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Italian Grammar

 

If you are looking for tutorials about verbs, please visit our Italian Verbs section.





Definite Articles

Here are the Italian definite articles. Notice that there are different forms based on gender, number, and the beginning letter of the noun. Remember that articles are used to specify the application of a noun.


The forms of the definite article in Italian
lo - used before masculine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with "z" or with "s" + a consonant
l'- used before masculine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with any vowel
gli - used as the plural form for the above 2 examples

il - used before masculine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with any other consonant
i- used as the plural form for "il"

la - used before feminine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with any consonant
l'- used before feminine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with any vowel
le - used as the plural form for all feminine nouns

Examples:

l'amico (the [male] friend) becomes gli amici (the [male] friends)
l'amica (the [female] friend) becomes le amiche (the [female] friends)



Indefinite Articles

Here are the Italian indefinite articles. Notice that there are different forms based on gender, number, and the beginning letter of the noun.


The forms of the indefinite article in Italian
uno - used before masculine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with "z" or with "s" + a consonant
un - used before masculine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with a vowel or any other consonant

una - used before feminine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with any consonant
un' - used before feminine nouns (in the singular form) beginning with any vowel



Gender of Nouns

In Italian, nouns have grammatical gender and are either masculine or feminine. For the most part, you can tell the gender of a noun in Italian by looking at the ending.

A noun ending in "o" is usually masculine and a noun ending in "a" is usually feminine. When a noun ends in "e" (which is a common ending), you will have to memorize the gender when you memorize the word.

Here is a list of endings that usually correspond to either the masculine or the feminine, however there are a few exceptions.

Masculine Endings in Italian
è - il caffè, etc.
ì - il tassì, etc.
ò - il comò, etc.
amma - il programma, etc.
ema - il problema, etc.
ore - il colore, etc.
Feminine Endings in Italian
à - la città, etc.
ù - la virtù, etc.
ione - la televisione, etc.
si - la crisi, etc.


Making Nouns Plural

Regular nouns can be made plural by changing the last letter into a new one.

Singular Ending Plural Ending
o turns into
i
e turns into i
a turns into e

Examples:

il giorno ("the day") i giorni ("the days")
la sorella ("the sister") le sorelle ("the sisters")


Singular Ending Plural Ending
ca turns into
che
ga turns into ghe
go turns into ghi

Lastly, nouns that end in an accented letter do not change for the plural



Asking Questions

There are 2 main ways to ask a question in Italian.

1. The first way involves using an interrogative word (who, what, where, when, why, how) in front of the subject of the sentence.

Who?
What?
When?
Where?
Why?
How?
How much?
Chi?
Che?/Cosa?
Quando?
Dove?
Perché?
Come?
Quanto?

2. The second way to form a question is by putting the subject at the end of the sentence.

Also note that in spoken Italian, you can simply raise your voice a little bit at the end of a sentence to signal that you are asking a question.



Subject Pronouns

Here are the Italian subject pronouns. Notice that there are two forms that are capitalized. These are formal forms of the subject pronouns. Use the informal forms only with your friends, family, etc. The second chart shows the English equivalents.


  singular plural
1st-person io noi
2nd-person tu voi
3rd-person lui, lei, Lei loro, Loro

  singular plural
1st-person me  we
2nd-person you (familiar) you
3rd-person he, she, you (formal) they, you (formal)




Direct Object Pronouns

Direct objects receive the action of a verb and answer the questions "what?" or "whom?". The direct object pronoun will take the place of the direct object noun in a sentence. Remeber that the direct object pronoun must agree in gender and number with the noun that it is replacing.

The direct object will either go right before the verb, or it can be attached to infinitives. If you attach the direct object to an infinitive, remove the final "e" from the verb.

Here are the direct object pronouns in Italian, as well as their English equivalents:

  singular plural
1st-person mi  ci
2nd-person ti vi
3rd-person lo, la, La li, le

  singular plural
1st-person me us
2nd-person you you
3rd-person him, her, you them (m.), them (f.)



Indirect Object Pronouns

Indirect objects receive the action of a verb and answer the questions "To whom?", "For whom?", "To what?", and "For what?".

Here are the indirect object pronouns in Italian, as well as their English equivalents:

  singular plural
1st-person mi ci
2nd-person ti vi
3rd-person gli, le, Le gli

  singular plural
1st-person to me to us
2nd-person to you to you
3rd-person to him, to her, to you to them



Adjectives

Adjectives are words that modify nouns. They describe the noun. In Italian, descriptive adjectives mostly follow the noun (this is very different from English), although there are some adjectives that can precede the noun as well. A list of these adjectives can be found in this section. Also, an Italian adjective must agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies.


Forming Adjectives

If an adjective ends in "o", it can be made feminine or plural by changing the ending:

  singular plural
masculine o i
feminine a e

If a singular adjective ends in "e", the masculine and feminine singular will both have "e" as an ending. To make the adjective plural, simply change the "e" ending to an "i".

Adjectives of color will be invariable, so their ending will not change based on gender or number.


Adjectives that can either precede or follow the noun

bello
brutto
buono
cattivo
grande
nuovo
piccolo
simpatico
beautiful
ugly
good
bad
large
new
small
nice



Adverbs

Adverbs are words used to modify not only verbs, but adjectives, nouns, and even other adverbs. Most adverbs in English end in "ly" or "ily".

Most adverbs in Italian are formed by taking the feminine singular form of an adjective and adding "-mente"

Feminine
Singular Adj.
  Adverb
lenta
+ mente lentamente
dolce + mente dolcemente

However, if an adjective ends in "-le" or "-re", the final "e" will be dropped before adding "-mente" to form the adverb.


Many commonly used adverbs do not follow this construction. These include:


allora
anche
ancora
appena
bene
di nuovo
invece
lontano
male
presto
prima
quasi
solo
tardi
then
also
still, yet
barely
well
again
instead
far
badly
early
first
almost
only
late