Articles, articles, articles! Posted by Serena on Oct 30, 2008 in Grammar
In English there are only three forms for the definite and indefinite articles: “the, a, an”. But, being Italians, as usual we like to complicate our language and to have as many variations as possible on one little word.
Lets start with the articolo indeterminativo (indefinite article: a/an). This is not too bad; we have four different forms where in English there are two.
Masculine: un/uno. Un is used when preceding a masculine word E.g.: un tavolo (a table), un treno (a train), un orologio (a watch). However if a masculine word begins with z, ps, or s+consonant, we use uno E.g.: uno zaino (a backpack), uno psicologo (a psychologist), uno studente (a male student).
Feminine: una/un’. Una is used before a feminine word starting with a consonant or group of consonants. E.g.: una sedia (a chair), una zanzara (a mosquito), una studentessa (a female student). Un’ is used before a feminine word starting with a vowel. E.g.: un’arancia (an orange), un’estate (a summer).
OK. That was easy enough. Lets move to the articolo determinativo (definite article: the). In English there is only one form i.e. the. In Italian … well, we have eight variations!
Masculine singular: il/l’/lo. Il is used in the same way as “un” (E.g.: il tavolo, il treno) with the exception of words starting with a vowel in which case l’ is used E.g.: l’orologio, l’ago (the needle). Lo is used in the same way as “uno”, i.e. before masculine words starting with z, ps, or s+consonant. E.g.: lo zaino, lo psicologo, lo studente.
Masculine plural: gli/i. Both lo and l’ become gli (without an apostrophe this time). E.g.: gli zaini, gli psicologi, gli studenti, gli orologi, gli aghi. The plural of il is i. E.g.: i tavoli, i treni.
Feminine singular: la/l’. They follow they same rule as una and un’. E.g.: la sedia, la zanzara, la studentessa, l’arancia, l’estate.
Feminine plural. Both la and l’ become le (without an apostrophe, ever!). E.g.: le sedie, le zanzare, le studentesse, le arance, le estati.
Semplice, no? Simple, isn’t it? Now a little homework for you to do. You’ll have to write the correct articolo indeterminativo and determinativo in front of the following words. Then you’ll change the words into plurals (see blog on plurals) and write the correct articolo determinativo plurale. Buon lavoro!
Programma (masc. program); sciarpa (scarf); spillo (pin); capacità (capacity); ombrello (umbrella); cane (masc. dog); zoccolo (clog); orchestra; stazione (fem. station); animale (masc. animal); caffè (masc.); zuppa (soup).
P.S. For those of you who know Italian perfectly, you might have noticed that I’ve left out two groups of consonant from the lo rule: pn and gn. I did it on purpose, because about 70% of Italians do not follow that rule, but they say “il pneumatico (the tire)” and “i gnocchi”.