Definite Articles in Italian: A Comprehensive Guide [Grammar Lesson 5]

Key Takeaways

Master the secrets of Italian with our guide on definite articles! Learn how to use these tiny but mighty grammar tools to specify nouns, master gender and number agreement, and sound like a native when talking about anything from cats to countries. ✨

  • What are definite articles? Learn how definite articles in Italian convey specificity and agree with the gender and number of the noun.
  • Masculine and feminine forms: Understand the different forms of definite articles for masculine and feminine nouns in both singular and plural.
  • Contextual usage: Explore the various contexts where definite articles are used, such as referring to specific objects, parts of the body, or geographical locations.
  • Practical examples: See practical examples of definite articles in action, helping you grasp their usage with real-life sentences.
  • Geographical references: Know how to use definite articles when referring to continents, countries, regions, islands, rivers, and mountains.
  • Learning tips: Find out how mastering definite articles can significantly improve your understanding of Italian nouns, adjectives, and prepositions.

Quick facts

How many forms of definite articles exist in Italian?

Italian has 7 definite articles: Lo, il, la, l', gli, i, and le, each used based on gender, number, and initial letters of the noun.

When is "Lo" used for masculine nouns?

"Lo" is used for singular masculine nouns starting with z, gn, or s+consonant, such as "lo studente" or "lo specchio."

What definite article is used before singular feminine nouns starting with a consonant?

"La" is used for all singular feminine nouns beginning with a consonant, like "la casa" or "la borsa."

Which article is used for plural masculine nouns starting with z, gn, or s+consonant?

"Gli" is used for plural masculine nouns starting with z, gn, or s+consonant, such as "gli studenti" or "gli zaini."

How do you refer to a specific object or person in Italian?

Use definite articles to indicate a specific object or person, like "il gatto di Maria" (Maria's cat) or "il passaporto" (the passport).

How are definite articles used for body parts?

Definite articles precede body parts, as in "mi fa male la testa" (my head hurts) or "Luca si è rotto il braccio" (Luca broke his arm).

When are definite articles used to indicate categories or species?

Use definite articles to indicate categories or species in a generic sense, like "mi piacciono i gatti" (I like cats) or "il cane è il miglior amico dell'uomo" (the dog is man's best friend).

Are definite articles used with language names?

Yes, except after "parlare" or "studiare." For example, "L'italiano è una lingua musicale" (Italian is a musical language) versus "Parlo italiano" (I speak Italian).

How are definite articles used with geographical names?

Definite articles precede geographical names, such as continents (l'America), countries (l'Italia), regions (la Toscana), and rivers (il Tevere).

What makes learning Italian definite articles simpler over time?

Understanding the structure and usage patterns of definite articles makes them easier to remember and helps determine the grammatical gender of nouns.

My Thoughts

Articles in Italian

Articles in linguistics are grammatical items that indicate definiteness or indefiniteness and are, therefore, used to convey a degree of specificity about nouns.

Italian articles agree in gender and number with the nouns they refer to and can be divided into two main groups: definite articles, which I will discuss here, and indefinite articles.

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L’Europa è un continente vasto.

Definite Articles in Italian

7 Ways to say “the” in Italian

Definite articles (articoli determinativi) introduce a specific noun or a known concept, something that was previously mentioned. They change depending on the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the noun, and sometimes also depending on its first letter.

Basically, wherever you would use “the” in English, you have a specific Italian counterpart, which depends on the noun it accompanies. Sounds hard, but it’s just a matter of practice, I promise!

Here is an overview of how these articles are used in Italian:

  • Masculine articles
    • Il (used before most singular masculine nouns starting with a consonant): il libro (the book)
    • Lo (used before singular masculine nouns starting with s + consonant, z, ps, gn, x, y): lo zaino (the backpack)
    • L’ (used before singular masculine nouns starting with a vowel): l’amico (the friend)
    • I (used before most plural masculine nouns starting with a consonant): i libri (the books)
    • Gli (used before plural masculine nouns starting with a vowel or the same consonants as “lo”): gli amici (the friends), gli zaini (the backpacks)
  • Feminine articles
    • La (used before most singular feminine nouns starting with a consonant): la casa (the house)
    • L’(used before singular feminine nouns starting with a vowel): l’amica (the friend)
    • Le (used before all plural feminine nouns): le case (the houses), le amiche (the friends)
Masculine Feminine
Singular Lo studente (student)

specchio (mirror)

zaino (backpack)

psicologo (psychologist)

La borsa (bag)

casa (house)

studentessa (student)

psicologa (psicologyst)

Il cameriere (waiter)

sole (sun)

libro (book)

L’ amore (love)

insegnante (teacher)

uomo (man)

L’ attrice (actress)

elettricità (electricity)

Plural I camerieri (waiters)

libri (books)

Le borse (bags)

case (houses)

studentesse (students)

Gli insegnanti (teachers)

uomini (men)

studenti (students)

zaini (backpacks)

🔊
C'è il sole.

When to use Definite Articles?

Let me now show the contexts where you should use definite articles.

  • To indicate a particular or specific thing, person, or object:

Hai visto le chiavi di casa?

Have you seen the house keys?

Not all types of keys, but the house keys.

Mi hanno rubato il passaporto.

They stole my passport.

In Italian we do not even use the possessive adjective “my” because the definite article makes it obvious whose passport it is.

  • To indicate something that was mentioned previously:

(Maria ha un gatto) Il gatto è bellissimo!

(Maria has a cat) The cat is beautiful!

  • To talk about parts of the body:

Mi fa male la testa.

My head hurts.

Luca si è rotto il braccio.

Luca broke his arm.

Here, just like for the passport, it is obvious who these body parts belong to.

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

Mi piacciono i gatti.

I like cats.

Il cane è il miglior amico dell’uomo.

Dog is man’s best friend.

  • Before the name of a language, except when we use the verbs parlare (to speak) or studiare (to study).

In those cases, it’s up to you whether you want to use it or not.

L’italiano è una lingua molto musicale.

Italian is a very musical language.

Mi piace imparare l’italiano.

I like learning Italian.

  • To refer to geographical locations:
  1. Continents: l’America, l’Europa.
  2. Countries: l’Italia, la Spagna.
  3. Regions: la Toscana.
  4. Islands: la Sicilia, il Madagascar.
  5. Rivers: il Tevere.
  6. Mountains: il Monte Bianco.
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La ragazza ha visto il film.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Important to Remember!

It is crucial that you remember that Italian definite articles have different forms depending on the gender and the number of the noun. Learning this will extremely help you when you will start studying Italian nouns, adjectives, and prepositions.

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

It may seem a bit complicated to learn at first, but once you understand the structure, it’s quite simple to get used to. There you have it! Now you know all about definite articles in Italian.

If you want to learn Italian by listening to Italian everyday phrases for 20 min a day, try out Ripeti Con Me.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

FAQs

How do articles work in Italy?

Definite articles "il" (singular) and "i" (plural) are used for masculine nouns starting with a consonant. Feminine nouns (without regard to the initial letters) are denoted by "la" (singular) and "le" (plural).

How do you identify articles in Italian?

The initial letter of a word affects the choice of the definite article that should be used.

What are the 7 definite articles in Italian?

There are 7 distinct Italian definite articles: Lo, il, la, l', gli, i, and le. In English, “the” has only one form, but in Italian there are seven.

Italian word of the day
capivo
Example
Non capivo più niente dal sonno.
I was so tired that I couldn’t think.
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