Nouns and Gender

Nouns and Gender in Italian

NOUNS IN ITALIAN (i nomi / sostantivi)

Nouns are the labels we attach to people, animals, things, abstract concepts, actions or facts and that let us distinguish a person, an animal, a thing, etc. from another one.

THE GENDER OF NOUNS IN ITALIAN

All nouns have a Gender. In Italian there are only 2 genders: masculine and feminine. There is no a neuter gender.

Human beings and common domestic animals have a masculine noun if they are male or a feminine one if they are female.

The gender of the rest of the nouns can be often established by ending or by meaning but, as there are so many exceptions, the best thing to do is to learn the noun with the definite article.

A general rule is that nouns ending in "-o" are masculine and those ending in "-a" are feminine. Nouns ending in "-e" can be either masculine or feminine and the only way to know the gender is to learn them with the article.

Examples:

Il tavolo, la sedia, il bicchiere, la voce

As already mentioned above, there are some exceptions:

a) Feminine nouns ending in "-o";

La moto (motorbike), l'auto (car), la foto (picture), la radio (radio), la mano (hand), l'eco

(echo - but it becomes masculine in the plural)

b) Masculine nouns ending in "-a";

Il fantasma (ghost), il problema (problem), il pigiama (pajamas), il programma (program), il

clima (climate), il panorama (panorama), lo schema (plan), il tema (theme), il telegramma

(telegram)

c) Nouns ending in "-a", "-ista" and "-cida" can be either masculine or feminine:

L'atleta (athlete), il/la collega (collegue), il/la suicida (suicide), il/la turista (tourist), il/la

dentista (dentist), il/la tennista (tennis player), lo/la specialista (specialist), l'omicida

(murder)

There are also some other endings that can indicate the gender of a noun:

1. Many nouns ending in "-ione", "-udine", "-igine", "-ice", "-tà", "-tù", "-i", "-ie are feminine;

Examples:

La soluzione, la solitudine, l'origine, la pittrice, la semplicità, la virtù, la crisi, la specie

2. Many nouns ending in "-ore", "-ame", "-ale", "-ere", "-ile" are masculine;

Examples:

Il colore, il fattore, il pollame, il rame, il canale, il giornale, il carcere, il potere, il barile, il

fienile

In many cases and only for animated beings, it is possible to form the feminine gender from the masculine.

1. Masculine name ending in "-o" have the feminine form in "-a";

Examples.

Il reagazzo --> la ragazza

Lo zio --> la zia

2. Masculine name ending in "-e" have the feminine form in "-a";

Examples:

Il cameriere --> la cameriera

Il parrucchiere --> la parrucchiera

3. Some masculine name ending in "-o" , "-a" , "-e" have the feminine form in "-essa";

Examples:

L'avvocato --> l' avvocatessa

Il poeta --> la poetessa

Il professore --> la professoressa

Il conte --> la contessa

4. Some masculine name ending in "-tore" have the feminine form in "-trice";

Examples:

Lo scultore --> la scultrice

Il vincitore --> la vincitrice

5. Where there is not a feminine noun equivalent, the masculine is used for both the genders or the distinction can be made by placing the word "donna" before the masculine noun.

A similar rule applies to animals where there is only a single noun form and the distinction can be made by placing the word "femmina" or "femmina di +article".

Examples:

L'ingegnere (masculine) --> L'ingegnere / la donna ingegnere (feminine)

L'aquila maschio / il maschio dell'aquila --> L'aquila femmina / la femmina dell'aquila

6. Finally, there are nouns that have a different form to distinguish the masculine from the feminine:

Examples:

L'uomo --> la donna

Il marito --> la moglie

Il padre --> la madre

Il papà --> la mamma

Il fratello --> la sorella

Il genero --> la nuora

Il re --> la regina

L'eroe --> l'eroina

Il gallo --> la gallina

il bue -->la mucca

Il cane --> la cagna

Il porco --> la scrofa

THE PLURAL OF NOUNS

There are some general rules to make a noun plural:

1. Masculine nouns ending in "-o", "-a" or "-e" change the ending to "-i";

Examples:

Il libro --> I libri

Il problema --> I problemi

il sale --> I sali

2. Feminine nouns ending in "-a" change the ending to "-e";

Examples:

La penna --> Le penne

La mela --> Le mele

3. Feminine nouns ending in "-e" change the ending to "-i";

Examples:

La nave --> Le navi

L'ape --> Le api

4. Nouns ending in "-ca" and "-ga", change the ending to "-che" and "-ghe", if they are feminine, and to "chi" and "ghi" if they are masculine;

Examples:

L'amica --> Le amiche

Il collega --> I colleghi

La collega --> Le colleghe

5. Nouns ending in "cia" and "gia" retain the "i" if it is stressed or the "-cia" or "-gia" is preceded by a vowel. In the other cases the "i" is omitted.

Examples:

La farmacia --> Le farmacie (farmacìa)

La valigia --> Le valigie

La faccia --> Le facce (fàccia)

6. Nouns ending in "-io" retain the "-i" when it is stressed, so they will have a double "i" in the plural;

Examples:

Lo zio --> Gli zii (zìo)

Il negozio --> I negozi (negòzio)

7. Nouns ending in an accented vowel or in a consonant, monosyllabic nouns, nouns ending in "-i" or "-ie" don't change in the plural. The number is established by the article.

Examples:

La capacità --> Le capacità

Il caffé --> I caffé

L'autobus --> Gli autobus

Lo sport --> Gli sport

Il re --> I re

Lo sci --> Gli sci

La crisi --> Le crisi

L'analisi --> Le analisi

La specie --> La specie

Exceptions:

Some nouns ending in "-ie" in the plural change the ending to "-i":

La moglie --> Le mogli

La superficie --> Le superfici

L'effigie --> Le effigi

8. Masculine nouns that change the gender to feminine in plural:

Il ginocchio --> Le ginocchia

Il dito --> Le dita

Il labbro --> Le Labbra

L'osso --> Le ossa

L'uovo --> Le uova

Il paio --> Le paia

Il riso --> Le risa (when it means "laugh")

Il migliaio --> Le migliaia

Il centinaio --> Le centinaia

Il miglio --> Le miglia

9. Irregular plurals:

L'uomo --> Gli uomini

Il dio --> Gli dei

L'arma --> Le armi

L'ala --> Le ali

Il bue --> I buoi

L'eco (feminine) --> Gli echi (masculine)

By Arnaldo Colonna

Learn Italian - Italian for Beginners - nouns in Italian

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