Chapter 2 - Nouns and Gender

1. 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 - 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)     gliutobus ( 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 iSee 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.