Italian adjectives: gender and number

Summary

Dive into the colorful world of Italian adjectives! This guide will teach you how to match adjectives with nouns, understand gender rules, and spot common endings. Get ready to spice up your Italian with descriptors that’ll make locals think you’re one of them! 🇮🇹✨

  • Gender & Number Agreement: Italian adjectives change their endings based on the gender and number of the nouns they describe. Masculine singular ends in -o, feminine singular in -a, and both genders in plural form end in -i or -e. Get this right, and you’ll sound super Italian!
  • Color Your Language: Use adjectives like rosso (red) or giallo (yellow) to paint vivid pictures in your conversations. Remember, these bad boys need to agree with the noun’s gender and number. Don’t mess this up, or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb!
  • Size Matters: Whether it’s grande (big) or piccolo (small), size-related adjectives are a simple way to add detail. Just keep an eye on those endings – they’ll tell you if you’re talking about a single item or a bunch of them.
  • Personality Shines: Describe people with flair using adjectives like simpatico (nice) or antipatico (unpleasant). But here’s the kicker: make sure you’re matching the adjective to the person’s gender, or you’ll be the one looking antipatico!
  • Weather Talk: Chat about the weather like a pro with words like caldo (hot) or freddo (cold). Italians love talking about the weather, so this is your chance to shine. Just remember those pesky endings!
  • Foodie Descriptors: Impress your Italian friends by describing food with adjectives like dolce (sweet) or amaro (bitter). Watch their mouths water (or pucker) as you nail the description with the perfect gender and number agreement.
  • Adjectives Ending in -e: Some adjectives are chill and don’t change based on gender, like interessante (interesting). They only change with number, so they’re a bit easier to handle. Use them when you can to give yourself a break!
  • Gender-Inclusive Language: Italian can be a bit old-school with gender, but you can mix it up by using both masculine and feminine forms when addressing a group. Say Benvenuti e benvenute to include everyone and spread the love!

My thoughts

What is an adjective?

An adjective might refer to different categories which you’ll find below together with some examples.

Usually, when you look up an adjective in a dictionary, you’ll first find its singular masculine version which ends either in -o or in -e.

On this list, you’ll only find the singular masculine versions of the adjectives.

We’ll explain later how to turn them feminine and plural.

  • Age: giovane, vecchio
  • Color: rosso, giallo, blu, verde
  • Origin: italiano, congolese, argentino, iraniano
  • Personality: antipatico, gentile, intelligente, simpatico
  • Physical appearance: alto, basso, bello, carino
  • Shape: rotondo, quadrato, triangolare
  • Size: grande, piccolo, gigante, minuscolo
  • Sound: acuto, alto, basso, grave
  • Taste: acido, amaro, buono, delizioso
  • Texture: morbido, rigido, soffice, duro
  • Weather: caldo, freddo, grigio, nuvoloso

Types of adjectives

In Italian, adjectives usually agree in gender and number with the noun. This is reflected in their endings. This means they might end in –a, –e, –o, or –i, depending on the noun.

Have a look at the following sentence and try to spot the adjectives and their endings:

Le ragazze sono simpatiche ma i ragazzi sono un po’ strani. Luca però è carino. Anna invece è timida.

The girls are fun but the boys are a bit strange. Luca is nice. Anna, on the other side, is shy.

Some other adjectives don’t have a gender, which means they don’t agree in gender with the noun. These adjectives end in e in the singular and in -i in the plural.

Here are some examples: interessante (interesting), grande (big), and gentile (nice).

Adjectives ending in -a and -o

As we already mentioned, the most common adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun.

Here’s a concise explanation of adjective endings depending on the noun they refer to:

  • -a if they refer to singular feminine nouns
  • -e if they refer to plural feminine nouns
  • -o if they refer to singular masculine nouns
  • -i if they refer to plural masculine nouns

Here are some examples for each ending:

Quella ragazza è simpatica.

That girl is nice.

Le sue bambine sono tranquille.

Her girls are quiet. 

Il mare è profondo.

The sea is deep. 

I suoi film sono stupendi.

Her movies are wonderful.

Gender-exclusive language

Italian can be gender-exclusive in some cases when it comes to adjectives. For instance, if you’re talking to 99 women and 1 man, you have to use the masculine.

In this case, you would say “Benvenuti!” (“Welcome!”).

However, you can always opt to make it more gender-inclusive by saying “Benvenuti e benvenute!”. This, of course, doesn’t include every single gender but it’s definitely more inclusive.

When an adjective refers to two nouns of different gender, it keeps its masculine ending. For example, “i ragazzi e le ragazze italiani” translates as “Italian boys and girls”.

Again, you have the option to make it more gender-inclusive and say “i ragazzi italiani e le ragazze italiane” (“Italian boys and Italian girls”).

You could also try to find ways to avoid making distinctions and find alternatives. This way, you would make the language less gender-exclusive, and relatively linguistically fairer.

Adjectives ending in -e

Some adjectives don’t make a distinction between feminine and masculine. These end in -e in the singular and in -i in the plural.

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Here are some common ones in the singular:

  • Affascinante: fascinating
  • Disponibile: available
  • Elegante: elegant
  • Felice: happy
  • Gentile: nice
  • Grande: big
  • Importante: important
  • Intelligente: intelligent
  • Interessante: interesting
  • Particolare: particular
  • Semplice: simple
  • Triste: sad

Adjectives: common endings

There are also longer endings in Italian that are very common. They’ll help you recognize adjectives and use them correctly.

Here’s a list of common endings with some examples:

  • abile: indimenticabile (unforgettable)
  • ibile: incredibile (indredible)
  • evole: piacevole (pleasant)
  • oso: famoso (famous)
  • istico: artistico (artistic)
  • ale: formale (formal)
  • ico: simpatico (nice, as in fun)
  • are: solare (cheerful)
  • esco: pazzesco (crazy)

Practice with Quizlet

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

Adjectives: examples

Now, you are an expert in Italian adjectives! You know all the theory. You just need some practice so here are some examples. Make sure you pay attention to their endings.

Mi piacciono i fiori gialli.

I like yellow flowers.

Quella casa è enorme.

That house is huge.

Quello specchio è rotondo.

That mirror is round

Hai le mani troppo morbide!

You have such soft hands!

Tua nonna sembra molto giovane.

Your grandmother looks very young.

Loro sono tedesche.

They are German.

Questo cioccolato è troppo dolce.

This chocolate is too sweet.

La musica è troppo alta.

The music is too high.

Il cielo è un po’ nuvoloso.

The sky is a bit cloudy.

Laura è molto interessante.

Laura is very interesting.

Giacomo e Maurizio sono bassi.

Giacomo and Maurizio are short.

If you want to read more about Italian vocabulary, make sure you read the article about the 1000 most common words in Italian, if you haven’t done so yet!

What are the 4 possible endings for adjectives in Italian?

Italian adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they describe. This is indicated by the ending of the adjective, which can be -o, -a, -i, or -e.

Where do you put adjectives in Italian?

In Italian, the majority of adjectives are placed after the noun they are describing.

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Do you feel like going for a walk?
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