Italian Language Blog

Maschile o Femminile Posted by on Jan 30, 2009 in Grammar

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!)

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  1. Irwin:

    Thank you! Very useful. I remain confused by mano and braccio/braccia. BTW, “come to grips” is preferred.

  2. Emma:

    this is the best website in the world

    • Serena:

      @Emma Grazie Emma, e benvenuta nel blog!
      Saluti da Serena

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