It’s Sunday after lunch (breakfast time in Australia – “How ya’ goin’?”)
I’m trying to “Think Italian, Like an Italian”, so as to cut out all those embarrassing errors when I speak and write.
I’ve decided that the first thing I’m going to fix is “gender”.
Nouns in Italian, for some reason that has always escaped me, have a gender. In English, and plenty of other languages, they don’t.
Address all questions to the Deptartment of Unnecessary Complications, Ministry of Making Life Difficult, Rome.
But anyway, I own an Italian language school, so I figure it’s time I got the hang of thinking like an Italian.
Looking around me in my home-office where I’m writing this, “il libro” catches my eye. A book.
No, let’s try “Mr book”. Maybe that’ll help.
It’s a book about advertising on Google. La pubblicità, “Mrs publicity”, la campagna, “Mrs campaign”, la pagina, “Mrs page”, la parola, “Mrs word”.
What else can I see?
La stampante, “Mrs printer”. La carta, “Mrs paper”. La tazza, “Mrs coffee-cup”.
I’m surrounded by female objects!
La borsa, “Mrs bag”, or maybe that should be lo zaino, “Mr backpack”.
So far, so good. The game is to “Think Italian, Like an Italian” (rather than like “an English”.)
Italians effortlessly see every object as having a masculine or feminine gender.
Whereas I just see THINGS. My brain sees nothing masculine about a book, nothing feminine about a printer.
LibrO, CartA, TazzA, BorsA… It’s coming back to me now.
Rule number one. Words ending in “o” tend to be Mr.
Nouns ending in “a” are likely to be Mrs, or maybe “Ms” these days.
Lavoro, “Mr work”, articolo, “Mr articolo”.
Foreign words tend to be Mr, is that right? I heard that somewhere.
This is embarassing, I should know this stuff. Would that be “Mr computer”, then?
Over to wordreference.com’s English/Italian dictionary: computer nm (noun masculine).
Yo! Progresso (Mr?)
La sedie, “Mrs chair”, la tavola, “Mrs table”, la porta “Mrs door”.
Il garage, “Mr garage”, because it’s a foreign word? Is that right? Do leave a comment and correct any mistakes I make.
My study’s in the garage, by the way. Mr study, in Mrs garage, in Mrs House, in Mrs street, in Mrs city, in Mr country!
Think I’ve cracked it. I’m thinking Italian, like an Italian. A little bit, anyway.
What about the exceptions?
Tthe only one I remember is La mano, “Mrs hand”, despite ending in “o”.
There’s an exercise on this site somewhere with a list.
I just scored 10 out of 12. La pace (Mrs peace) and Il poeta (Mr poet) tripped me up, again.
Oh well. As my mother used to ask me when I was a kid:
“What’s the biggest room in the world?”
“The room for improvement!”
Remember that, mum?
Still, you’d think that after 15 years in Italy I’d have picked this stuff up.
But clearly not.
So, the quest to “Think Italian, Like an Italian” begins today!
I’m off to Mr or Mrs everything I look at, until it comes naturally.
P.S. It would be great to hear your ideas about learning the gender of Italian nouns!
And I’m also keen to get suggestions for other topics in this series. What aspects of Italian trip YOU up? Perhaps I could do an article about the thing you find most difficult?.