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One of the most confusing aspects of Italian for English speakers is trying to get to grips with the gender of words. This is further complicated by he fact that we don’t use the letter ‘s’ to pluralize but ‘i’, or ‘e’ depending on the gender of the word. Therefore constructing a sentence can be a real minefield if you’re unsure whether the words that you want to use are masculine or feminine.
This becomes even more confusing with words that sound the same but change their meaning depending on their gender. The following is a list of useful everyday words that do just that, obviously those preceded by il are masculine and those with la are feminine. Eccoli (here they are):
il foglio = the sheet of paper – la foglia = the leaf (plant)
il filo = the thread/wire – la fila = the cue/row
il testo = the text – la testa = the head
il gambo = the (plant) stalk – la gamba = the leg
il posto = the place – la posta = the post (mail)
il fronte = the front – la fronte = the forehead
il collo = the neck – la colla = the glue
il tavolo = the table – la tavola = the plank/board
il porto = the port – la porta = the door
il cappello = the hat – la cappella = the chapel
il banco = the bench/stall – la banca = the bank
Another group of words that change meaning with gender are those pertaining to trees and fruit. Very often, but not always, the plant name is masculine and the fruit is feminine:
il melo = the apple tree – la mela = the apple
il pero = the pear tree – la pera = the pear
il pesco = the peach tree – la pesca = the peach
il ciliegio = the cherry tree – la ciliegia = the cherry
il castagno = the chestnut tree – la castagna = the chestnut
il noce = the walnut tree – la noce = the walnut – N.B. the spelling for these two is identical, only the article changes.
Ecco il vostro compito per casa per questo fine settimana, buona fortuna!
(That’s your homework for this weekend, good luck!)