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:
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)
Masculine in front of vowel or h
l’ (singular) and gli (plural)
Masculine in front of s + consonant, z, ps, gn and y
lo (singular) and gli (plural)
Feminine in front of a consonant
la (singular) and le (plural)
Feminine in front of vowel or h
l’ (singular) and le (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
with the name of continents, countries, regions and isles
with languages and sport
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 in front of consonant and vowel
un (positive) and nessun (negative)
Masculine in front of s + consonant, z, ps, gn, y
uno (positive) and nessuno (negative)
Feminine in front of consonant
una (positive) and nessuna (negative)
Feminine in front of vowel
un’ (positive) and nessun’ (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.