an apple
  • adjectives describing a noun are masculine or feminine in form.
MasculineFeminine
un abito caro – an expensive suit una macchina cara – an expensive car
l’Antico Testamento – the Old Testament l’antica Roma - ancient Rome
  • words that replace nouns – called pronouns – must also be masculine or feminine. The translation for Do you want it? is “Lo vuoi?” if you’re offering
    un gelato (an ice cream), and “La vuoi?” if you’re referring to una mela (an apple).
  • Just like English nouns, Italian nouns can be singular or plural. Most English nouns add –s in the plural, for example days, apples. Most Italian nouns change their final letter from one vowel to another:
Singular Plural
giorno day giorni days
mela apple mele apples
rivoluzione revolution rivoluzioni revolutions
TipWhen in doubt, you can find out a noun’s gender by looking it up in a dictionary. When you come across a new word it’s a good idea to memorize the article that goes with it, to help you remember its gender.
Key points
  • All nouns in Italian are either masculine or feminine.
  • This affects the words you use with them.
  • In most cases it is possible to work out a noun’s gender from its ending.

2  How to recognize what gender a noun is

  • There are some simple rules that will enable you to work out the gender of a very large number of Italian nouns from their last letter in the singular:
  • nearly all words ending in –o are masculine.
  • nearly all words ending in –a are feminine.
  • nearly all words ending in –à, –sione and –zione are feminine.
  • nearly all words ending with a consonant are masculine.
Note that words ending in –e are masculine in some cases and feminine in others.
  • The following are typical masculine nouns ending in –o:
il treno the train
il supermercatothe supermarket
l’aeroportothe airport
il torothe bull
un topo a mouse
un gatto a (tom) cat
un italianoan Italian (man)
Note that a few very common nouns ending in –o are feminine.
la manothe hand
una fotoa photo
la radiothe radio
una motoa motorbike
  • The following are typical feminine nouns ending in –a:
la casathe house
la macchinathe car
una donna a woman
una regolaa rule
una gatta a (she) cat
un’italiana an Italian (woman)
Note that some very common words ending in –a are masculine.
il problemathe problem
il programmathe programme
il sistemathe system
il climathe climate
  • Most words for professions and jobs ending in –ta are masculine or feminine, according to whether a male or female is meant.
un giornalistaa (male) journalist
una giornalistaa (female) journalist
un dentista a (male) dentist
una dentistaa (female) dentist
  • The following are typical feminine nouns ending in –à, –sione, and –zione:
EndingExampleMeaning
una difficoltàa difficulty
la realtàthe reality
-sionela versionethe version
un’occasionean opportunity
-zioneuna lezionea lesson
una conversazionea conversation
  • Nouns ending in a consonant are nearly always masculine.
un filma film
un bar a bar
un computera computer
BUT
una Jeep®a Jeep®
  • Nouns ending in –e can be masculine in some cases and feminine in others.
un mesea month
il marethe sea
la gentethe people
la mentethe mind
il mese di giugnothe month of June
una mente logicaa logical mind
Note that the names of languages are always masculine, whether they end in –e or in –o.
Il giapponese è molto difficile.Japanese is very difficult.
L’italiano è bellissimo.Italian is beautiful.
Grammar Extra!Some words have different meanings depending on whether they are masculine or feminine.
MasculineMeaningFeminineMeaning
il fine the objective la finethe end
un posto a place la posta the mail
un modo a way la modathe fashion
il capitale capital (money) una capitale a capital city
un bel posto a nice place posta prioritariafirst class

3  Nouns for males and females

  • In Italian, just as in English, there are sometimes very different words for male and female people and animals.
un uomoa man
una donnaa woman
un fratelloa brother
una sorellaa sister
un toroa bull
una muccaa cow
  • In most cases, though, a noun referring to a male can be made to refer to a female by changing the ending:
  • Many Italian nouns ending in –o can be made feminine by changing the ending to –a.
un cuocoa (male) cook
una cuocaa (female) cook
un ragazzoa boy
una ragazzaa girl
un fotografoa (male) photographer
una fotografaa (female) photographer
un italianoan Italian (man)
un’italianaan Italian (woman)
un gattoa (tom) cat
una gattaa (she) cat
  • If a noun describing a male ends in –tore, the feminine form ends in –trice.
un attorea (male) actor
un’attricea (female) actor
un pittorea (male) painter
una pittricea (female) painter
uno scrittorea (male) writer
una scrittricea (female) writer
  • Certain nouns describing males ending in –e have feminine forms ending
    in
    –essa.
il professorethe (male) teacher
la professoressathe (female) teacher
uno studentea (male) student
una studentessaa (female) student
un leonea lion
una leonessaa lioness
  • Many nouns ending in –a can refer either to males or to females, so there is no change of ending for the feminine.
un turistaa (male) tourist
una turista a (female) tourist
un collegaa (male) colleague
una collegaa (female) colleague
il mio dentistamy dentist (if it’s a man)
la mia dentista my dentist (if it’s a woman)
  • Many nouns ending in –e can refer either to males or to females, so there is no change of ending for the feminine.
un nipote a grandson
una nipotea granddaughter
un cantante a (male) singer
una cantantea (female) singer
Grammar Extra!A few nouns that are feminine refer both to men and women.
una guida a guide (male or female)
una persona a person (male or female)
una spia a spy (male or female)
una star a star (male or female)
Sean Connery è ancora una star.Sean Connery’s still a star.
Key points
  • Most nouns referring to males can be made to refer to females by changing the ending.
  • Some nouns are the same whether they refer to males or to females, but the words used with them change.
  • In a few cases the nouns used for male and female are completely different.

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