How to use Italian Definite Articles

Today, we’ll look at Italian definite articles, the small words before nouns like “the” in English. Unlike English, with just a single “the” Italian has several extras of these small words, which might be confusing at first. But do not worry, dear learners, since this guide will have you mastering these mini-maestros in no time!

The article agrees with its nouns: masculine, feminine, singular, plural. It goes before the noun and it helps you understand if that noun is feminine or masculine in case it ends with the letter E and you don’t know.

It would be best to have a definite article when you want to refer to something or someone specific.

In English, the article “The” is used for any noun. In Italian, it’s a little more complicated, but still easy to master quickly.

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  • Il (masculine singular):
    This article is for masculine nouns that start with consonants, like il libro (the book) or il cane (the dog).
  • Lo (masculine singular):
    If the masculine noun starts with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), s + consonant, gn, or some other fancy letter combinations, we use lo instead. Think lo zucchero (the sugar) or lo studente (the student).
  • La (feminine singular):
    This article is used with feminine nouns, regardless of how they start. For example, la mela (the apple) or la macchina (the car).
  • I (masculine plural):
    When you’re talking about more than one masculine word, use i. Like i ragazzi (the boys) or i tavoli (the tables).
  • Gli (masculine plural):
    This article steps in for masculine plurals that start with a vowel, s + consonant, gn, or some other letter combinations. For instance, gli amici (the friends) or gli spaghetti (the spaghetti – yes, spaghetti is plural in Italian!).
  • Le (feminine plural): This one is for all your feminine plural, like le ragazze (the girls) or le scarpe (the shoes).
How to use Italian Definite Articles
How to use Italian Definite Articles

Deciding between definite and indefinite articles

Definite article ➤ anything that is already known to us and is specific.

Prendo il treno alle 16. (I take the train at 4 pm.) ➤ (It’s that specific train, not any other one.)

Marco, hai visto il gatto? (Marco, have you seen the cat?) ➤ (that specific cat, my cat)

Indefinite article ➤ anything that is not already known to us and is not specific. Something or someone not defined.

Prendo un treno domani mattina. (I’m taking a train tomorrow morning.)

Marco, ho visto un gatto in giardino. (Marco, I saw a cat in the garden.)

Let’s see them in action!

  • Stamattina ho letto il giornale (This morning I read the newspaper) – We’re assuming there’s only one newspaper you usually read.
  • Mi piace lo zucchero nel mio caffè (I like sugar in my coffee) – Sugar in general isn’t specified, but it’s the sugar you’re adding to your specific cup of coffee.
  • Vedo la luna nel cielo (I see the moon in the sky) – There’s only one moon up there, right?

Practice Makes Perfect

How to use Italian Definite Articles


The best way to master these definite articles is to use them! Try writing a short story or describing your day using these little guys. Here’s an example to get you started:

Stamattina ho letto il giornale e ho bevuto il caffè. Poi, ho salutato la mia vicina e sono uscito con gli amici. (This morning I read the newspaper and drank the coffee. Then, I greeted my neighbour and went out with my friends.)

See? Not so scary after all! With a little practice, you’ll be using Italian definite articles like a pro in no time.

🔗 Learn how to use Italian Indefinite Articles

🔗 Learn how to use Italian Partitive Articles


What’s next?

You might want to keep learning Italian online with these free resources:

🔗 An Easy Guide to Italian grammar

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