Italian Articles

There are two main types of Italian articles: definite, which are called determinativi in Italian language, and indefinite indeterminativi.

The definite articles are used to introduce nouns which refer to a specific item, in English we would use the article the. The indefinites are used when we know what type of person or thing the noun refers to, but not which individual; they are equivalent to the articles a and an in English. The indefinites have no plural. There is a third type, called articolo partitivo, partitive articles, which indicate an indefinite part of a whole and it is used to convey the English words some or any.

The partitive article is formed by the preposition di + the definite article requested by the following word.

Pronouncing Italian Articles

To get you started, here are the definite and indefinite articles in Italian. Further on in this lesson we will look at the pronunciation of these and more Italian articles.

  • Il - The (masculine singular)
  • L' - The (masculine singular)
  • La - The (feminine singular)
  • I - The (masculine plural)
  • Gli - The (masculine plural)
  • Le - The (feminine plural)
  • Un - A (masculine)
  • Uno - A (masculine)
  • Una - A (feminine)
  • Un' - A (feminine)

Let's get started...

Italian partitive article forms:

(di + il) del

(di + lo) dello

(di + l’) dell’

(di + la) della

(di + i) dei

(di + gli) delle

(di + le) delle

(Io voglio di + il pesce) Io voglio del pesce

I want some fish

(Hai di + le mele) Hai delle mele

Have you some apples?

The use of the article in the Italian language is very important and, except in some cases which are explained later, we suggest to use them always.

Talking about Definite articles in Italian

The singular definite masculine article has two forms: il for words that begin with a consonant; lo for words that begin with s + consonant, z, ps, y; the word lo becomes l' when the following word starts with a vowel or an h. The plural forms are: il- i; lo, l'- gli.

 

The feminine article has just one form for the singular, la, and one for the plural, le. In the singular form, when the first letter is a vowel, the la word can be contracted to l'. It is strictly forbidden for the plural, it's a mistake, unless you can find it in some old lyrics.

Examples of Definite articles in Italian:

Masculine in front of consonant

il (singular) and i (plural)

il pollo

i polli

the chicken (singular)

the chickens (plural)

il letto

i letti

the bed (singular)

the beds (plural)

Masculine in front of vowel or h

l’ (singular) and gli (plural)

l’antipasto

gli antipasti

the antipasto (singular)

the antipasti (plural)

l’ombrello

gli ombrelli

the umbrella (singular)

the umbrellas (plural)

Masculine in front of s + consonant, z, ps, gn and y

lo (singular) and gli (plural)

lo studente

gli studente

the student (singular)

the students (plural)

lo zio

gli zii

the uncle (singular)

the uncles (plural)

lo yogurt

gli yogurt

the yoghurt (singular)

the yoghurts (plural)


Feminine in front of a consonant

la (singular) and le (plural)

la zuppa

le zuppe

the soup (singular)

the soups (plural)

la porta

le porte

the door (singular)

the doors (plural)

Feminine in front of vowel or h

l’ (singular) and le (plural)

l’ora

le ore

the hour (singular)

the hours (plural)

l’amica

le amiche

the friend (f. singular)

the friends (f. plural)

Use of the Definite article in Italian

The definite article is always used in the following situations:


with signore, signora, signorina, dottore before surname

la signora Bianchi

Mrs Bianchi

il signor Vitale

Mr Vitale

il dottor Rossi

Dr Rossi

with the name of continents, countries, regions and isles

l’Europa

Europe

l’Italia

Italy

la Toscana

Tuscany

la Sicilia

Sicily

with languages and sport

l’Italiano

il tennis

Italian

tennis

with time

Sono le sette

it’s 7.00 a.m

with colors and material

il rosso

il cotone

red

cotton

The definite article is never used in the following situations:


with signore, signora, signorina, dottore in the direct speech

with continents, countries, regions and isles after the preposition in

in Europa

in Italia

in Europe

in Italy

with sport after the verb giocare a

giocare a tennis

play tennis

with materials after the preposition di

la camicia di cotone

the cotton shirt

Indefinite articles in Italian

The use of the indefinite article in Italian is quite easy. It corresponds with the a or an in English.

 

In the masculine case, when we use the article il or the word begins with a vowel we will use un; in all the other cases we use the article uno.

 

For the feminine case, the indefinite article is una, while the tense form un' is used in the case the following word begins with vowel or an h. The negative forms - nessun, nessuno, nessuna - follow the same rules. The tense feminine form can be contracted to nessun'.

Examples of Indefinite articles in Italian:

Masculine in front of consonant and vowel
un (positive) and nessun (negative)

un momento

nessun momento

a moment (positive)

no moment (negative)

un appartamento

nessun appartamento

a flat (positive)

no flat (negative)

Masculine in front of s + consonant, z, ps, gn, y
uno (positive) and nessuno (negative)

uno spumante

nessuno spumante

a sparkling (positive)

no sparkling (negative)

uno gnomo

nessuno gnomo

a gnome (positive)

no gnome (negative)

Feminine in front of consonant
una (positive) and nessuna (negative)

una bottiglia

nessuna bottiglia

a bottle (positive)

no bottle (negative)

una candela

nessuna candela

a candle (positive)

no candle (negative)

Feminine in front of vowel
un’ (positive) and nessun’ (negative)

un’arancia

nessun'arancia

an orange (positive)

no orange (negative)

un’insalata

nessun'insalata

a salad (positive)

no salad (negative)

Articles in Italian: A summary

  • Articles can be definite or indefinite.
  • A third class, equivalent to the word some or any in English is called the partitive article and it is built with the preposition di + the definite article.
  • The article must be always used, apart from some rare exceptions.
  • Look always at the first letter of the corresponding noun.
  • Don't forget; never use an apostrophe with plural nouns.
  • The indefinite article has no plural. As substitute, you can use the partitive article.
  • Personal nouns, continents, countries, regions and nouns indicating relatives during direct speech don't use articles.
For more on Italian grammar check out these lessons! A presto!
Maria Di Lorenzi
Rocket Italian

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