Italian Language Blog

Using The Indefinite Adjective Del Posted by on Mar 19, 2018 in Grammar

Last month I published an article called Qualche Problema in which we looked at the correct usage of the indefinite adjective qualche. Today we’re going to look at another way of saying some, any, or a bit of.

To express an indefinite quantity we commonly use the preposition di (of) combined with the definite articles il, lo, la, l’, i, gli, le, (the) to create the indefinite adjectives del, dello, della, dell’, dei, degli, delle.

Si è appena sciolta la neve e ci sono già dei crochi! The snow has just melted and there are already some crocuses! Photo by Geoff

Here’s how they are constructed:
di + il = del (masculine singular)
di + lo = dello (masculine singular before nouns beginning with x, zgn, ps, and s followed by another consonant)
di + la = della (feminine singular)
di + l’ = dell’ (masculine or feminine singular before a noun beginning with a vowel)
di + i = dei (masculine plural)
di + gli = degli (masculine plural before nouns beginning with a vowel, x, zgn, ps, and s followed by another consonant)
di + le = delle (feminine plural)

Now let’s take each of these in turn and look at some practical examples of how we use them:

di + il = del (masculine singular)
c’è del pane? = is there any bread?
ci serve del cemento = we need some cement
ci vorrà del tempo = it will take some time

di + lo = dello (masculine singular before nouns beginning with x, zgn, ps, and s followed by another consonant)
c’è dello zucchero? = is there any sugar?
ci serve dello stucco = we need some plaster

di + la = della (feminine singular)
c’è della birra? = is there any beer?
ci serve della legna per la stufa = we need some wood for the stove
volevo della stoffa più fina = I wanted some thinner fabric

di + l’ = dell’ (masculine or feminine singular before a noun beginning with a vowel)
c’è dell’aceto? = is there any vinegar?
ti serve dell’aiuto? = do you need some help?
devi aggiungere dell’acqua = you need to add a bit of water

di + i = dei (masculine plural)
ci sono dei chiodi? = are there any nails?
hai visto dei bei film recentemente? = have you seen any good films recently?
ho fatto dei biscotti = I’ve made some biscuits

di + gli = degli (masculine plural before nouns beginning with a vowel, x, zgn, ps, and s followed by another consonant)
ti serviranno degli scarponi robusti = you’ll need some strong hiking boots
degli alberi sono caduti a causa del forte vento = a few trees have fallen because of the strong wind

di + le = delle (feminine plural)
ho comprato delle arance = I’ve bought some oranges
c’erano delle api alla fontana = there were some bees at the fountain
ci sono delle belle ragazze qui stasera! = there are some pretty girls here this evening!

Note that the singular forms del, dello, della, dell’ are only used with ‘uncountable nouns’ (also known as ‘mass nouns’) such as zucchero (sugar), terra (earth), pioggia (rain), etc, and can be substituted with the expression un po’ di (literally: a bit of), e.g.:

vuoi del or un po’ di caffè? = would you like some/a bit of coffee?
posso avere dello or un po’ di zucchero? = can I have some/a bit of sugar?
mi serve della or un po’ di colla = I need some/a bit of glue
volevi dell’ or un po’ di acqua? = did you want any/a bit of water?

An important note about qualche or del?

As both qualche and del, dello, della etc. can mean some, or any, it may seem that they are interchangeable. This is not always the case however.
For example, we can say è caduto qualche albero (some trees have fallen) or sono caduti degli alberi (some trees have fallen). But if we wanted to say I’ve made some biscuits we’d use ho fatto dei biscotti and not ho fatto qualche biscotto. This is something that is difficult to grasp unless you’re hearing and using the language every day, but it can be useful to think of qualche as meaning a small quantity of or a few and then look at how you’d express yourself in English. Hence you’d probably say I’ve made some biscuits (ho fatto dei biscotti) rather than I’ve made a small quantity of biscuits (unless you really had only made 4 or 5!). You could, however, say vuoi portare qualche biscotto a casa? (would you like to take a few biscuits home?).

As usual, if there is anything that you don’t understand please leave a comment.

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  1. Carol:

    You say “Ho comprate delle arance”. Is this a typo or yet another rule I’ve missed? I love your Blog, and feel I know Geoff and Serena!

    • Geoff:

      @Carol Typo! Thanks for spotting it … now corrected to ho comprato delle arance.

      A presto, Geoff 🙂

      • Dmitry:

        @Geoff However, “Le ho comprate”, right?

        • Geoff:

          @Dmitry Ciao Dmitry, “le ho comprate” is grammatically correct, although it’s not the topic of this blog.
          I’ll cover this in a future article, va bene?

          Geoff 🙂

  2. Philippa Davern:

    Anche io sono molto contenti ricevere la vostra communicazioni. Tanti saluti!

  3. Joseph T. Madawela:

    thanks a lot!

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