Mr Monday, Mrs breakfast, Mr son, MRS school, Mrs rain, Mrs clouds, Mrs week but Mr weekend, is that right?
See? I’m still doing it. Trying to think like an Italian.
Last time I decided to work on gender. You can read how here.
Today being Mr Monday, I’m pressed for time, so I think I’ll tackle something simple: “the”.
My Italian students (learning English) have terrible trouble with “the”. You think YOU make lots of mistakes? You should hear those guys!
Mostly, the definite article is used in the same way in English in Italian. Though of course you do have to remember to use the right one in Italian, depending on whether your noun is masculine, feminine, singular or plural.
- La mattina
- Le nuovole
- Il lunedì
- I problemi
- Lo specchio
But that’s not what causes the difficulty, for Italians at least.
The problem is that in English we use the definite article for specific, known things: THE work I have to do this week, THE last article I wrote in this series, etc.
That’s also true in Italian, but not only. In Italian, the definite article is also used for abstract nouns: concepts, ideas, and the like.
So, in English we’d use: “love” (abstract) but “THE love that dare not speak it’s name” (specific).
In Italian, you’d “the” both of these.
“Make love not war” in English would therefore be “Fare l’amore non la guerra” (THE Mrs love, THE Mrs war…)
It’s one of those cases where it’s not the grammar itself that trips you up, but the way Italians conceptualize things. Obviously, “love” is definite, right?
If that’s not obvious to you (or to me), then it’s another case of having to think Italian, like an Italian, in order to get it straight.
So, over to you. Can you think of other nouns that would normally take a definite article in Italian but not in English?
Leave a comment with your examples. Maybe we can come up with a nice long list for everyone to study.
Here’s one that I always get wrong, just to get us started: lo stress (The Mr stress).