Gender and form of Italian nouns and adjectives

Every Italian noun is either masculine or feminine in gender; there are no neuter nouns. If the thing referred to has biological gender, then the grammatical gender of the noun will generally be the same as the biological gender. But even nouns referring to inanimate objects have grammatical gender, and there is generally no “logical” reason to account for such a noun’s being of one gender rather than the other. This is simply a fact of the language.

  1. Most nouns that end in –o in the singular are masculine. The masculine plural ends in –i (momento; momenti).
  2. Most nouns that end in –a in the singular are feminine. The feminine plural ends in –e (rosa; rose).
  3. There are some nouns which end in –e in the singular; some of these are masculine while others are feminine: padre (father), madre (mother). Their plural ends in –i, regardless of gender: padri (fathers); madri (mothers).

In Italian, every adjective agrees in gender and in number with the noun it modifies.

Most adjectives have four distinctive forms (with endings like those of the nouns in groups 1 and 2, above):

un ragazzo italiano                  due (2) ragazzi italiani

una ragazza italiana                due ragazze italiane

Other adjectives have only two distinctive forms, one singular and one plural:

un ragazzo OR una ragazza  → francese (sing.)

due ragazzi OR due ragazze → francesi (pl.)

Adjectives will normally be listed under their masculine (‘default’) singular forms (in the remainder of this book and elsewhere).



Italian for Reading & Translation Copyright © by Lauren Surovi and Carleton W. Carroll. All Rights Reserved.

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