Chapter 3 - Modifiers

We use words to describe things or places.  We might say that a valley is beautiful, that a horse is large, or that a car is red.  Each of these words (beautiful, large, red), describes the place or thing.  A word that describes a person, a place, or a thing is called an adjective.  In Italian, all adjectives must agree in number and gender with the noun that is described.  If the noun is masculine, the adjective must be masculine.  If the noun is singular, the adjective must be singular, and so on.
            example:          the white house  =  la casa bianca      the red wine  =  il vino rosso
                                    the tired horses  =  i cavalli stanchi     the cooked meats  =  le carne cotte

Adjectives which are factual follow the noun.
            examples:        the white wine = il vino bianco           the red house = la casa rossa

Adjectives which are judgmental, numbers, and expressions of quantity precede the noun.
            example:  the great man = il gran uomo
            [the expression l’uomo grande means a large (in the sense of physically big) man]
            un caro amico  =  a dear friend
            otto libri = eight books            la terza vọlta = the third time              mọlti libri = many books
Common adjectives used to express quantity are:
                        alcuna -e -o -i, some                            ogni, each or every
                        quanta -e -o -i, as much                       più, more
                        mẹno, less, fewer                                mọlta -e -o -i, much or many
                        nessuna -e -o -i, none                          niente, nothing
                        numerọsa -e -o -i, numerous               poca -che -o -chi, little or few
                        qualche, a few, some                          tanta -e -o -i, so much or so many
                        tutta -e -o -i, all, everything                 varia -e -o -i, several or various

Qualchehas no plural form, and is always followed by a singular noun even if a plural meaning is intended.
            example:          Lasciamo qualche biscotto a Santa Claus.      Let’s leave some cookies for Santa Claus.
When they are used as the subject of a sentence, meno or nienteare always singular.

Judgmental adjectives when modified by an adverb (such as mọlto  =  very) will be placed after a noun.
            example:  very good advice  =  consiglio mọlto buono

In Italian, nouns cannot be used as adjectives.  If a noun is used to describe another noun, the two words are connected by di when the description defines the nature of the item, and da when the description defines the purpose of the item.
            examples:        sbarra di ferro = iron bar (the bar is made of iron)
                                    anello di gọmma = rubber ring (the ring is made of rubber)

                                    coltello da pane = bread knife (the knife is used to cut bread)
                                    mạcchina da scrịvere = typewriter (a machine for writing)

The masculine form is used when modifying things of mixed gender.
            My brother and sister are tall.             Mio fratello e mia sorella sọno alti.

 

 

The plural forms follow the same rules as the plural forms of nouns.
            examples:        Singular           Plural               Singular           Plural               Singular           Plural
                                    alto                  alti                   alta                  alte                  verde               verdi                                        pụbblico          pụbblici           pụbblica          pụbbliche         vario                vari
                                    varia                varie

In general, adjectives of nationality are not capitalized.
            example: Mi piace l’opera italiana.       I like Italian opera.

When the adjectives bello, quello, questo, or santo precede a noun, they have the same endings as “the”.
               il            lo             l’             i          gli            la            l’            le
            bel       bello         bell’         bei      begli       bella        bell’       belle
         quel      quello      quell’       quei     quegli     quella      quell’     quelle
      questo     questo     quest’     questi     questi     questa     quest’     queste

      San        Santo      Sant’       Santi      Santi       Santa      Sant’      Sante

When they follow a preposition, questo and quello have only the forms questa, queste, questo, questi, quella, quelle, quello, quelli.

The adjectives alcuno, buono, and nessuno are treated in the same way as the article “un”.
                             un                    uno                  una                  un’
                        alcun               alcuno             alcuna             alcun’
                        buon                buono              buona              buon’
                    nessun              nessuno           nessuna            nessun’

When used with singular nouns that begin with a vowel, the adjective grandebecomes grand’
Before words beginning with gn, ps, s + consonant, or z, the form grandeis always used.  Before all other words beginning with a consonant, grandebecomes gran.
With all plural nouns, only the form grandiis used.

As with the nouns, many similarities exist between the two languages, and a summary follows.
                        English ending            Italian ending              examples
                        -able                            -abile                           abominạbile, , perdonạbile
                        -al                                -ale                              finale, totale, usuale
                        -an                               -ana, -ano                    americano, colombiana, peruviano
                        -ant                              -ante                            importante, ignorante
                        -ed                               -ato, ito                        agitato, complicato, unito
                        -ent                              -ente                            competente, differente
                                                            -enta, ento                   contento
                        -ible                             -ibile                            adorạbile, impossịbile, permissịbile
                        -ical                             -ica, ico                       lǫgico, econǫmico
                        -ic                                                                    esǫtico, pụbblico
                        -ive                              -iva, ivo                       abusivo, conclusivo, eccessiva
                        -ous                             -ọsa, -oso                     ambiziọso, deliziọsa, famọso
                        -ure                              -ura, -uro                     matura, impuro

 

 

All about the -ly forms

Most verb modifiers (the -ly words in English) are formed by using a feminine singular adjective, and adding the suffix -mẹnte.
            examples:        honesta (honest)                      honestamẹnte (honestly).
                                    franca (frank)                          francamẹnte (frankly)
                                    frequente (frequent)                frequentemẹnte
There are four exceptions to this rule, namely                               benevolo               benevolmẹnte (benevolently)
                malevolo               malevolmẹnte (malevolently)            leggero                  leggermẹnte (lightly)
violento                 violentemẹnte(violently)

If the feminine adjective ends with an le or re, the e is dropped, and the suffix -mẹnteis added
                                    regolare (regular)        -->  regolarmẹnte (regularly)
                                    verticale (vertical)       -->  verticalmẹnte (vertically)
                                    possịbile (possible)      -->  possibilmẹnte (possibly)
There are five exceptions to this rule, namely               alacremente          with alacrity, briskly
                follemente             foolishly                                                mediocremente     with mediocrity
                mollemente           tenderly                                 pedestremente      dully, in a pedestrian way

Note:  When the word only is used to modify a noun, its Italian forms are sola, -e, -o, -i.
            examples:        His only dream was to have money.   Il suo sọlo sọgno era tenere dinero.
                                    A magazine for women only.              Una rivista per donne sọle.

            When the word only is used to modify a verb, its Italian form is solamẹnte.
            examples:        I only want to see the book.               Sọlamente voglio vedere il libro.
                                    We only have five dollars.                  Abbiamo solamẹnte cincque dǫllari.
As in English, a phrase can be used in place of an adverb.
            examples:        He spoke with clarity (clearly).           Lui parlava con chiarità (chiaramẹnte).
                                    They climbed without effort.               Loro salirono senza sforzo (sforzatamẹnte).

Some adverbs have fixed forms. 
abbastanza, enough                allọra, then                  altrimẹnti, otherwise               assai, much
ạnche, also, too                       ancọra, still, yet          appẹna, hardly, just                apposta, on purpose
bene, well                                circa, about                 come, as, like                           così, thus, so
dappertutto, everywhere         finọra, until now         fọrse, perhaps, maybe              già, already
insieme, together                     intanto, meanwhile      , , there, over there             lontano, far
mai, never                               male, badly                 meglio, better                          mẹno, less
mọlto, many                            ọra, now                      parẹcchio, a lot, quite a bit     peggio, worse
più, more                                 piuttosto, rather           poco, little                               poi, then
pressappoco, about, roughly   prima, before, early     presto, soon                             qua, qui, here
quanto, as much as                  quasi, almost               sempre, always                        sopratutto, above all
spẹsso, often                           sụbito, suddenly          tanto, as much                         tardi, late
tutto, entirely                           troppo, too much         vicino, near

While adverbs are generally placed next to the word they modify, there is considerable flexibility in ordinary usage.

 

 

Taking descriptions to a higher level

Occasionally, we want to make comparisons about things.  We might want to say that one car is faster than another, that one house is larger than another, or that someone is the best athlete, and so on.  Both English and Italian use two methods to take descriptions to a higher level

Method one --> add helping words
            He spoke more quickly.                                  Parlava più rapidamẹnte.
            It was the most difficult work.                       Era il più diffịcile lavọro.
            This music is the most intricate.                      Questa mụsica è la più intricata.
            That train runs less rapidly.                             Questo treno corre mẹno rapidamẹnte.
            There are fewer persons.                                  Ci sọno mẹno personas.
            We sell it at a very low price.                          Lo vendiamo per un prezzo mọlto basso.

Thus,               Good   bella -e -o -i                                         beautiful
                        Better  più bella -e -o -i                                   more beautiful
                        Best     la le il i più bella -e -o -i                      the most beautiful

Thus,               Bad                 fredda -e -o -i                          cold
                        Worse              più fredda -e -o -i                    colder
                        Worst              la le il i più fredda -e -o -i        coldest

Four adjectives have irregular forms, namely
            good    buona -e -o -i               migliọre -i (better)                   la le il i ǫttima, -e, -o, -i (best)
            big       grande -i                      maggiọre -i (bigger)                la le il i grande -i (biggest)
            bad      cattiva -e -o -i              peggiọre -i (worse)                  la le il i peggiọre -i (worst)
            small    piccola -e -o -i             minọre -i (smaller)                   la le il i minọre -i (smallest)

Method two --> add an ending
            It was the biggest house.                                 Era la casa grandịssima.
            This is the slowest horse.                                 Questo è il cavallo lentịssimo.
The expression very well is translated as benịssimo.  Final vowels are dropped before adding any form of the suffix -ịssimo (example: lento, lentịssimo).  Spelling changes occur in words which end in -co, -go by the addition of an h to keep the sound of the c or g hard.

In the case of adverbs, -ịssima is inserted between the adjective and its suffix -mente.
            example: lento --> lentịssimamente = most slowly

Adverbs are compared by the following method.
            lentamẹnte(slowly)     più lentamẹnte (more slowly)              il più lentamẹnte (most slowly)
            rapidamẹnte(rapidly) mẹno rapidamẹnte (less rapidly)         il mẹno rapidamẹnte (least rapidly)

To compare two things, the following expressions are used:
            tanto + an adjective or an adverb + quanto = as + adjective or adverb + as
            Lei non è tanto ricca quanto lui.                                 She is not as rich as he.
            Lui non è tanto alto quanto Michael Jordan              He is not as tall as Michael Jordan.
            tanta -e -o -i + noun + quanta -e -o -i = as much (as many) as
            Lui ricevè tanti voti quanti pensò.                  He received as many votes as he expected.