Understanding Italian nouns

Nouns are words used to name or identify a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. Examples include: girl, hat, coat, weather, picture, coffee, hotel.

Nouns are one of the most basic parts of speech They can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition. Italian nouns are divided in common, nomi comuni, and proper, nomi propri.

So this free lesson is all about naming things. By the time you're done you'll know all about common and proper nouns, as well as how to identify masculine and feminine versions. You'll also discover the mysterious third category of nouns...

Lets get started.

Common and Proper Italian nouns

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nomi comuni
common
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nomi propri
proper

Nomi comuni indicate persons, animals, places, things like ragazzo - kid, dottore - doctor, cane - dog, fiume - river, or abstract ideas like bellezza - beauty, speranza - hope, giustizia - justice, etc.

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ragazzo
kid
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dottore
doctor
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cane
dog
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fiume
river
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bellezza
beauty
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speranza
hope
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giustizia
justice

The nomi propri indicate specific beings or things, which are characterized by a proper name: Italia, Roma, Paolo, Marco, etc. Nouns can be divided also for genre, masculine and feminine, and number, singular and plural.

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Italia, Roma, Paolo, Marco
Italian, Rome, Paolo, Marco
    Most of the nouns agree with the following rules:
  • Masculine nouns end with –o for singular, -i for plural.
  • Feminine nouns end with –a for singular, -e for plural.
  • A third category of nouns end with –e for singular, -i for plural; they can be masculine or feminine, according to the vocabulary.

Regular Nouns: rules and examples

Masculine nouns ending with –o (singular)

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tavolo
table
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museo
museum
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libro
book
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coro
chorus
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corpo
body
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cielo
sky
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appartamento
apartment
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suono
sound

Masculine nouns ending with –i (plural)

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tavoli
table
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musei
museum
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libri
book
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cori
chorus
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corpi
body
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cieli
sky
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appartamenti
apartment
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suoni
sound

Feminine nouns ending with –a (singular)

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casa
house
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finestra
window
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sedia
chair
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strada
street
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maglietta
t-shirt
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testa
head
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fotografia
photo
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penna
pen

Feminine nouns ending with –e (plural)

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case
house
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finestre
window
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sedie
chair
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strade
street
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magliette
t-shirt
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teste
head
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fotografie
photo
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penne
pen

Third Case nouns ending with –e (singular).

These can be masculine or feminine, according to the vocabulary.
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bicchiere (M)
glass
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studente (M)
student
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ristorante (M)
restaurant
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fiume (M)
river
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luce (F)
light
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nube (F)
cloud
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mese (M)
month
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ape (F)
bee

Third Case nouns ending with –i (plural).

These can be masculine or feminine, according to the vocabulary.
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bicchieri (M)
glass
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studenti (M)
student
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ristoranti (M)
restaurant
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fiumi (M)
river
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luci (F)
light
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nubi (F)
cloud
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mesi (M)
month
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api (F)
bee

Irregular nouns: rules and examples

Many Italians nouns are irregular. Here are some examples.


1. The following nouns have the same form at singular as well as at plural:

Rule
Example
English
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Monosyllable nouns
re
King
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Nouns ending with a vowel with accent
università
University
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Foreign nouns
film, goal
Film, goal
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Nouns ending with –i
analisi
Analysis
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Feminine nouns ending with –o
auto
Car
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Masculine neologism ending with –o
euro
Euro
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Feminine nouns ending with –ie
specie
Species

2. Masculine nouns with –ma at the singular end with –mi at the plural.

Singular
Plural
English
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problema
problemi
problem/problems
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tema
temi
thema/themas

3. Feminine nouns ending with –ca and –ga at singular end with –che and –ghe at plural

Singular
Plural
English
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domenica
domeniche
Sunday/Sundays
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collega
colleghe
colleague/colleagues (F)

4. Masculine nouns ending with –co and –go:

  • end with –chi and –ghi at plural if the accent is on the second last syllable
  • end with –ci and –gi at plural when the accent is on the third last syllable

Some words, like amico - pl. amici, or dialogo - pl. dialoghi are exceptions.

Singular
Plural
English
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tedesco
tedeschi
German/Germans
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albergo
alberghi
hotel/hotels
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medico
medici
doctor/doctors
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psicologo
psicologi
psychologist/psychologists

Nouns which seem to have a double gender

Some nouns, which have the same stem and end with –o or –a, seem to indicate the masculine or feminine version of the same word. That’s not always true; the meaning can be completely different.


Some examples:

Noun with –o ending
English
Noun with –a ending
English
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corso
avenue
corsa
running
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collo
neck
colla
glue
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pianto
crying
pianta
plant
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torto
fault
torta
cake

Italian nouns summary

  • Nouns are words that name people, things, or ideas.
  • Nouns can be divided in common name, referring to something general and not identifying a particular person, or proper name, like the names of people, places, and institutions.
  • Nouns can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural.
  • Masculine nouns end with –o at singular, –i at plural.
  • Feminine nouns end with –a at singular, –e at plural.
  • A third category of nouns end with –e at singular, –i at plural; they can be masculine or feminine, according to the vocabulary.

Testing!

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