Chapter 2 - Nouns and Gender
All Italian nouns are masculine or feminine in gender. There are no neuter nouns.
With very few exceptions, nouns which end in -o, -ore, a consonant, or a consonant followed by -one, are masculine. The names of the days of the week (except Sunday), lakes, months, oceans, rivers, seas, sport teams, and names which denote males are masculine. Words imported from other languages are regarded as masculine regardless of their spelling.
With very few exceptions, singular nouns which end in -a, -à, -essa, -i, -ie, -ione, -tà, -trice, , or -tù are feminine. The names of cities, continents, fruits, islands, letters of the alphabet, states, and names which denote females are feminine.
If a word refers to a group of people, the masculine form is used.
examples: children = bambini friends = amici
In a some cases, the gender of a noun is determined by its article. For example, uno studente to denote a male studente, or una studente to denote a female student. All of the words which end in –nte or -ista are treated in this way. examples: un cliente (a male client) una cliente (a female client)
un pianista (a male pianist) una pianista (a female pianist)
2. Singular and plural forms
The following rules govern the formation of plurals in the Italian language.
Rule 1: Words imported from other languages, which have only one syllable, which end in
-i, -ie, an accented vowel, or a consonant are not changed, but any accompanying articles or
adjectives will be in the plural form.
examples: il film (the film) i film (the films)
il re (the king) i re (the kings)
la crisi (the crisis) le crisi (the crises)
la spezie (the spice) le spezie (the spices)*
la città (the city) le città (the cities)
l’ạutobus (the bus) gliạutobus ( the buses)
*There is one exception, la moglie (wife), the plural of which is le mogli (wives).
Rule 2: Feminine nouns ending in an unstressed -a form the plural by changing the a to e.
examples: singular la cosa (the thing) plural le cose (the things)
singular la porta (the door) plural le porte (the doors)
singular la pianista (the pianist) plural le pianiste (the pianists)
singular l’agenzia (the agency) plural le agenzie (the agencies)
Masculine nouns ending in an unstressed -a form the plural by changing the -a to -i.
examples: singular il problema (the problem) plural i problemi (the problems)
singular il collega (the colleague) plural i colleghi (the colleague)
singular l'artista (the artist) plural gli artisti (the artists)
Rule 3: Words which end in a consonant + cia or consonant + giaform the plural by changing the -ia to -e. examples: la provincia (the province) le province (the provinces)
la spiaggia (seashore) le spiagge (the seashores)
Rule 4: The plural of most other nouns ending with an unstressed vowel or ending with -ìo is formed by changing the last letter to i. See the appendix for a list of words which end with -ìo.
examples: singular la leziọne (the lesson) plural le leziọni (the lessons)
singular il fratello (the brother) plural i fratelli (the brothers)
singular l’angelo (the angel) plural gli angeli (the angels)
singular il fiọre (the flower) plural i fiọri (the flowers)
singular lo stato (the state) plural gli stati (the states)
singular lo zìo (the uncle) plural gli zìi (the uncles)
Rule 5: The plural of most nouns which end in -ca, -ga, -co, or -go is formed by adding an “h” after the “c” or “g”. examples: amica -> amiche bottega ->botteghe tabacco -> tabacchi
BUT, if the stress falls on the third to last vowel, no “h” is inserted.
examples: sịndaco -> sịndaci mẹdico ->mẹdici tẹcnico -> tẹcnici
There are two exceptions, namely amico -> amici, and porco -> porci
Rule 6: The plural of nouns which end in -logo (about 180) is made by changing the last letter to i.
examples: psicǫlogo -> psicǫlogi
Rule 7: Words which end in -io (more than 2,600) form the plural by dropping the “o”
examples: l’annuncio --> gli annunci il figlio --> i figli
Due to the fact that many English and Italian words have Greek or Latin origins, there are numerous similarities in spelling and meaning. Any student can depend on these similarities to help build vocabulary.
There are many common forms, some of which follow.
English prefix Italian prefix examples
acc- acc- accetạbile, accidente
auto- auto- automạtico, automǫbile, autoimmune
bi- bi- bicicletta, bifocali, bilịngue
com- com- combinaziọne, commentare, commissiọne
con- con- confusiọne, consenso, conversaziọne
contra- contra- contradire, contraddiziọne, contrario, contrasto
de- de- deliquente, denotare, deodorante, deplorạbile
dis- dis- discọrso, discrẹdito, discreto, discussiọne
ex- es- esageraziọne, esclusiva, escursiọne, esecutivo
im- im- imbroglio, imitaziọne, immaginạbile, immortale
in- in- incessante, incidente, indubitạbile, industriale
irr- irr- irregolare, irrefutạbile, irreparạbile, irrevocạbile
per- per- percussiọne, perdiziọne, perfetto, permanente
pre- pre- precauziọne, precedente, predominante, presente
pro- pro- processo, procrastinare, prodigio, profano
re- re-, ri- responsạbile, resiliente, rimodellare, rinunciare
trans- trans-, tras- transaziọne, transitorio, trascendente, trasferire
tri- tri- triạngolo, tribunale, triciclo, trimestre, trinità
uni- uni- ụnico, unificaziọne, unifọrme, uniọne, universale
In like manner, the endings of words have many similarities. A summary follows.
English ending Italian ending examples
-able -ạbile accetạbile, deplorạbile, immaginạbile, reparạbile
-cracy -cità democraticità
-ence, -ency -enza diligenza, emergenza, indulgenza, inferenza
-ible -ịbile orrịbile, permissịbile, riversịbile, terrịbile
-ine -ina, -ino clandestino, disciplina, mạcchina, lupino
-ion, -sion, -tion -iọne discreziọne, emoziọne, formulaziọne
-ism -ismo fanatismo, romanticismo, socialismo
-ist -ista artista, organista, pianista, socialista
-ive -ivo diminutivo, esecutivo, progressivo
-ment -mẹnto armamẹnto, dipartimẹnto, movimẹnto
-mony -monia, -monio matrimonio, parsimonia
-ty -tà libertà, opportunità, pietà, realtà
Almost all of the technical words in English and Italian are identical, with concessions to the respective spelling styles.