Italian Grammar Lessons: Definite and Indefinite articles

In this lesson you will learn about the use of articles in Italian.

Articles can be definite or indefinite, it depends if they refer to a known object or not and they can help you identify the gender (masculine/feminine) and number (singular/plural) of the nouns they refer to, as they change depending on that.

DEFINITE ARTICLES

Use articles il (singular) and i (plural) for masculine nouns that start with a consonant.

Examples: il libro / i libri (the book / the books)

il gatto / i gatti (the cat / the cats)

Words that begin with x, y, z and with the groups gn, pn, ps, s + consonant need the articles lo (singular) and gli (plural) 

Examples:

lo zio / gli zii (the uncle / the uncles)

lo gnomo / gli gnomi (the dwarf / the dwarfs)

lo psicologo / gli psicologi (the psychologist / the psychologists)

lo specchio, lo studente, gli spaghetti

For feminine nouns, use la (singular) and le (plural) for all the nouns (without distinction with regard to the first letters.)

Examples:

la matita / le matite (the pencil / the pencils)

la casa / le case (the house / the houses)

For both the masculine and feminine gender, you need to be careful with singular nouns which start with a vowel, as the article is elided and written with an apostrophe: lo/la → l’

Examples:

masculine nouns: l’ errore / gli errori (the mistake / the mistakes)

feminie nouns: l’ aula / le aule (the classroom / the classrooms)

INDEFINITE ARTICLES

Unlike with definite articles, the indefinite article is only used with singular nouns and so only changes according to the gender.

The article un is used with masculine nouns starting with a vowel or a consonant

Examples:

un aereo (an airplane)

un treno (a train)

However, with words starting with x, y, z and the groups gn, pn, ps, sc you have to use the article uno.

Examples:

uno zaino (a backpack)

uno scoiattolo (a squirrel)

The article una is used for feminine singular nouns starting with a consonant.

Examples:

una palla (a ball)

una scena (a scene)

As before, the indefinite feminine form also needs to be elided when followed by a word starting with a vowel: una → un’

Examples:

un’ isola (an island)

un’ automobile (a car)

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