Forum Rocket Italian Italian Grammar Do some nouns have both Masculine and Feminine variants? When so I use which?

Do some nouns have both Masculine and Feminine variants? When so I use which?

MarkL57

MarkL57

Hi,
From what I understand, nouns are either masculine or feminine. 
The italian word for cat is il gatto, but occasionally I see la gatta for cat. How do I know when to use la gatta? I was thinking maybe if you know the cat you referring to is a female cat you might use la gatta. 
But then I also noticed the same with the italian word for chocolate, being il cioccolato. But sometime I see it as la cioccolata, or le cioccolate (plural).

Are these interchangeable or is there a certain situation where you use the feminine form for a noun that is usually masculine?

Regards,
Mark
caterina-rocket-italian-tutor

caterina-rocket-italian-tutor

Hi Mark, 

Thanks for your question!

Yes, Italian nouns are either feminine or masculine. 

When it comes to animals, the generic noun has a specific gender, such as "la giraffa" (fem.), "il cavallo" (masc.), or "il gatto" (masc.).

However, if you know the animal you are referring to is a female (i.e. female cat) you can often adopt the feminine version of the noun (in this case it would be "la gatta").

When the gender of the animal is not known, you always use the generic noun:
if you see a cat in the street (either female or male) you would use "il gatto".

Sometimes, the feminine version of the noun is quite straightforward:
the cat = il gatto (masc.) / la gatta (fem.)
the wolf = il lupo (masc.) / la lupa (fem.)

Sometimes, there is a specific noun, as in English:
the bull = il toro (masc.)   the cow = la mucca (fem.)

Concerning the other example you made, "cioccolato" and "cioccolata", it's quite an exception. I would say that they are generally interchangeable.

You could in fact say:
Amo il cioccolato fondente  (I love dark chocolate)
as well as
Amo la cioccolata fondente (I love dark chocolate)

Or again

Mi serve un po' di cioccolata per la torta (I need some chocolate for the cake)
as well as
Mi serve un po' di cioccolato per la torta ​(I need some chocolate for the cake)

At the same time, there is a fixed noun for things like (although using the opposite version wouldn't change much in terms of communication):
hot chocolate (hot drink) = cioccolata calda (rather than cioccolato caldo)
chocolate bar = tavoletta di cioccolato (rather than tavoletta di cioccolata)
chocolate spread = cioccolata spalmabile (rather than cioccolato spalmabile)


Hope this helps :) 

 
MarkL57

MarkL57

Caterina,

Thanks that was most helpful.  :-)
 

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