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.
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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.
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(di + il) del
(di + lo) dello
(di + l’) dell’
(di + la) della
(di + i) dei
(di + gli) delle
(di + le) delle
(Io voglio di + il pesce) Io voglio del pesce
I want some fish
(Hai di + le mele) Hai delle mele
Have you some apples?
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.
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.
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the chicken (singular)
the chickens (plural)
the bed (singular)
the beds (plural)
the antipasto (singular)
the antipasti (plural)
the umbrella (singular)
the umbrellas (plural)
the student (singular)
the students (plural)
the uncle (singular)
the uncles (plural)
the yoghurt (singular)
the yoghurts (plural)
the soup (singular)
the soups (plural)
the door (singular)
the doors (plural)
the hour (singular)
the hours (plural)
the friend (f. singular)
the friends (f. plural)
The definite article is always used in the following situations:
with signore, signora, signorina, dottore before surname
la signora Bianchi
il signor Vitale
il dottor Rossi
with the name of continents, countries, regions and isles
with languages and sport
Sono le sette
it's 7.00 a.m
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
giocare a tennis
with materials after the preposition di
la camicia di cotone
the cotton shirt
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'.
un (positive) and nessun (negative)
a moment (positive)
no moment (negative)
a flat (positive)
no flat (negative)
uno (positive) and nessuno (negative)
a sparkling (positive)
no sparkling (negative)
a gnome (positive)
no gnome (negative)
una (positive) and nessuna (negative)
a bottle (positive)
no bottle (negative)
a candle (positive)
no candle (negative)
un’ (positive) and nessun’ (negative)
an orange (positive)
no orange (negative)
a salad (positive)
no salad (negative)
For more on Italian grammar check out these lessons!
Maria Di Lorenzi: Rocket Italian
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