Mamma Mia! Posted by Serena on Nov 22, 2008 in Grammar
Today I’ll try to shed a bit of light on the use of the aggettivi possessivi (possessive adjectives). Lets first have a quick look at them:
My = mio, mia, miei, mie
Your (sing.) = tuo, tua, tuoi, tue
His/her/its/Your (polite) = suo, sua, suoi, sue
Our = nostro, nostra, nostri, nostre
Your (plur.) = vostro, vostra, vostri, vostre
Their = loro
As you can see from the above list, with the exception of loro (their) which doesn’t change, all the other possessive adjectives have four different endings: masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural and feminine plural. The possessive adjectives agree with the object or person they describe, not with the owner. For example, I’m a woman and I’ll say: il mio libro (my book) and la mia penna (my pen). My brother will say exactly the same: il mio libro, la mia penna.
More confusing for English speakers is the use of his/her/its because we don’t specify whether the “owner” is a he or a she or an it, but again the choice of the ending depends on the object. So, if I’m talking about Bruno, I’ll say il suo libro and la sua penna. The same applies if I’m talking about Laura: il suo libro, la sua penna. Usually the meaning of suo, sua, suoi, sue is clear from the context; if not, it’s better to specify the owner: il libro di Bruno, la penna di Laura, etc.
You might have noticed that in all the examples I’ve used the definite article (il, lo, la, i, gli, le). But there is an exception to this rule! If a singular family member is described, then we drop the article: mio padre (my father), nostra madre (our mother). However, if there is a second adjective, a suffix or a prefix that modifies the noun, the article comes back again: la mia nonna materna (my maternal grandmother), la mia sorellina (my little sister), and la mia bisnonna (my great grandmother). Mamma (mum), papà or babbo (dad) are considered to be affectionate forms and are used with or without the article: mia mamma or la mia mamma. Of course the form that foreigners are most familiar with is MAMMA MIA! (lit. My Mother!) which is used on its own as an exclamation and can be translated as something like Goodness Gracious!
N.B. Loro always takes the definite article: la loro figlia (their daughter).
Finally, in the plural the article is always used: i miei genitori (my parents), le sue figlie (his/her daughters).