Easy Learning Italian

The indefinite article - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

1  The basics

  • In English the indefinite article is either aa boy - or an - an apple.
  • In Italian there are four indefinite articles: un, uno, una and un’.
  • Which one you need to choose depends on the gender of the noun it goes with, and the letter the noun starts with.
  • For more information on Nouns, see Nouns.

2  Which indefinite article do you use?

  • The indefinite article to use for masculine nouns is:
  • un with nouns starting with most consonants and all vowels.
un telefoninoa mobile phone
un uomoa man
  • uno with nouns starting with s + another consonant, z, gn, pn, ps, x and y.
uno studentea student
uno zioan uncle
uno psichiatraa psychiatrist
  • The indefinite article to use for feminine nouns is:
  • una with nouns starting with a consonant.
una ragazzaa girl
una melaan apple
  • un’ with nouns starting with a vowel.
un’oraan hour
un’amicaa (girl)friend
  • Note that the article you choose depends on the first or first two letters of the following word, which can be an adjective or a noun.
un albergoa hotel
BUT
uno splendido albergoa magnificent hotel
uno scultorea sculptor
BUT
un bravo scultorea good sculptor

3  Using the indefinite article

  • You generally use the indefinite article in Italian when a or an are used in English.
Era con un’amica.She was with a friend.
Vuoi un gelato?Do you want an ice cream?
  • There are some cases where the article is used in English, but not in Italian:
  • with the words cento and mille
cento voltea hundred times
mille sterlinea thousand pounds
  • when you translate a few or a lot
qualche parolaa few words
molti soldia lot of money
  • in exclamations with che
Che sorpresa!What a surprise!
Che peccato!What a pity!
  • Note that to say what someone’s job is you either leave out the article:
È medico.He’s a doctor.
Sono professori.They’re teachers.
Or you use the verb fare with the definite article:
Faccio l’ingegnere.I’m an engineer.
Fa l’avvocato.She’s a lawyer.

4  Plural nouns used without the article

  • There are some cases where you use plural nouns without any article:
  • in negative sentences
Non ha amici.He hasn’t got any friends.
Non ci sono posti liberi.There aren’t any empty seats.
  • in questions where any is used in English
Hai fratelli?Have you got any brothers or sisters?
Ci sono problemi?Are there any problems?
  • in lists
Ci vogliono patate, cipolle e carote.You need potatoes, onions and carrots.
Vendono giornali, riviste e cartoline.They sell newspapers, magazines and postcards.
  • when you are not giving details
Abbiamo visitato castelli e musei.We visited castles and museums.
Ci sono cose da vedere.There are things to see.
Hanno problemi.They’ve got problems.
Key points
  • You generally use the indefinite article in a very similar way to English.
  • You do not use it with the numbers cento and mille, and in exclamations with che.
  • The indefinite article is not used when saying what someone’s job is.

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