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1.7. The definite and indefinite article

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Il cane, lo zio, l’amico… What is the exact rule of the articles in Italian? Let’s learn everything about the definite and indefinite article together!

To learn the articles, we start with a little quiz. Observe how the articles behave… can you guess the rule?

Fai un esercizio!


The definite article

The definite article is used – as in English – to refer back to something known or already mentioned. In Italian, nouns and articles have two genders, masculine (male) and feminine (female) and they can be either singular or plural. For the articles it is also important to see which is the first letter of the following word. Have a look at the table with the rules and the sample words!

Masculine

SingularPlural
before consonantil cane the dogi cani the dogs
before vowell’orso the beargli orsi the bears
before s+consonant
before z
before y
before x
before gn
before ps
lo scoiattolo the squirrel
lo zio the uncle
lo yogurt the yoghurt
lo xenofobo the xenophobe
lo gnomo the gnome, dwarf
lo psicologo the psychologist
gli scoiattoli the squirrels
gli zii the uncles
gli yogurt the yoghurts
gli xenofobi the xenophobes
gli gnomi the gnomes, dwarfs
gli psicologi the psychologists

Feminine

SingularPlural
before consonantla mucca the cowle mucche the cows
before vowell’amica the (female) friendle amiche the (female) friends

Il giro in bici the bicycle tour: il cane the dog, il guinzaglio the leash, la bicicletta the bicycle
Cody: “Yay!”

Esercizi

Fai un esercizio!


The indefinite article

The indefinite article is used when things or people are mentioned for the first time. Indefinite articles exist only in the singular and they have different forms depending on gender and the first letter of the following word, like the definite articles.

MasculineFeminine
before consonantun cane a doguna mucca a cow
before vowelun orso a bearun’amica a (female) friend
before s+consonant
before z
before y
before x
before gn
before ps
uno scoiattolo a squirrel
uno zio an uncle
uno yogurt a yoghurt
uno xenofobo a xenophobe
uno gnomo a gnome, dwarf
uno psicologo a psychologist

Esercizi

Fai un esercizio!


Impara con Kira e Cody

Dal calendario 2019

definite article: IL + consonant*
indefinite article: UN + consonant*

This is a cat. That's a very funny cat.
This is a hedgehog. The hedgehog is in love.
This is a cookie. The cookie is delicious!

*With exceptions, see following.
definite article: LO + gn, ps, x, y, z, s+consonant
indefinite article: UN + gn, ps, x, y, z, s+consonant

This is a gnome. The gnome says hello.
This is a squirrel. The squirrel is trembling.
This is a backpack. It's a very roomy backpack.

Pronunciation: gnomo [ˈɲɔmo], <gn> is pronounced like the Spanish ñ.
definite article: LA + consonant
indefinite article: UNA + consonant

This is a sock. The sock is red and yellow.
This is a cow. The cow is mooing.
This is a pumpkin. The pumpkin is a little sad.
Masculine: L' / UN + vowel 
Feminine: L' / UN' + vowel


Feminine: This is a bee. The bee is flying happy.
Masculine: This is a bear. The bear is fast asleep.
Masculine: This is a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is decorated with many colorful baubles.

extra vocabulary
la stella star
lo scoiattolo squirrel
la pallina di Natale Christmas bauble
Kira and Cody are at the fruit seller.
"So much fruit!" exclaims Kira gaping. 
Kira really likes watermelon and melon.
Cody in turn takes a peach, an apricot, an orange and a tangerine.
Ah, and he also takes the lemon and the ginger.
There are also many exotic fruits!
Kira buys the mango, the pineapple, the pomegranate, the avocado and the papaya.
"Tonight we'll make a smoothie!"

vocabulary
il fruttivendolo fruit seller
la frutta fruit
l'anguria (f.) watermelon
il melone melon
la pesca peach
l'albicocca (f.) apricot
l'arancia (f.) orange
il mandarino tangerine
il limone lemon
lo zenzero ginger
il mango mango
l'ananas pineapple
il melograno pomegranate
l'avocado (m.) avocado
la papaya papaya
il frullato smoothie

Masculine Esercizio: What article? 

Solutions
lo / uno
 gnomo gnome
lo / uno zaino backpack
lo / uno zenzero ginger
la / una volpe fox
la / una mela apple
l' / un elefante (m.) elephant
il / un miele honey
lo / uno sport sport
lo / uno yogurt yoghurt
il / un ragno spider
la / una ciliegia cherry
il / un serpente snake
lo / uno scoiattolo squirrel
l' / un' anatra (f.) duck
lo / uno zio uncle
lo / uno zoo zoo
l' / un' aquila (f.) eagle


Prossima lezione: Subject pronouns and polite form

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1.6. Masculine and feminine
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