Gender of nouns and adjectives: Italian grammar lesson 3

Stefano

Italian language tutor, course author. MEng, MBA. Member of the International Association of Hyperpolyglots (HYPIA). After learning 12 languages, I can tell you that we all master languages by listening and mimicking. I couldn't find an app to recommend to my students, so I made my own one. With my method, you'll be speaking Italian from Lesson 1.

Summary

Dive into the charming world of Italian nouns and adjectives! Discover how to effortlessly navigate through masculine and feminine forms, and master the art of making your Italian sound as authentic as a native speaker’s.

  • Endings Matter: Get the hang of Italian nouns by their endings – ‘-o’ usually screams masculine, while ‘-a’ is a feminine flag. But watch out for those sneaky exceptions!
  • Dictionary is Your Bestie: Stumped by nouns ending in ‘-e’? Whip out that dictionary! It’s your trusty sidekick in figuring out if you’re dealing with a dude or a dudette noun.
  • Plurals Aren’t Rocket Science: Just remember, ‘-i’ for the guys and either ‘-e’ or ‘-i’ for the gals when you’re multiplying your nouns.
  • Adjective Agreement: Adjectives gotta match the noun’s vibe. Masculine noun? Slap an ‘-o’ on that adjective. Feminine? Go with ‘-a’. Both? ‘-e’ is your peacekeeper.
  • People and Pets: When it comes to living things, switch up the ending to match the gender. ‘Gatto’ for tomcats, ‘gatta’ for the queens, and so on. Keep it consistent!
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Italian grammar genders: masculine and feminine

Nouns are the words used for people, animals, things, and places.

In Italian grammar, all nouns are classified according to their grammatical gender, and there are only 2 grammatical genders: masculine and feminine (maschile e femminile).

There is no neutral gender. In addition, most masculine and feminine nouns can be singular or plural.

The gender of Italian nouns can often be established by looking at the word ending, but there are many exceptions.

The general rule is that nouns ending in “-o” are masculine, and nouns ending in “-a” are feminine.

Nouns ending in “-e” can be either masculine or feminine. The only way to know the gender of the noun is to look them up in a dictionary or look at other elements of the sentence, for example, articles and adjectives.

Masculine and feminine nouns: rules

Nouns ending with “-o”:

  • Most nouns ending with “-o” are masculine
  • The plural form of masculine nouns ending with “-o” is “-i”

Example: libro (=book)

Masculine
Singular libro
Plural libri

Exceptions: some very common nouns ending with “-o” are feminine! For example, la mano (= the hand), l’auto (=the car), and la moto (the motorbike).

Nouns ending with “-a”:

  • Most nouns ending with “-a” are feminine
  • The plural form of masculine nouns ending with “-a” is “-e”

Example: tazza (=mug)

Feminine
Singular tazza
Plural tazze

Exceptions: some very common nouns ending with “-a” are masculine! For example, il papà (= the dad), l’aroma (=the odor), il parabrezza (the windshield).

Nouns ending with “-e”:

  • They can be either masculine or feminine
  • To know the gender of these nouns, you can use the dictionary or check other elements of the sentence (like articles or adjectives)
  • The plural form of ALL nouns ending with “-e” is “-i”

Example: fiore (=flower), masculine:

Masculine
Singular Fiore
Plural Fiori

Example: television (=television), feminine:

Feminine
Singular televisione
Plural televisioni

Nouns that have both masculine and feminine forms:

  • Many nouns that refer to people (or even pets) can be both masculine or feminine, according to the actual gender of the person they refer to
  • They change the ending vowel according to their gender

Example: gatto/gatta (=cat)

Masculine Feminine
Singular gatto gatta
Plural gatti gatte

Example: cameriere/cameriera (=waiter/waitress)

Masculine Feminine
Singular cameriere cameriera
Plural camerieri cameriere

Masculine and feminine nouns: How to use them with adjectives

In Italian, adjectives are usually placed after the noun they refer to. Adjectives can end in “-o”, “-a”, or “-e”.

Adjectives ending with “-o”:

  • They are used with masculine nouns
  • The plural form of adjectives ending with “-o” is “-i”

Adjectives ending with “-a”:

  • They are used with feminine nouns
  • The plural form of adjectives ending with “-a” is “-e”

Example: carino (=cute) with gatto/gatta (=cat, masculine and feminine)

Masculine Feminine
Singular gatto carino gatta carina
Plural gatti carini gatte carine

Adjectives ending with “-e”:

  • They are used with both masculine and feminine nouns
  • The plural form of adjectives ending with “-e” is “-i”

Example: interessante (=interesting) with libro (=book, masculine) and tazza (=mug, feminine)

Masculine Feminine
Singular libro interessante tazza interessante
Plural libri interessanti tazze interessanti

Practice with Quizlet

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

Gender of nouns and adjectives: what to remember

Nouns, which are words used for people, animals, things, and places, are classified according to their grammatical gender.

In Italian, there are only two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine (maschile e femminile).

Unfortunately, there is no neutral gender.

Most masculine and feminine nouns can be singular or plural.

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To determine the gender of a noun, look at the word ending.

Generally, nouns ending in “-o” are masculine, and nouns ending in “-a” are feminine. However, there are some exceptions.

Nouns ending in “-e” can be either masculine or feminine, and the only way to know its gender is to look it up in a dictionary or look at other elements of the sentence, such as articles and adjectives.

When it comes to adjectives, they usually follow the noun they refer to.

Adjectives ending in “-o” are used with masculine nouns, “-a” are used with feminine nouns, and “-e” with both masculine and feminine nouns.

The plural form of adjectives ending in “-o” and “-e” is “-i”, and the plural form of adjectives ending in “-a” is “-e”.

Some nouns that refer to people, or even pets, can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the gender of the person they refer to. In this case, the ending vowel changes according to gender.

We hope this information helps you understand the Italian grammar genders better!

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FAQs on Gender of nouns and adjectives: Italian grammar lesson 3

Does Italian have a neutral gender?

Italian doesn't have a neutral gender. There are only two genders: masculine and feminine.

How do you know if an Italian word is masculine or feminine?

Most nouns ending in "-o" are masculine and most of those ending in "-a" are feminine. But there are exceptions to this rule. A good rule of thumb to determine the gender of a noun would be to look at other elements of the sentences, like adjectives and articles.

How to conjugate adjectives in Italian?

Italian adjectives can end in "-o", "a-", and "-e". Their plural forms are, respectively, ending in "-i", "-e", and "-i".

Italian word of the day
contento
Example
Finalmente abbiamo finito! Sono proprio contento.
Finally we’re done! I’m really glad.
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10 Responses

    1. Ciao Mark!

      Siamo molto contenti che il corso ti stia piacendo 🙂

      Non ti preoccupare se non hai abilitato la tastiera in italiano.

  1. I’m confused: Is this correct: “Nouns ending with “-a”:
    Most nouns ending with “-a” are feminine
    The plural form of masculine nouns ending with “-a” is “-e” ”

    I thought it was il problema > i problemi

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