II. Ten Things to Know about Nouns and Articles in Italian.


For an explanation of the phonetics of the Pronunciation Guide, click here.


1. Gender.
All Italian nouns are either masculine or feminine in gender. Most Italian nouns ending in -o are masculine: ragazzo (rah-gahts-tsoh), "boy," albero (ahl-bay-roh), "tree." An important exception is mano (mah-noh), "hand," which is feminine.
Most Italian nouns ending in -a are feminine: ragazza (rah-gahts-tsah), "girl,"  entrata (en-trah-tah), "entrance." Important exceptions include names of professions--poeta (poh-ay-tah), "poet," artista  (ahr-tee-stah), "artist," barista (bah-ree-stah), "bartender"--which may be masculine.


2. Nouns ending in -e.
Some Italian nouns ending in -e are masculine and others are feminine: padre (pah-dray), "father," masculine; madre (mah-dray), "mother," feminine; mare (mah-ray), "sea," masculine; luce (loo-chay), "light," feminine. In most cases there is no easy way to tell which gender an -e noun belongs to, you just have to memorize it!


3. Pluralization.
To form the plural of Italian nouns, we normally change the ending -o to -i, the ending -a to -e, and the ending -e to -i. Examples: ragazzo, ragazzi (rah-gahts-tsoh, rah-gahts-tsee), "boy, boys;" ragazza, ragazze (rah-gahts-tsah, rah-gahts-tsay), "girl, girls;" padre, padri (pah-dray, pah-dree), "father, fathers," madre, madri (mah-dray, mah-dree), "mother, mothers."


4. Pluralization of -io nouns.

Nouns ending in -io such as figlio (fee-lyoh), "son" and formaggio (fohr-mahj-joh), "cheese," change the -io to -i in the plural, unless the i is stressed: figli, formaggi (fee-lyee, fohr-mahj-jee); but zio (tees-oh), "uncle," becomes zii (tsee-ee), "uncles."

Most nouns ending in -co or -ca, and -go or -ga, add h to the plural in order to retain the hard sound of the c or g: riga, righe (ree-gah, ree-gay), "line, lines;" amica, amiche (ah-mee-kah, ah-mee-kay), "girlfriend, girlfriends."
There are some exceptions to this rule, in which the hard c or g becomes soft in the plural: amico, amici (ah-mee-koh, ah-mee-chee), "friend, friends;" medico, medici (may-dee-koh, may-dee-chee), "doctor, doctors."


5. Irregular nouns.
Some Italian nouns are very irregular in the plural, and these must be learned by heart: the most common irregular noun is uomo (woh-moh), "man," uomini (woh-mee-nee), "men."
A few masculine nouns ending in -o change to -a in the plural and become feminine: braccio (brah-choh), "arm," masculine, braccia (brah-chah), "arms," feminine; labbro (lahb-broh), "lip," masculine, labbra (lahb-brah), "lips," feminine; uovo (woh-voh), "egg," masculine, uova (woh-vah), "eggs," feminine.


6. Invariable nouns.
Some nouns are "invariable," that is, they do not change at all in the plural. These fall into three main groups: words ending in a consonant (usually borrowed from other languages, like bar); one-syllable words like re (ray), "king;" and words ending with an accented vowel like città (cheet-tah), "city." Examples: bar, bar (bahr, bahr), "bar, bars;" re, re (ray, ray), "king, kings;" città, città (cheet-tah, cheet-tah), "city, cities."


7. Indefinite article.
The indefinite article (equivalent to English a or an) is un (oon) for most masculine and una (oo-nah) for most feminine singular nouns: un ragazzo, una ragazza (oon rah-gahts-tsoh, oo-nah rah-gahts-tsah), "a boy, a girl." As in English, there is no plural form of the indefinite article.
Before a word beginning with the letter z, such as zio (tsee-oh), "uncle," or an "s impure" (s accompanied by a consonant), such as spillo (speel-loh), "pin," the masculine un becomes uno: uno zio, uno spillo (oo-noh tsee-oh, oo-noh speel-loh), "an uncle," "a pin."
Before a noun beginning with a vowel, the feminine article una becomes un’: un’entrata (oon-ehn-trah-tah), "an entrance."


8. Definite article (singular).
The definite article (equivalent to English the) is il (eel) for most masculine singular and la (lah) for most feminine singular nouns: il ragazzo, la ragazza (eel rah-gahts-tsoh, lah rah-gahts-tsah), "the boy," "the girl."
Il becomes lo before an initial z or s-impure: lo zio, lo spillo (loh tsee-oh, loh speel-loh), "the uncle, the pin;" and l' before an initial vowel: l'albero, l'indirizzo (lahl-bay-roh, leen-dee-reets-tsoh), "the tree," "the address."
La becomes l' before an initial vowel: l’entrata, l'amica (lehn-trah-tah, lah-mee-kah), "the entrance," "the girlfriend."


9. Definite article (plural).
The definite article is i (ee) for most masculine plural and le (lay) for most feminine plural nouns: i ragazzi, le ragazze (ee rah-gahts-tsee, lay rah-gahts-tsay), "the boys," "the girls." 
The plural article i becomes gli (pronounced lyee) before a vowel, or before a z or s-impure: gli alberi (lyee ahl-bay-ree), "the trees," gli zii (lyee tsee-ee), "the uncles," gli spilli (lyee speel-lee), "the pins."
Gli becomes gl' before an initial i, and le becomes l' before an initial e: gl'indirizzi (lyeen-dee-reets-tsee), "the addresses," l'entrate (lehn-trah-tay), "the entrances."


10. Contractions.
The definite articles form contractions with some common prepositions, especially a (to), di (of), da (from), and in (in):
  a + il =   al al ragazzo (ahl rah-gahts-tsoh), to the boy
a + la = alla alla ragazza (ahl-lah rah-gahts-tsah), to the girl
a + i = ai ai ragazzi (ah-ee rah-gahts-tsee), to the boys
a + le = alle alle ragazze (ahl-lay rah-gahts-tsay), to the girls
di + il =   del del libro (dehl lee-broh), of the book
di + la = della della madre (dehl-lah mah-dray), of the mother
di + i = dei dei libri (day-ee lee-bree), of the books
di + le = delle delle madri (dehl-lay mah-dree), of the mothers
da + il =   dal dal mare (dahl mah-ray), from the sea
da + la = dalla dalla casa (dahl-lah kah-zah), from the house
da + i = dai dai mari (dah-ee mah-ree), from the seas
da + le = dalle dalle case (dahl-lay kah-zay), from the houses
in + il =   nel nel museo (nehl moo-zay-oh), in the museum
in + la = nella nella macchina (nehl-lah mahk-kee-nah), in the car
in + i = nei nei musei (nay-ee moo-zay-ee), in the museums
in + le = nelle nelle macchine (nehl-lay mahk-kee-nay), in the cars


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