How To Use The Italian Definite Article Posted by Geoff on Jan 15, 2018 in Grammar
Whereas English has only one definite article (the), in Italian we have six! As a new learner, this can be difficult to get to grips with, and can continue to be a problem even for more advanced learners.
Let’s begin by breaking down the articolo determinativo (definite article) into its two main categories: masculine and feminine:
il = the singular
i = the plural
lo = the singular
gli = the plural
la = the singular
le = the plural
Now let’s look at the rules governing which specific article we use:
for masculine nouns beginning with a consonant, apart from x, z, gn, ps, and s followed by another consonant, we use il (singular) and i (plural).
il cane = the dog, i cani = the dogs
il coltello = the knife, i coltelli = the knives
il fagiolo = the bean, i fagioli = the beans
il fucile = the rifle, i fucili = the rifles
il cucchiaio = the spoon, i cucchiai = the spoons
for masculine nouns beginning with x, z, gn, ps and s followed by another consonant we use lo (singular) and gli (plural).
lo xenofobo = the xenophobe, gli xenofobi = the xenophobes
lo zoo = the zoo, gli zoo = the zoos
lo gnomo = the gnome, gli gnomi = the gnomes
lo psicologo = the psychologist, gli psicologi = the psychologists
lo scarpone = the boot, gli scarponi = the boots
lo sci = the ski, gli sci = the skis
lo specchio = the mirror, gli specchi = the mirrors
for masculine nouns beginning with a vowel lo becomes l’ (singular) and gli (plural) remains the same.
l’uomo = the man, gli uomini = the men
l’albero = the tree, gli alberi = the trees
l’orologio = the watch, gli orologi = the watches
l’ombrello = the umbrella, gli ombrelli = the umbrellas
l’italiano = the Italian, gli italiani = the Italians
For feminine nouns, you’ll be relieved to hear, things are much simpler.
For feminine nouns beginning with a consonant we use la (singular) and le (plural).
la casa = the house, le case = the houses
la ragazza = the girl, le ragazze = the girls
la farfalla = the butterfly, le farfalle = the butterflies
la macchina = the car, le macchine = the cars
la spalla = the shoulder, le spalle = the shoulders
for feminine nouns beginning with a vowel la becomes l’ (singular) and le (plural) remains the same
l’arancia = the orange, le arance = the oranges
l’attrice = the actress, le attrici = the actresses
l’idea = the idea, le idee = the ideas
l’amica = the female friend, le amiche = the female friends
l’estate = the summer, le estati = the summers
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment.