Indefinite Articles: Italian Grammar Lesson

Lesson 6

Key Takeaways

Readers will learn how to use Italian indefinite articles, which vary based on gender, number, and the initial letter of the noun.

  • Indefinite articles in Italian indicate general nouns or concepts, similar to “a”/”an” in English.
  • They change based on the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the noun.
  • Use uno for singular masculine nouns starting with z, gn, ps, or s+consonant, and un for other masculine nouns.
  • For singular feminine nouns, use una if they start with a consonant and un’ if they start with a vowel.
  • Indefinite articles are used to introduce new topics, general nouns, groups, and professions with the verb essere.
  • Remember: un’ is used exclusively with feminine words.

Quick facts

How do Italian indefinite articles indicate specificity in nouns?

They convey definiteness or indefiniteness, showing the noun's specificity.

What determines the form of Italian indefinite articles?

They change based on the noun's gender, number, and sometimes the initial letter.

When is "uno" used in Italian?

"Uno" is used for masculine singular nouns starting with z, gn, ps, or s+consonant.

How does "un" differ from "uno" in usage?

"Un" is used for masculine singular nouns beginning with vowels or other consonants.

When do you use "una" for feminine nouns?

"Una" is used for singular feminine nouns beginning with a consonant.

What is unique about "un’" in Italian indefinite articles?

"Un’" is exclusively for singular feminine nouns beginning with a vowel.

Can you give examples of "uno" in use?

Examples include "uno zaino" (a backpack) and "uno studente" (a student).

How do you introduce a new topic with indefinite articles?

Use them to introduce general or non-specific nouns, like in "Maria ha un gatto" (Maria has a cat).

When should indefinite articles be used with professions?

Use them with the verb "essere," such as in "Lei è una professoressa" (She is a professor).

What common mistake should be avoided with "un’"?

Remember "un’" is only for feminine words; many, including natives, mistake this.

Audio images

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Un albero può crescere alto.
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È un albero.
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Vocab

libro
penna
amico
scuola
professore
studente
macchina
chiave
telefono
bambino
giornale
tavolo
sedia
pizza
ospedale
medico
albero
porta
fiore
camicia

Sentences

Un amico mi ha aiutato.

A friend helped me.

Ho comprato una macchina.

I bought a car.

Hai visto un film interessante?.

Did you see an interesting movie?

Voglio mangiare una pizza.

I want to eat a pizza.

C'è un problema.

There is a problem.

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: indefinite articles, which I will discuss here, and definite articles.

🔊
Un albero può crescere alto.

Indefinite Articles in Italian

Indefinite articles (articoli indeterminativi) introduce general nouns or concepts. They are the generic counterpart of definite articles and can be translated into English with “a”/”an”.

Just like definite articles, 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.

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

  • Uno (used just for singular masculine nouns beginning with z, gn, ps, or s+consonant): uno zaino (a backpack).
  • Un (used for all other singular masculine nouns beginning with a vowel, and with the other consonants): un amico (a friend)

For singular and feminine nouns and adjectives we use:

  • Una(used for all singular feminine nouns beginning with a consonant): una matita(a pencil)
  • Un’ (used for all singular feminine nouns beginning with a vowel): un’amica (a female friend)
Masculine Feminine
Singular Uno studente (student), uno specchio (mirror), uno zaino (backpack), uno psicologo (psychologist) Una borsa (bag), una casa (house), una studentessa (student), una psicologa (psychologist)
Un cameriere (waiter), un sole (sun), un libro (book) Un’ amore (love), un’ attrice (actress), un’ elettricità (electricity)
Un amore (love), un insegnante (teacher), un uomo (man)
Plural Dei camerieri (waiters), dei libri (books) Delle borse (bags), delle case (houses), delle studentesse (students)
Degli insegnanti (teachers), degli uomini (men), degli studenti (students), degli zaini (backpacks)
🔊
È un albero.

When to use Indefinite Articles?

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

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

Let’s take a look at when to use indefinite articles and some examples.

  • To introduce a new topic not previously mentioned:

Maria ha un gatto.
Il suo gatto è bellissimo!

Maria has a cat.
Her cat is beautiful!

  • To introduce general or non-specific nouns:

Vuoi una fetta di torta?

Would you like a slice of cake?

  • To refer to groups, categories, or species:

Un leone mangia circa 14 chili di carne al giorno.

A lion eats about 14 kilos of meat per day.

  •  To talk about professions with the verb essere:

Lei è una professoressa.

She is a professor.

Notice that if you use the verb fare to talk about professions, you must use a definite article.

Lei fa la professoressa.

🔊

Practice with Quizlet

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

Important to Remember!

Indefinite articles in Italian are used to generalize about items, people, and topics and are similar to the English “a” and “an”. However, while English indefinite articles vary only depending on the noun spellings, Italian indefinite articles change depending on noun gender and number as well.

Something many people often get mistaken – Italian native speakers included – is the use of un’. Remember this claim and try not to make this mistake: un’ is used with feminine words only!

Now you have read everything you need to know about Italian indefinite articles. The next step is to practice!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

FAQs

What are indefinite articles in Italian?

They refer to nouns more generally than definite articles and introduce a non-specific noun or concept. Are the respective a and an in English.

How to use indefinite articles?

They can only be used in singular form and follow both the gender of the noun and its first letters.

When to use indefinite articles?

For referring to something for the first time, for introducing general or non-specific nouns, and for referring to to groups, categories, or species.

How to conjugate singular and masculine indefinite articles?

By using "uno" with nouns beginning with z, gn, ps, or s+consonant and "un" with nouns beginning with a vowel, and with a consonant not included in uno's list.

How to conjugate singular and feminine indefinite articles?

By using "una" with nouns beginning with a consonant and "un'" with nouns beginning with a vowel.

Italian word of the day
aziende
Example
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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