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

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
Singular
Plural
Italian
English
In front of consonant
il
i
il pollo / i polli
the chicken/chickens
 
 
 
il letto / i letti
the bed/beds
In front of vowel or h
l’
gli
l’antipasto / gli antipasti
the antipasto/antipasti
 
 
 
l’ombrello / gli ombrelli
the umbrella/umbrellas
In front of s + consonant, z, ps, gn and y
lo
gli
lo studente / gli studente
the student/students
 
 
 
lo zio / gli zii
the uncle/uncles
 
 
 
lo yogurt / gli yogurt
the yoghurt/yoghurts
 
Feminine
Singular
Plural
Italian
English
In front of consonant
la
le
la zuppa / le zuppe
the soup/soups
 
 
 
la porta / le porte
the door/doors
In front of vowel or h
l’
le
l’ora / le ore
the hour/hours
 
 
 
l’amica / le amiche
the friend/friends (f)

Use of the Definite article in Italian

The definite article is always used in the following situations:


with signore, signora, signorina, dottore before surname

with the name of continents, countries, regions and isles

with languages and sport

with time

with colors and material

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

with sport after the verb giocare a

with materials after the preposition di

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
Positive
Example
Negative
Example
English
In front of consonant and vowel
un
un momento
nessun
nessun momento
a moment
 
 
un appartamento
 
nessun appartamento
a flat
In front of s + consonant, z, ps, gn, y
uno
uno spumante
nessuno
nessuno spumante
a sparkling
 
 
uno gnomo
 
nessuno gnomo
a gnome
 
Feminine
Positive
Example
Negative
Example
English
In front of consonant
una
una bottiglia
nessuna
nessuna bottiglia
a bottle
 
 
una candela
 
nessuna candela
a candle
In front of vowel
un’
un’arancia
nessun’
nessun'arancia
an orange
 
 
un’insalata
 
nessun'insalata
a salad

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
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