Chapter 2 - Nouns and Gender


1. Gender

All Italian nouns are masculine or feminine in gender.  There are no neuter nouns.


With very few exceptions, nouns which end in -o, -ore, a consonant, or a consonant followed by -one, are masculine.  The names of the days of the week (except Sunday), lakes, months, oceans, rivers, seas, sport teams, and names which denote males are masculine.  Words imported from other languages are regarded as masculine regardless of their spelling.


With very few exceptions, singular nouns which end in -a, -à, -essa, -i, -ie, -iọne, -tà, -trice, , or - are feminine.  The names of cities, continents, fruits, islands, letters of the alphabet, states, and names which denote females are feminine.


If a word refers to a group of people, the masculine form is used.

examples:        children = bambini      friends = amici

In a some cases, the gender of a noun is determined by its article.  For example, uno studente to denote a male studente, or una studente to denote a female student.  All of the words which end in –nte or -ista are treated in this way.          examples:        un cliente (a male client)                     una cliente (a female client)

                                                un pianista (a male pianist)                 una pianista (a female pianist)


2. Singular and plural forms

The following rules govern the formation of plurals in the Italian language.

            Rule 1: Words imported from other languages, which have only one syllable, which end in

                        -i, -ie, an accented vowel, or a consonant are not changed, but any accompanying articles or

                        adjectives will be in the plural form. 

                        examples:        il film (the film)           i film (the films)

                                                il re (the king)             i re (the kings)

                                                la crisi (the crisis)       le crisi (the crises)

                                                la spezie (the spice)     le spezie (the spices)*

                                                la città (the city)         le città (the cities)

                                                l’utobus  (the bus)     gli utobus ( the buses)

                        *There is one exception, la moglie (wife), the plural of which is le mogli (wives).


            Rule 2: Feminine nouns ending in an unstressed -a form the plural by changing the a to e.

                        examples:        singular            la cosa (the thing)                   plural   le cose (the things)

                                                singular            la porta (the door)                  plural   le porte (the doors)

                                                singular            l’agenzia (the agency)            plural   le agenzie (the agencies)

                        Feminine nouns ending in an unstressed -e form the plural by changing the -e to -i.

                        examples:        singular            la leziọne (the lesson)            plural   le leziọni (the lessons)

                                                singular            la missione (the mission)         plural   le missioni (the missioins)


Masculine nouns ending in an unstressed -a form the plural by changing the -a to -i.

                        examples:        singular            il problema (the problem)       plural   i problemi (the problems)

                                                singular            il collega (the colleague)         plural   i colleghi (the colleague)

                        Masculine nouns ending in an unstressed -e or -o form the plural by changing the -e or -o -i.

                        examples:singular            il pescatore (the fisherman)plural   i pescatori (the fishermen)

                                                singular            il vino (the wine)                     plural   i vini (the wines)

            Rule 3: Words which end in a consonant + cia or consonant + gia form the plural by changing the -ia                         to -e.

examples:        la provincia (the province)                le province (the provinces)

                                                la spiaggia (seashore)                         le spiagge (the seashores)


            Rule 4: The plural of  most nouns which end in -ca,  -ga,  -co, or  -go is formed by adding an “h” after the “c” or “g”.

                        examples: amica -> amiche   bottega ->botteghe   tabacco -> tabacchi

                        BUT, if the stress falls on the third to last vowel, no “h” is inserted.

                        examples: sịndaco -> sịndaci             mẹdico ->mẹdici         tẹcnico -> tẹcnici

                        There are three exceptions, namely amico -> amici,  porco -> porci  sindaco ->sindaci


            Rule 5: The plural of nouns which end in -logo (about 180) is made by changing the last letter to i. 

                        examples:   psicǫlogo -> psicǫlogi


            Rule 6: Masculine words which end in -io (more than 2,600) form the plural by dropping the “o”

                        examples:        l’annuncio --> gli annunci                 il figlio --> i figli        

                        There is one exception: lo zio (the uncle)   --> gli zii (the uncles)


Due to the fact that many English and Italian words have Greek or Latin origins, there are numerous similarities in spelling and meaning. 

Any student can depend on these similarities to help build vocabulary.


There are many common forms, some of which follow.


            English prefix             Italian prefix               examples

            acc-                              acc-                             accetạbile, accidente

            auto-                            auto-                            automạtico, automǫbile, autoimmune

            bi-                                bi-                                bicicletta, bifocali, bilịngue

            com-                            com-                            combinaziọne, commentare, commissiọne

            con-                             con-                             confusiọne, consenso, conversaziọne

            contra-                         contra-                        contradire, contraddiziọne, contrario, contrasto

            de-                               de-                               deliquente, denotare, deodorante, deplorạbile

            dis-                              dis-                              discọrso, discrẹdito, discreto, discussiọne

            ex-                               es-                                esageraziọne, esclusiva, escursiọne, esecutivo

            im-                               im-                               imbroglio, imitaziọne, immaginạbile, immortale

            in-                                in-                                incessante, incidente, indubitạbile, industriale

            irr-                               irr-                               irregolare, irrefutạbile, irreparạbile, irrevocạbile

            per-                              per-                              percussiọne, perdiziọne, perfetto, permanente

            pre-                              pre-                              precauziọne, precedente, predominante, presente

            pro-                              pro-                             processo, procrastinare, prodigio, profano

            re-                                re-, ri-                         responsạbile, resiliente, rimodellare, rinunciare

            trans-                           trans-, tras-                 transaziọne, transitorio, trascendente, trasferire

            tri-                               tri-                               triạngolo, tribunale, triciclo, trimestre, trinità

            uni-                              uni-                              ụnico, unificaziọne, unifọrme, uniọne, universale







In like manner, the endings of words have many similarities.  A summary follows.


            English ending            Italian ending              examples


            -able                            -ạbile                           accetạbile, deplorạbile, immaginạbile, reparạbile

            -cracy                          -cità                             democraticità

            -ence, -ency                 -enza                            diligenza, emergenza, indulgenza, inferenza

            -ible                             -ịbile                            orrịbile, permissịbile, riversịbile, terrịbile

            -ine                              -ina, -ino                     clandestino, disciplina, mạcchina, lupino

            -ion, -sion, -tion          -iọne                            discreziọne, emoziọne, formulaziọne

            -ism                             -ismo                           fanatismo, romanticismo, socialismo

            -ist                               -ista                             artista, organista, pianista, socialista

            -ive                              -ivo                              diminutivo, esecutivo, progressivo

            -ment                           -mẹnto                         armamẹnto, dipartimẹnto, movimẹnto

            -mony                          -monia, -monio            matrimonio, parsimonia

            -ty                                -tà                                libertà, opportunità, pietà, realtà


Almost all of the technical words in English and Italian are identical, with concessions to the respective spelling styles.