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Articles (articoli) appear directly before nouns in sentences. In English, the is called a definite article and a and an are called indefinite articles. In Italian, there are several different forms of the definite article (articolo determinativo) and indefinite article (articolo indeterminativo). The choice of article within each class depends upon three properties of the noun: (1) its gender (masculine vs. feminine); (2) its number (singular vs. plural); and (3) the sound (or initial letters) of the noun that follows it.

Indefinite Articles (articoli indeterminativi) – a/an

Masculine (maschile)
article usage
un un libro
un autore
Use with all masculine nouns except those beginning with -z, -s + consonant, gn, ps
uno uno stadio
uno zio
Use with masculine nouns beginning with -z or -s + consonant, gn, ps
Feminine (femminile)
article usage
una una ragazza Use with all feminine nouns except those beginning with a vowel
un’ un’amica, un’opera Use with feminine nouns beginning with a vowel

  In Italian, there are no plural forms of the indefinite article.


Definite Articles (articoli determinativi) – the

Masculine (maschile)
article usage
il il libro Use with all singular masculine nouns except those beginning with -z, -s + consonant, gn, ps, or a vowel
lo lo sport Use with all singular masculine nouns beginning with -z or -s + consonant, gn, ps or a vowel
l’ l’ amico Use with all singular masculine nouns beginning with a vowel
i i libri Use with all plural masculine nouns except those beginning with -z, -s + consonant, gn, ps, or a vowel
gli gli amici Use with all masculine plural nouns beginning with -z or -s + consonant, gn, ps, or a vowel
Feminine (femminile)
article usage
la la ragazza Use with all feminine singular nouns except those beginning with a vowel.
l’ l’ amica Use with feminine singular nouns beginning with a vowel.
le le amiche Use with all feminine plural nouns.

The choice of article is in part determined by the first letter of the word that follows it. The uncle = lo zio, but the dear uncle = il caro zio.  Now that the adjective caro separates the article from the -z sound, the more common article il is used.
Sometimes articles and nouns end in the same letter (e.g.  le ragazze), but often they do not (e.g.  le automobili;  lo sport). Maintaining agreement between articles and nouns means choosing the article that has the same gender and number as the noun.
In addition to indicating a specific noun, the definite article in Italian is used in several cases in which it is omitted in English.  For example:

  • with abstract nouns, e.g.  l’amore (love) and l’intelligenza  (intelligence)
  • with general classes of nouns, e.g.  gli americani  (Americans) and gli alberi  (trees)
  • with general kinds of material or substances, e.g. il legno (wood) and la plastica (plastic)
  • with days of the week and with languages, e.g.  il francese (French) and il sabato (Saturdays)
  • with body parts, e.g. gli occhi (eyes); i capelli (hair)

Articles: Practice