Read this page, then try this practice.
Adjectives (gli aggettivi) are words that describe qualities of nouns, for example:
- many good books
- some spicy mexican food
- my new red boots
In addition to the adjectives you are most familiar with (e.g. good, new, red, spicy), there are several special types of adjectives. These include possessive adjectives (those that indicate who owns an object, e.g. my books, her car, our house); demonstrative adjectives (this and that), and indefinite adjectives (e.g. some, every, any).
Adjectives in Italian fall into one of two classes: those ending in -o and those ending in -e.
I. Adjectives ending in -o:
Adjectives such as molto, alto, simpatico, italiano,rosso, and suo have four possible endings: -o, -a, -i, and -e. The ending depends on the noun the adjective describes. There must be consistency or agreement between the noun and adjective in terms of gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural). Look at the endings in the table, together with two sample adjectives, alto (tall) and rosso (red).
(il ragazzo alto)
(lo stivale rosso)
(i ragazzi alti)
(gli stivali rossi)
(la ragazza alta)
(le ragazze alte)
(le automobili rosse)
In the chart, look at the agreement between nouns and adjectives. For example, for a masculine singular noun (like ragazzo and stivale), use the masculine singular adjective ending, -o. Likewise, for a feminine plural noun (like ragazze and automobili), use the feminine plural adjective ending, -e.
II. Adjectives ending in -e:
Adjectives such as intelligente, interessante, gentile, and francese have only two possible endings, -e in the singular and -i in the plural. As you will see in the table, these endings are the same across gender.
(il ragazzo gentile)
(i ragazzi gentili)
(la ragazza gentile)
(le ragazze gentili)
✽ Additional Points:
♦ The common adjectives buono and bello have irregular endings when placed, as is common, before the noun. Read more here.
♦ Making adjectives agree with nouns does not mean making them end in the same letter. Sometimes they do (e.g. gli studenti italiani, le aranciate fredde), but sometimes they don’t (e.g. lo studente italiano, le ragazze intelligenti). Agreement means rather that the adjective expresses in its ending the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the noun, as outlined in the charts above.
♦ Some colors have an invariable form when used as an adjective, e.g. blu, rosa, and viola. Thus: una macchina blu, un motorino blu, una gonna rosa, un fiore rosa
III. Position in sentence
Most adjectives go directly after the nouns they modify, for example:
- l’amico italiano
- l’esame difficile
- il libro interessante
Exceptions include possessive adjectives (mio, tuo, etc.), adjectives of quantity (molto, troppo), demonstrative adjectives (questo, quello), indefinite adjectives (qualche, alcuni, etc.), and altro. These adjectives generally go before the noun.
A third group of adjectives may go before or after the noun, depending on connotation and emphasis. Examples include
buono, cattivo, bello, brutto, piccolo, grande, nuovo and vecchio. These adjectives commonly go before the noun; when they follow the noun they emphasize the literal quality of the adjective. Compare the following:
|un buon amico
(a close friend)
|un amico buono
(a friend who is a good person)
|una nuova auto
(a newly-acquired car)
(a car that is literally new, recently made)
If there are two adjectives, it is common to put one in front of the noun and one after the noun: e.g. un buon vino rosso.
IV. Adjective or Adverb?
There are some adjectives (molto, tanto, poco, troppo), which can also be used as adverbs. When they are used as adjectives (i.e. describing nouns), they have variable endings, as you have just learned, (corresponding to the gender and number of the nouns they modify). Used as adjectives, they have the following meanings:
- molto/a/i/e (much, many, a lot of )
- tanto/a/i/e (much, many, a lot of)
- poco/a/i/e (a little, a few)
- troppo/a/i/e (too much, too many)
When adverbs, they do not change forms but always end in -o. As adverbs, they have the following meanings:
- molto (very, a lot)
- tanto (very, a lot)
- poco (little)
- troppo (too much)
These adverbs can be used with verbs (e.g. Mia sorella parla molto, ma io parlo poco), or with adjectives (e.g. Tua madre è molto simpatica.) When used with adjectives (molto interessante, poco difficile, etc.), the adjectival phrase must follow the noun. E.g. Questo è un libro molto interessante.
|Ho molti amici italiani.||I have a lot of Italian friends.||adjective, agrees with amici|
|I miei nonni parlano molto.||My grandparents talk a lot.||adverb, always ends in -o|
|Tu hai poca energia.||You have little energy.||adjective, agrees with energia|
|La discussione era poco interessante.||The discussion was not very interesting.||adverb, always ends in -o|
To learn more about adverbs go here.
To learn about questo and quello (this and that), go here.
To learn the possessive adjectives (my, your, her, etc.), go here .
For practice with the information on this page, go here.