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Omitting the Italian Article

Omissione dell'Articolo

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In addition to geographical nouns, proper nouns, and possessive adjectives, the Italian article is also omitted in other cases. Mostly these are particular kinds of expressions, and are numerous and varied.

The article is omitted, for example:

  • in the majority of adverbial phrases (locuzioni avverbiali): in fondo (after all), di proposito (on purpose), a zonzo (to wander)
  • in expressions that act as qualifying adverbs (avverbi qualificativi): con audacia (boldly), intelligenza (with intelligence), con serenità (with serenity)
  • with certain prepositional phrases of place (complementi di luogo): tornare a casa (go home), abitare in campagna (live in the country), recarsi in chiesa (go to church)
  • before nouns that form, with a verb, a single predicate phrase: aver(e) fame (to feel hungry), sentire freddo (to feel cold), prendere congedo; (to take leave)
  • in phrases in which a noun complements or supplements the meaning of another noun: carte del gioco (playing cards), sala da pranzo (dining room), abito da sera (evening dress), as well as predicate complements (complementi predicativi): comportarsi da galantuomo (to behave like a gentleman), parlare da esperto (to speak as an expert), fare da padre (to act as a father)
  • in some figurative or modal expressions: in pigiama (in pajamas), in bicicletta (on bicycle), senza cappotto (without a coat)
  • in proverbial phrases: buon vino fa buon sangue (good wine makes good health), cane che abbaia non morde (a barking dog does not bite)
  • in the titles of books or chapters: Grammatica italiana (Italian Grammar), Canto quinto (Fifth Canto), and also with signs Entrate (Entrance), Uscita (Exit), Partenze (Departures), Merceria (Goods), Ristorante (Restaurant), Giornali (Newspapers), etc.
  • in some expressions consisting of verb + preposition + noun: parlare di sport (to talk about sports), giocare a scacchi (or agli scacchi) (to play chess), scambiare qualcuno per ladro (to mistake someone for a thief)
  • in the expressions parlare italiano, parlare inglese (Italian spoken here, English spoken here) and similar; the indefinite article, however, is not omitted: si esprime in un perfetto inglese (it is expressed in perfect English)
  • for the sake of brevity, in telegrams and advertising in newspapers: partecipiamo vostra gioia (we share in your joy), vendo appartamento zona centrale (apartment for sale in central zone)
  • with the preposition senza (without) the indefinite article may or may not be stated: girare senza (una) meta (to wander aimlessly), offendersi senza (un) motivo apparente (to take offense without (an) apparent reason), but essere senza un soldo (to be penniless)

Preceded by a Possessive Adjective
The article is omitted before the names of relatives preceded by a possessive adjective (aggettivo possessivo) with the exception of loro:

mio padre, tua madre, suo fratello, nostra zia, vostro nipote (but il loro padre, la loro madre, etc.) my father, your mother, your brother, our aunt, your niece (but their father, their mother, etc.)

However, there are some names of relatives that do take the article, such as nonno (grandfather) and nonna (grandmother); the article is also used when the names of kinship are in the plural (le mie sorelle—my sisters), are accompanied by an attribute (la mia cara moglie—my dear wife), or are followed by the possessive (lo zio suo—his uncle). Diminutive forms also take the article: (la nostra sorellina—our little sister, la mia zietta—my auntie) as do terms of endearment (il tuo papà—your dad, (la sua mamma—your mommy), (il vostro figliolo—your son).

Some honorific titles do not take the article when preceded by sua or vostro (-a):

Sua Eccellenza, Sua Maestà, Sua Santità, Vostro Onore, Vostra Altezza, Vostra Signoria
His Excellency, His Majesty, His Holiness, Your Honor, Your Highness, Your Lordship.

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