Introduction to Italian/Lesson 4

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In Italian, as in most languages, there are two genders: masculine and feminine.

Singulars[edit | edit source]

Every singular noun ends in -a, -o, or -e; with very few exceptions, the nouns that end in -o are masculine and the nouns that end in -a are feminine (-e is generally masculine but not always). A few examples:
tavolo (table, masculine), sedia (chair, feminine), figlio (son, masculine), figlia (daughter, feminine), dottore (male doctor, masculine), calcolatrice (calculator, feminine)

Plurals[edit | edit source]

With very few exceptions, when a noun ending in -o or -e is pluralized the -o or -e is changed to an -i (tavolo changes to tavoli) and when a noun ending in -a is pluralized the -a is changed to an -e (sedia changes to sedie).

The Indefinite Articles[edit | edit source]

In English, the indefinite articles are a before a consonant and an before a vowel. In Italian the indefinite article agrees with gender and quantity. This chart should explain:

Una piazza (a plaza/square) in Siracusa, Italia (Syracuse, Italy).
Masculine Feminine
un una
(Before st, sp, or z)
uno una
dei delle
(Before st, sp,
z, or a vowel)
degli delle

Note: Technically, dei, delle, and degli all translate to of the. However, in Italian they are used to mean ‘‘some’’. ‘‘Some’’ can also be used with certain singular nouns: ‘‘del pane’’ (‘‘some bread’’), ‘‘del latte’’ (‘‘some milk’’), etc.

Get Used to Indefinite Articles[edit | edit source]

Whenever you learn a new noun and are practicing saying it, always say it with the indefinite article. It really does help. For example, take the word mela, which means apple and is, of course, feminine. It should be natural to you to say ‘‘una mela’’.

The Definite Articles[edit | edit source]

In English, the definite article is the. One of the few ways in which English is easier to learn than other languages is that we have only one definite article. However, in Italian there are as many definite articles as indefinite, and once again they are used according to gender and quantity. Let's recycle the other chart:

The canal grande in Venezia, Italia (Venice, Italy).
Milano, Italia (Milan, Italy) circa 1870.
Masculine Feminine
il la
(Before st, sp, or z)
lo la
i le
(Before st, sp,
z, or a vowel)
gli le

Numbers[edit | edit source]

Let's just do up to one hundred for now:
0 - zero
1 - uno
2 - due
3 - tre
4 - quattro
5 - cinque
6 - sei
7 - sette
8 - otto
9 - nove
10 - dieci
11 - undici
12 - dodici
13 - tredici
14 - quattordici
15 - quindici
16 - sedici
17 - diciasette
18 - diciotto
19 - dicianove
20 - venti (yes, like the coffee size)
21 - ventuno
22 - ventidue
23 - ventitre
24 - ventiquattro
25 - venticinque
26 - ventisei
27 - ventisette
28 - ventotto
29 - ventinove
30 - trenta

Every other number up to one hundred follows the same pattern as the 20’s: ‘‘venti’’+’’uno’’ = ‘‘ventuno’’, ‘‘venti’’+’’due’’ = ‘‘ventidue’’, ‘‘venti’’+’’tre’’ = ‘‘ventitré’’, etc., so ‘‘trenta’’+’’uno’’ = ‘‘trentuno’’, ‘‘trenta’’+’’due’’ = ‘‘trentadue’’, ‘‘trenta’’+’’tre’’ = ‘‘trentatré’’, and so on. Notice that the numbers that end in ‘‘uno’’ and ‘‘otto’’ leave off the last letter of the tens digit. That applies to every number. Here are all the tens:
10 – dieci (irregular; see above)
20 – venti
30 – trenta
40 – quaranta
50 – cinquanta
60 – sessanta
70 – settanta
80 – ottanta
90 – novanta
100 - cento

Some Basic Nouns[edit | edit source]

Here are a few nouns to help build a fundamental vocabulary. You don’t need to memorize them all immediately, but be sure to reference them often.

The famous leaning tower of Pisa.
Julius Caesar, the most famous of all the Roman dictators.

Animals[edit | edit source]

un cane - a dog
un gatto - a cat
un uccello – a bird

Homes and Rooms[edit | edit source]

una casa - a house
un appartamento – an apartment
un bagno - a bathroom (don't forget the gn diphthong)
una camera (da letto) – a room (bedroom)
una cucina – a kitchen
un soggiorno – a living room

People[edit | edit source]

un uomo - a man (irregular pluralization: uomini; don't be too concerned with it)
una donna - a woman
un ragazzo - a boy
una ragazza - a girl
un bambino - a baby boy
una bambina - a baby girl

Family[edit | edit source]

una famiglia – a family
un marito – a husband
una moglie – a wife
un figlio – a son
una figlia – a daughter
un padre – a father
una madre – a mother
un fratello – a brother
una sorella – a sister
un nonno – a grandfather
una nonna – a grandmother

Foods[edit | edit source]

una mela – an apple
una banana – a banana
un’arancia – an orange
della carne – some meat
del prosciutto – some ham
del pollo – some chicken
del latte – some milk
un gelato – an ice cream
del caffè – some coffee
del pane – some bread
un panino – a sandwich (usually on a roll)
un tramezzino – a triangular sandwich
del formaggio – some cheese
un uovo – an egg (plural is "uova", NOT "uovi", and is feminine, while the singular is masculine)

Electronics[edit | edit source]

una macchina – a machine
una calcolatrice – a calculator
una radio – a radio ("una" is used because "radio" is an abbreviation of a feminine word)
un telefono – a phone
un telefonino/un cellulare – a cell phone
un computer/un elaboratore – a computer
un televisore/una televisione/una TV – a television/a TV
una ricetrasmittente/un walkie-talkie – a walkie-talkie

Transportation[edit | edit source]

una macchina – a car
un camion/un autocarro – a truck
un furgone/un furgoncino – a lorry
un autobus (un bus) – a bus
una bicicletta (una bici) – a bicycle (a bike)

One thing to which attention should be paid is that there are multiple words for "car" in Italian (including "auto", "automobile" and "autovettura", all feminine), although "macchina" is the most common, but unformal.

Odds and Ends[edit | edit source]

un libro – a book
una matita – a pencil
una penna – a pen
un foglio di carta – a paper sheet
della carta – some paper
un giornale – a newspaper
una rivista – a magazine
una chiave – a key

Clothes[edit | edit source]

un capotto - a coat
un cappello - a hat
una maglia - a shirt
una maglietta - a T-shirt
una camicia - a longsleeve shirt
dei pantaloni - some pants
un vestito - a dress
una gonna - a skirt
un mantello - a mantle