Italian nouns are the variable parts of speech that denote living beings, things, events, actions, concepts, or feelings:
L'atleta ha ricevuto il premio dopo aver vinto la corsa.
The athlete received the award after winning the race.
Crede ciecamente nella libertà d'idee e di espressione.
He blindly believes in the freedom of ideas and expression.
Sono legati da una salda e sincera amicizia.
They are linked by a solid and sincere friendship.
According to its meaning a noun may be:
» concreto / astratto (concrete / abstract)
» comune / proprio (common / proper)
» individuale / collettivo (individual / collective)
According to its form a noun has a:
According to its form, a noun is classified as: primitivo / derivato / alterato (primitive / derivative / altered).
NOTE: Any part of speech can function as a noun when preceded by the definite or indefinite article and, of course, the prepositional articles (preposizioni articolate). In this case, the adjective, preposition, verb, conjunction, adverb (or another part of speech) are referred to as substantives:
E il bello [adjective] deve ancora venire!
And the best is yet to come!
Il di è una preposizione.
Di is a preposition.
Il bere [verb] eccessivo danneggia la salute.
Drinking to excess damages one's health.
Moltissimi sono i perché [conjunction] della vita.
Many are the reasons of life.
Non pensare al poi [adverb] e goditi questa giornata.
Do not think of the future and enjoy this day.
Classification of Nouns According to Meaning
According to its meaning a substantive or noun can be:
- concrete (concreto) when it refers to living beings or things belonging to the real world that we perceive with our senses:
- abstract (astratto) when it indicates feelings, concepts, qualities or anything that is not directly perceivable through the senses:
- common (comune), indicating living beings or things belonging to the same category, class, or species and considered in a general sense:
- proper (proprio) when it indicates living beings or things, but distinguishes them from others of the same category, class, or species; it is always written with a capital letter:
NOTE: In addition to proper names, the following Italian nouns are always written with a capital letter:
Federico I detto il Barbarossa
Michelangelo Merisi detto il Caravaggio
Alberto Moravia (Alberto Pincherle)
Pietro Metastasio (Pietro Trapassi)
» personified things
La Luna allora le sorrise.
- individual (individuale) when it indicates one being or one thing:
- collective (collettivo) when it indicates, even though it is in the singular form, a set of living beings or things, whether they are a determinate or indeterminate number:
NOTE: While indicating a plurality of beings or things, a collective noun is always followed by a verb in the third person singular, but the use of the plural form of the verb is allowed when the collective noun is composed of known elements.
La flotta salpò all'alba.
The fleet set sail at dawn.
Il gregge pascolava tranquillamente.
The herd was grazing quietly.
La folla manifestò in piazza.
The crowd appeared in the square.
Una folla di tifosi invase (invasero) il campo.
A crowd of fans invaded the field.
Classification of Nouns According to Form
In Italian nouns can be masculine or feminine.
- There are masculine nouns referring people and animals that belong to this gender:
- There are feminine nouns referring people and animals that belong to this gender:
However, there are feminine gender nouns that designate males:
And there are masculine gender nouns that refer to females::il contralto
NOTE: In both cases, the adjective agrees with the noun to which it refers:
Carlo è una brava guida turistica.
Lorena è un bravo mezzosoprano.
Inanimate beings can be either masculine or feminine and there is no rule to determine the grammatical gender. There are, however, certain rules concerning the ending and the meaning.
With regard to the ending:
- Almost all nouns that end in o, i, and a consonant are masculine, as well as some ending in e:
NOTE: Although rare, there are some female nouns that end in o and i (the latter of Greek origin), such as:
- Almost all nouns that end in a and u are feminine, as well as some ending in e:
NOTE: There are many masculine nouns ending in a and u:
WITH RESPECT TO MEANING
- Nouns indicating the following are masculine:
NOTE: Some, however, are feminine:
» months and days of the week:
il gelido gennaio
il prossimo lunedì
un venerdì sfortunato
NOTE: domenica is feminine: una tranquilla domenica
» mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans
NOTE: Some mountains and rivers, however, are feminine:
- Nouns indicating the following are feminine:
NOTE: The following are masculine, though:
» cities, islands, and continents
la Roma imperiale
la vecchia Europa
NOTE: Some cities and islands, however, are masculine:
Foreign nouns, when used in Italian, usually retain the same gender as in the language of origin. The neutral, absent in Italian but present, for example, in German, is generally treated as masculine:
la Bundesrepublik (German)
il corner (English)
la fondue (French)
la pelota (Spanish)
In cases where it is difficult to identify the gender of nouns, as can happen with less common languages—for example, Japanese, Russian, or Hungarian—it is best to rely on common sense.