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Italian Definite Articles

Articoli Determinativi in Italiano

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In Italian the definite article (articolo determinativo) is placed before the noun to indicate a precise, quantifiable object or person. In English, the definite articles correspond to the term "the."

  • il and i are used before masculine nouns that start with a consonant, except in cases where lo and gli are used:

il nome—i nome
noun—nouns

il cognome—i cognomi
surname—surnames

  • lo and gli preface masculine nouns that start with:

» a vowel, in which case lo is apostrophized:

l'orologio—gli orologi
watch—watches

l'amico—gli amici
friend—friends

» a semivowel:

lo yoga
yoga

lo yogurt
yogurt

» s impura (s followed by a consonant):

lo sciame—gli sciami
swarm swarms

lo specchio—gli specchi
mirror—mirrors

lo stadio—gli stadi
stadium—stadiums

» gn, pn, ps, x, and z

lo gnocco—gli gnocchi
gnoccho—gnocchi

lo pneumatico—gli pneumatici
pneumatic tire—pneumatic tires

lo psicologo—gli psicologi
psychologist—psychologists

lo xenofobo—gli xenofobi
xenophobe—xenophobes

lo zero—gli zeri
zero—zeros

NOTE: In contemporary colloquial Italian, masculine words beginning with gn, pn, and ps are sometimes proceeded with the definite article forms il and i (that usage, though, is not recommended):

il gnocco—i gnocchi
gnoccho—gnocchi

il pneumatico—i pneumatici
pneumatic tire—pneumatic tires

il psicologo—i psicologi
psychologist—psychologists

NOTE: there are a few exceptions:

»  certain nouns:

il dio—gli dèi
god—gods

»  certain expressions:

per lo meno
at least

per lo p
mostly

  • la and le preface feminine nouns:

la stazione—le stazioni
train station—train stations

la zia—le zie
aunt—aunts

» the article la is always apostrophized before a vowel:

l'amica
her friend

l'automobile
the car

NOTE: Before a semivowel the feminine definite article remains unchanged:

la ionosfera
ionosphere

la yucca
yucca

Usage of the Italian Definite Article
In Italian the definite article is used in a variety of instances.

  • To indicate a category or a species in a generic sense:

Il cane è il miglior amico dell'uomo (tutti i cani).
Dog is man's best friend (all dogs).

  • To indicate a particular thing or an object:

Hai visto il film? (quel film)
Have you seen the movie? (that movie)

  • To indicate an action that takes place at regular intervals:

Il lunedì vado al cinema (ogni lunedì).
On Monday I go to the movies. (Every Monday)

  • Preceding possessive pronouns:

L'auto di Carlo è nuova, la mia no.
Charles's car is new, but mine isn't.

  • With the last names of famous female celebrities:

la Garbo
la Loren

  • With all surnames in the plural:

i Verri
gli Strozzi

  • With nicknames and pseudonyms:

il Barbarossa
il Griso
il Canaletto
il Caravaggio

  • With geographical designations such as:

continents: l'Europa
countries: l'Italia
regions: la Toscana
large islands: la Sicilia
oceans: il Mediterraneo
lakes: il Garda
rivers: il Po
mountains: il Cervino (the Matterhorn)

Italian definite articles are not used in the following instances.

  • With proper names used without any specification:

Mario but: il signor Mario

  • With the last names of famous or well-known male characters, if not preceded by an adjective or title:

Mozart but: il grande Mozart

NOTE: There are instances in which the definite article is used, especially when referring to Italian writers:

il Petrarca
il Manzoni

  • With the names of relatives in the singular preceded by the possessive adjectives mio, tuo, suo, nostro, or vostro:

mio padre
my father

vostra madre
your mother

NOTE: The terms babbo e mamma require the definite article:

il mio babbo
my dad

la mia mamma
my mom

  • With the names of cities and towns, provided there are no attributes:

Roma
but: la Roma imperiale

Assisi
but: l'artistica Assisi

NOTE: Not suprisingly, there are exceptions:

L'Aia
L'Aquila
Il Cairo
La Mecca
La Spezia

  • With the names of small islands:

Capri
Ischia

NOTE: There are many small islands that are the exception to the rule:

l'Asinara
la Capraia
l'Elba
la Gorgona
La Maddalena

  • Shop signs and directions in general:

Incrocio
Intersection

Macelleria
Butcher

Ospedale
Hospital

Ho bevuto latte stamattina.
I drank (some) milk this morning.

  • To give more punch to an action:

Ha studiato giorno e notte.
He studied night and day.

ARTICOLO DETERMINATIVO

SINGOLAREPLURALE
MASCHILEili
lo (l')gli
FEMMINILEla (l')le
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