Chapter 3 - Modifiers

We use words to describe things or places.  We might say that a valley is beautiful, that a horse is large, or that a car is red.

Each of these words (beautiful, large, red), describes the place or thing.  A word that describes a person, a place, or a thing is called an adjective.

In Italian, all adjectives must agree in number and gender with the noun that is described.

If the noun is masculine, the adjective must be masculine.  If the noun is singular, the adjective must be singular, and so on.
            example:          the white house  =  la casa bianca      the red wine  =  il vino rosso
                                    the tired horses  =  i cavalli stanchi     the cooked meats  =  le carne cotte

Adjectives which are factual follow the noun.
            examples:        the white wine = il vino bianco           the red house = la casa rossa

Adjectives which are judgmental, numbers, and expressions of quantity precede the noun.
            example:  the great man = il gran uomo
            [the expression l’uomo grande means a large (in the sense of physically big) man]
            un caro amico  =  a dear friend
            otto libri = eight books            la terza vọlta = the third time              mọlti libri = many books
Common adjectives used to express quantity are:      

alcuna -e -o -i, some ogni, each or every
quanta -e -o -i, as much più, more
mẹno, less, fewer mọlta -e -o -i, much or many
nessuna -e -o -i, none niente, nothing
numerọsa -e -o -i, numerous poca -che -o -chi, little or few
qualche, a few, some tanta -e -o -i, so much or so many
tutta -e -o -i, all, everything varia -e -o -i, several or various

Qualchehas no plural form, and is always followed by a singular noun even if a plural meaning is intended.
            example:          Lasciamo qualche biscotto a Santa Claus.      Let’s leave some cookies for Santa Claus.
When they are used as the subject of a sentence, meno or nienteare always singular.

Judgmental adjectives when modified by an adverb (such as mọlto  =  very) will be placed after a noun.
            example:  very good advice  =  consiglio mọlto buono

In Italian, nouns cannot be used as adjectives.
If a noun is used to describe another noun, the two words are connected by di when the description defines the nature of the item.

When the description defines the purpose of the item, da is used..
            examples:        sbarra di ferro = iron bar (the bar is made of iron)
                                    anello di gọmma = rubber ring (the ring is made of rubber)

                                    coltello da pane = bread knife (the knife is used to cut bread)
                                    mạcchina da scrịvere = typewriter (a machine for writing)

The masculine form is used when modifying things of mixed gender.
            My brother and sister are tall.             Mio fratello e mia sorella sọno alti.

The plural forms follow the same rules as the plural forms of nouns.

Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
alto alti alta alte verde verdi
pụbblico pụbblici pụbblica pụbbliche
vario vari varia varie

In general, adjectives of nationality are not capitalized.
            example: Mi piace l’opera italiana.       I like Italian opera.

When the adjectives bello, quello, questo, or santo precede a noun, they have the same endings as “the”.

il lo l' i gli la l' le
bel bello bell' bei begli bella bell' belle
quel quello quell' quei quegli quella quell' quelle
questo questo quest' questi questi quest' quest' queste
San Santo Sant' Santi Santi Santa Sant' Sante

When they follow a preposition, questo and quello have only the forms questa, queste, questo, questi, quella, quelle, quello, quelli.

The adjectives alcuno, buono, and nessuno are treated in the same way as the article “un”.

un uno una un'
alcun alcuno alcuna alcun'
buon buono buona buon'
nessun nessuno nessuna nessun'

When used with singular nouns that begin with a vowel, the adjective grandebecomes grand’
Before words beginning with gn, ps, s + consonant, or z, the form grandeis always used.

Before all other words beginning with a consonant, grande becomes gran.
With all plural nouns, only the form grandi is used.

As with the nouns, many similarities exist between the two languages, and a summary follows.                        

English ending Italian ending examples
-able -abile abominạbile, , perdonạbile
-al -ale finale, totale, usuale
-an -ana, -ano americano, colombiana, peruviano
-ant -ante importante, ignorante
-ed -ato, ito agitato, complicato, unito
-ent -ente competente, differente
-enta, ento contento
-ible -ibile adorạbile, impossịbile, permissịbile
-ical -ica, ico lǫgico, econǫmico
-ic esǫtico, pụbblico
-ive -iva, ivo abusivo, conclusivo, eccessiva
-ous -ọsa, -oso ambiziọso, deliziọsa, famọso
-ure -ura, -uro matura, impuro

All about the -ly forms

Most verb modifiers (the -ly words in English) are formed by using a feminine singular adjective, and adding the suffix -mẹnte.
honesta (honest) honestamẹnte (honestly).
franca (frank)   francamẹnte (frankly)
frequente (frequent) frequentemẹnte

There are four exceptions to this rule, namely                    benevolo               benevolmẹnte (benevolently)
 malevolo               malevolmẹnte (malevolently)            leggero                  leggermẹnte (lightly)
violento                 violentemẹnte(violently)

If the feminine adjective ends with an le or re, the e is dropped, and the suffix -mẹnteis added
                                    regolare (regular)        -->  regolarmẹnte (regularly)
                                    verticale (vertical)       -->  verticalmẹnte (vertically)
                                    possịbile (possible)      -->  possibilmẹnte (possibly)
There are five exceptions to this rule, namely

alacre alacremnte (briskly)
folle follemnte (foolishly)
mediocre mediocremnte (with mediocrity)
molle mollemnte (tenderly)
pedestre pedestremnte (dully, in a pedestrian way)

Note:  When the word only is used to modify a noun, its Italian forms are sola, -e, -o, -i.
            examples:        His only dream was to have money.   Il suo sọlo sọgno era tenere dinero.
                                    A magazine for women only.            Una rivista per donne sọle.

            When the word only is used to modify a verb, its Italian form is solamẹnte.
            examples:        I only want to see the book.               Solamẹnte voglio vedere il libro.
                                    We only have five dollars.                 Abbiamo solamẹnte cincque dǫllari.
As in English, a phrase can be used in place of an adverb.
            examples:        He spoke with clarity (clearly).           Lui parlava con chiarità (chiaramẹnte).
                                    They climbed without effort.             Loro salirono senza sforzo (sforzatamẹnte).

Some adverbs have fixed forms. 

abbastanza, enough allọra, then altrimẹnti, otherwise assai, much
ạnche, also, too ancọra, still, yet appẹna, hardly, just apposta, on purpose
bene, well circa, about come, as, like così, thus, so
dappertutto, everywhere finọra, until now fọrse, perhaps, maybe già, already
insieme, together intanto, meanwhile , , there, over there  lontano, far
mai, never male, badly meglio, better mẹno, less
mọlto, many ọra, now parẹcchio, a lot, quite a bit peggio, worse
più, more piuttosto, rather poco, little poi, then
pressappoco, about, roughly prima, before, early presto, soon qua, qui, here
quanto, as much as quasi, almost sempre, always sopratutto, above all
spẹsso, often sụbito, suddenly tanto, as much tardi, late
tutto, entirely troppo, too much vicino, near

While adverbs are generally placed next to the word they modify, there is considerable flexibility in ordinary usage.

Taking descriptions to a higher level

Occasionally, we want to make comparisons about things.  We might want to say that one car is faster than another, that one house is larger than another,

or that someone is the best athlete, and so on.  Both English and Italian use two methods to take descriptions to a higher level

Method one --> add helping words            

He spoke more quickly. Parlava più rapidamẹnte.
It was the most difficult work. Era il più diffịcile lavọro.
This music is the most intricate. Questa mụsica è la più intricata.
That train runs less rapidly. Questo treno corre mẹno rapidamẹnte.
There are fewer persons. Ci sọno mẹno personas.
We sell it at a very low price. Lo vendiamo per un prezzo mọlto basso.

Thus,               Good   bella -e -o -i                                         beautiful
                        Better  più bella -e -o -i                                   more beautiful
                        Best     la le il i più bella -e -o -i                      the most beautiful

Thus,               Bad                 fredda -e -o -i                          cold
                        Worse            più fredda -e -o -i                    colder
                        Worst            la le il i più fredda -e -o -i        coldest

Four adjectives have irregular forms, namely            

good buona -e -o -i migliọre -i (better) la le il i ǫttima, -e, -o, -i (best)
big grande -i maggiọre -i (bigger) la le il i grande -i (biggest)
bad cattiva -e -o -i peggiọre -i (worse) la le il i peggiọre -i (worst)
small piccola -e -o -i minọre -i (smaller) la le il i minọre -i (smallest)

Method two --> add an ending
            It was the biggest house.                                 Era la casa grandịssima.
            This is the slowest horse.                                 Questo è il cavallo lentịssimo.
The expression very well is translated as benịssimo.  Final vowels are dropped before adding any form of the suffix -ịssimo (example: lento, lentịssimo).

Spelling changes occur in words which end in -co, -go by the addition of an h to keep the sound of the c or g hard.

In the case of adverbs, -ịssima is inserted between the adjective and its suffix -mente.
            example: lento --> lentịssimamente = most slowly

Adverbs are compared by the following method.
            lentamẹnte(slowly)     più lentamẹnte (more slowly)              il più lentamẹnte (most slowly)
            rapidamẹnte(rapidly) mẹno rapidamẹnte (less rapidly)         il mẹno rapidamẹnte (least rapidly)

To compare two things, the following expressions are used:
            tanto + an adjective or an adverb + quanto = as + adjective or adverb + as
            Lei non è tanto ricca quanto lui.                                 She is not as rich as he.
            Lui non è tanto alto quanto Michael Jordan              He is not as tall as Michael Jordan.
            tanta -e -o -i + noun + quanta -e -o -i = as much (as many) as
            Lui ricevè tanti voti quanti pensò.                  He received as many votes as he expected.