Easy Learning Italian

The definite article - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

1  The basics

  • There are three questions you need to ask yourself to decide which definite article to use in Italian:
  • Is the noun masculine or feminine? (This is known as its gender).
  • Is it singular or plural?
the childil bambino (SINGULAR)
the childreni bambini (PLURAL)
  • Does the following word begin with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or with another letter?
  • For more information on Nouns, see Nouns.

2  Which definite article do you use?

  • The definite article to use for masculine singular nouns is:
  • il with most nouns starting with a consonant.
il ragazzothe boy
il telefoninothe mobile phone
  • lo with nouns starting with z, or s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.
lo ziothe uncle
lo studentethe student
lo pneumaticothe tyre
lo psichiatrathe psychiatrist
lo yogurtthe yoghurt
  • l’ with all nouns starting with a vowel.
l’ospedalethe hospital
l’albergothe hotel
  • The definite article to use for masculine plural nouns is:
  • i with most nouns starting with a consonant.
i fratellithe brothers
i tabletthe tablets
  • gli with nouns starting with z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.
gli studentithe students
gli ziithe uncles
gli gnocchithe gnocchi
gli pneumaticithe tyres
gli yogurtthe yoghurts
  • gliwith all nouns starting with a vowel.
gli amicithe friends
gli orarithe timetables
  • The definite article to use for feminine singular nouns is:
  • la with all nouns starting with a consonant.
la ragazzathe girl
la macchinathe car
  • l’ with all nouns starting with a vowel.
l’amicathe (girl)friend
l’aranciathe orange
  • The definite article to use for feminine plural nouns is:
  • le with all nouns, whether they start with a consonant or a vowel.
le ragazzethe girls
le amichethe (girl)friends
TipWhen you’re learning vocabulary, remember to learn the article that goes with each noun.
  • 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.
l’amicothe friend
BUT
il migliore amicothe best friend
lo studentethe student
BUT
il migliore studentethe best student
gli studenti the students
BUT
i migliori studentithe best students
  • For more information on Adjectives, see Adjectives.

3  Combining the definite article with other words

  • In Italian, when you say at the cinema, in the cinema, and so on, the word for at
    and in combines with the article. How this works for a (meaning at or to) is shown below:
a + il = alal cinemaat or to the cinema
a + l’ = all’all’albergoat or to the hotel
a + lo = alloallo stadioat or to the stadium
a + la = allaalla stazioneat or to the station
a + i = aiai concertiat or to the concerts
a + gli = agliagli aeroportiat or to the airports
a + le = allealle partiteat or to the matches
  • The other words which combine in the same way are: da, di, in and su:
  • da (meaning from)
da + il = daldal cinemafrom the cinema
da + l’ = dall’dall’albergofrom the hotel
da + lo = dallodallo stadiofrom the stadium
da + la = dalladalla stazionefrom the station
da + i = daidai concertifrom the concerts
da + gli = daglidagli aeroportifrom the airports
da + le = dalledalle partite from the matches
  • di (meaning of)
di + il = deldel cinemaof the cinema
di + l’ = dell’dell’albergoof the hotel
di + lo = dellodello stadioof the stadium
di + la = delladella stazioneof the station
di + i = deidei concertiof the concerts
di + gli = deglidegli aeroportiof the airports
di + le = delledelle partiteof the matches
  • in (meaning in)
in + il = nelnel cinemain the cinema
in + l’ = nell’ nell’albergoin the hotel
in + lo = nellonello stadioin the stadium
in + la = nellanella stazionein the station
in + i = neinei concertiin the concerts
in + gli = neglinegli aeroportiin the airports
in + le = nellenelle partitein the matches
  • su (meaning on)
su + il = sulsul pavimentoon the floor
su + l’ = sull’sull’orloon the edge
su + lo = sullosullo scoglioon the rock
su + la = sullasulla spiaggiaon the beach
su + i = suisui montion the mountains
su + gli = suglisugli scaffalion the bookshelves
su + le = sullesulle strade on the roads
  • In English, you can use some with singular and plural nouns: some sugar, some students. One way of expressing the idea of some in Italian is to use the word
    di together with the definite article.
del burrosome butter
delloliosome oil
della cartasome paper
dei fiammiferisome matches
delle uovasome eggs
Hanno rotto dei bicchieri.They broke some glasses.
Ci vuole del sale.It needs some salt.
Aggiungi della farina.Add some flour.

4  When do you use the definite article?

  • Italian uses the definite article much more than English does. As a rule of
    thumb, Italian sentences rarely start with a noun that has no article.
I bambini soffrono.Children are suffering.
Mi piacciono gli animali.I like animals.
Le cose vanno meglio.Things are going better.
Il nuoto è il mio sport preferito.Swimming is my favourite sport.
Non mi piace il riso.I don’t like rice.
Lo zucchero non fa bene.Sugar isn’t good for you.
La povertà è un grande problema.Poverty is a big problem.
L’Australia è molto grande.Australia is very big.
La Calabria è bella.Calabria is beautiful.
  • Note that if the name of a country comes after the Italian word in, which means to or in, the article is not used.
Vado in Francia a giugno.I’m going to France in June.
Lavorano in Germania.They work in Germany.
TipWhen you translate an English sentence which starts with a noun, don’t forget to use the definite article in Italian.
Le macchine costano caro.Cars cost a lot.
La frutta fa bene.Fruit is good for you.
  • In the following cases, the article is used rather differently in Italian from
    in English:
  • When you’re talking about parts of the body and bodily actions, use the definite article. The English adjectives my, your, his and so on are not translated.
Dammi la mano.Give me your hand.
Mi fa male il piede.My foot is hurting.
Soffiati il naso!Blow your nose!
  • Use the definite article when talking about clothes.
Si è tolto il cappotto.He took off his coat.
Mettiti le scarpe.Put your shoes on.
  • Use the definite article with the time, dates and years.
all’unaat one o’clock
alle dueat two o’clock
Era l’una.It was one o’clock.
Sono le due.It’s two o’clock.
Sono nata il primo maggio 2001.I was born on May 1 2001.
Verranno nel 2017.They’re coming in 2017.
  • Use the definite article with words such as my, your, and his.
la mia casamy house
le sue figlieher daughters
i vostri amiciyour friends
  • When you talk about how much something costs per pound, per kilo, and
    so on; about rates, speeds, and about how often something happens, use
    the word a and the definite article.
Costano 3 euro al chilo.They cost 3 euro a kilo.
70 km all’ora70 km an hour
50.000 dollari al mese 50,000 dollars per month
due volte alla settimanatwice a week
  • You use the definite article when you are referring to people by using their titles, but NOT when you are speaking to them directly.
La signora Rossi è qui.Mrs. Rossi is here.
Il dottor GentileDoctor Gentile
BUT
Scusi, signora Rossi.Excuse me, Mrs. Rossi.
Key points
  • Definite articles are used much more in Italian than in English.
  • Italian sentences rarely start with a noun that has no article.
  • Sometimes the definite article is used very differently from English.
    For instance, you use it with parts of the body and the time.

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