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Indefinites (Indefiniti) is the name given to a class of adjectives and pronouns that are not specified or quantified as members of their class. Examples in English include some, something, someone, every, all, everything, everyone, and anything.

✽  The adjective form is similar to the pronoun form but not identical, and the respective adjective and pronoun are used in different situations. The adjective appears with a noun (e.g. some bread, every day), whereas the pronoun takes the place of a noun and can stand alone as the subject or object of the sentence (e.g. Everything is fine, I know someone who can help.)

Indefinite Adjectives (Gli aggettivi indefiniti)

Below is a list of the most common indefinite adjectives in Italian, with examples.

adjective qualche
di + article
the whole
example qualche libro
some books
alcuni libri
some books
dei libri
some books
ogni sera
every evening
tutte le sere
every evening
tutto il giorno
all day
qualunque film
any film

As you can see, there are three different ways to express some: qualche, alcuni/e, and di + article, (called the partitive). Read on to understand how to distinguish them.

  • Qualche can only be used with singular nouns. Its ending does not change. Qualche libro means some books, even though libro appears in its singular form.
  • Alcuni/e is only used with plural nouns and it has two forms: alcuni for masculine nouns, (like libri), and alcune for feminine nouns, (like ragazze). Qualche and alcuni/e mean precisely the same thing. Just be sure you have agreement between nouns and adjectives: (sing. noun –> qualche;  plural noun –> alcuni).
  • Both qualche and alcuni can only be used with nouns you can count (e.g. friends, books, etc.). When using uncountable nouns, (including many foods like milk, butter, wine, meat) and abstract nouns such as time and love, you must use the partitive di + article (e.g. del latte, del burro, del vino, della carne, del tempo libero, della pazienza, etc.).

You may use di + article with countable nouns too, but only in the plural (e.g. degli amici, dei libri, etc.)

Ogni and tutti both mean every or all, and the distinction between them is similar to the one mentioned above.

  • Ogni is reserved for singular nouns (e.g. ogni sera), and it is invariable, meaning its ending does not change.
  • Tutti/e is used with plural nouns and ends in -i before a masculine noun (e.g. tutti i giorni) and -e before a feminine noun (e.g. tutte le sere). Note that with tutti and all of its forms, the definite articles (e.g. i, gli, le) are used after it, unlike with ogni: (Ogni studente but tutti gli studenti).

Tutto in the singular form is used with singular nouns to mean all or the whole (e.g. tutto il giorno = the whole day, all day long; tutta l’acqua = all the water, etc.). Its endings change (-o or -a), to agree with the noun in gender.

Qualsiasi and qualunque are invariable (their endings don’t change), and they can be used interchangeably to mean any in the sense of “Any day is good for me”: Qualsiasi giorno va bene per me.

When you wish to express any as in “Do you have any Italian friends” or “I don’t have any money,” you do not use qualsiasi or any other adjective. Simply use the plural noun + adjective: Hai amici italiani? / Non ho amici italiani.

Indefinite Pronouns (I pronomi indefiniti)

pronoun qualcuno
some people
example Qualcuno ti ha telefonato.
Someone called you.
Alcuni non sono d’accordo.
Some people don’t agree.
Vuoi mangiare qualcosa?
Do you want to eat something?
Ognuno è partito presto.
Everyone left early.
Tutti sono partiti presto.
Everyone left early.
Abbiamo parlato di tutto.
We talked about everything.

Qualcuno is only found in the singular and can refer to both someone. It can also mean one of those, when the noun has already been mentioned.

Alcuni/e is only found in the plural and refers to some people or some things. It ends in -i, unless it replaces a noun that is feminine, e.g:

Sandra ha molte gonne. Alcune sono bellissime. Sandra has a lot of skirts. Some (of them) are beautiful.

Qualcosa is singular and is treated as a masculine noun. If it is followed by a verb, use the preposition da after it; if followed by an adjective, use the preposition di after it. E.g.

Voglio qualcosa di caldo da bere. I want something hot to drink.

Ognuno/a and tutti/e both mean everybody or all (people or things) and can be used interchangeably with the following caveat:

  • Ognuno/a is a singular pronoun and must thus be used with a singular verb. Use ognuno except when replacing a feminine noun, in which case use ognuna. E.g.
    Ognuno frequenta la conferenza. Everyone is attending the lecture.
    Ho tre compagne di case e ognuna si trasloca alla fine dell’anno. I have three (female) housemates and each (of them) is moving at the end of the year.
  • Tutti/e is a plural pronoun and must always be used with plural verbs. Use tutti except when replacing a feminine noun, in which case use tutte. E.g.
    Tutti frequentano la conferenza. Everyone is attending the conference.
    Ho tre compagne di case e tutte si traslocano alla fine dell’anno. I have three (female) housemates and each (of them) is moving at the end of the year.

Tutto is always singular and, like qualcosa, is also masculine. E.g. Tutto è bello nella vita.

Mastering this section involves, in part, understanding the concept (e.g. difference between singular and plural, countable and uncountable, etc.) and, in part, learning new vocabulary. Remember, when studying these new words, to make sure you don’t confuse the adjectives and pronouns. Qualche and qualcosa may look very similar, but the first is an adjective (and must be used with a noun), while the second is a pronoun and can stand alone in a sentence.

Indefinites: Practice