Learn the Italian Definite & Indefinite Articles

In Italian, articles accompany nouns and indicate whether they are a) masculine or feminine (gender) and b) singular or plural (number). In Italian grammar, there are definite articles (il, lo, la, l’, i, gli, le) and indefinite articles (un, una, uno, un’) .

In this article, you’ll learn the difference between Italian definite and indefinite articles and when to use them correctly. Let’s begin!

italian definite and indefinite articles

The Definite Articles in Italian

A definite article is a determiner “that indicates that a noun refers to a specific thing or to something that has been identified previously.” Source: Thesaurus In English, there is only one definite article – ‘the‘ – whereas in Italian, there are seven.

In order to decide which definite article to use, you first need to figure out three things:

a) the first letter of the noun it modifies
b) the gender of that noun
c) whether the noun is singular or plural

Singular definite articles in Italian

il – masculine singular definite article


This article is used for any singular masculine noun that does not begin with a vowel, z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.

  • il libro = the book
  • il treno = the train
  • il mare = the sea
  • il bambino = the boy

lo – masculine singular definite article


This article is used for any singular masculine noun that does begin with z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.

  • lo zaino = the backpack
  • lo sgabello = the stool
  • lo xilofono = the xylophone
  • lo gnomo = the gnome

la – feminine singular definite article


This article is used for any singular feminine noun that does not begin with a vowel.

  • la sedia = the chair
  • la scatola = the box
  • la TV = the TV
  • la bambina = the girl

l’ – masculine and feminine singular definite article


This article is used for any singular masculine or feminine noun that begins with a vowel.

  • l’albero = the tree (masculine)
  • l’ape = the bee (feminine)
  • l’elefante = the elephant (masculine)
  • l’oca = the goose (feminine)
Happy girl trying to put red decorative star on top of Christmas tree while decorating it
La bambina addobba l’albero di Natale. = The girl decorates the Christmas tree.

Plural definite articles in Italian

i – masculine plural definite article


This article is used for any plural masculine noun that does not begin with a vowel, z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.

  • i libri = the books
  • i cuscini = the cushions
  • i tavoli = the tables
  • i papà = the dads

gli – masculine plural definite article


This article is used for any singular masculine noun that does begin with a vowel, z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.

  • gli zii = the uncles
  • gli amici = the friends
  • gli zaini = the backpacks
  • gli gnocchi* = the dumplings

*Note: in colloquial Italian, depending on the region, you may hear different articles for certain words. One of the best examples is gnocco, which should technically be used with lo and the plural gli. However, you can hear Italians say il and i instead, most famously in the idiomatic phrase Ridi, ridi che la mamma ha fatto i gnocchi! (lit. Laugh, laugh because mom made gnocchi!).

That said, you shouldn’t worry too much about this. The best thing for learners is to stick to the official grammar rules.

le – feminine plural definite article


This article is used for any singular feminine noun.

  • le mele = the apples
  • le zebre = the zebras
  • le finestre = the windows
  • le amiche = the (female) friends
Assortment of red and green apples on the table.
Le mele crescono sugli alberi. = Apples grow on trees.
In this example, the preposition su (on) and the article gli become one word.

The Indefinite Articles in Italian

An indefinite article is a determiner that “refers to a noun without specifying it or refers to a noun to introduce it for the first time.” Source: Thesaurus In English, there are two indefinite articles – ‘a‘ and ‘an‘ – whereas in Italian, there are four.

The article you use depends on a couple of factors: the first letter of the noun it modifies, and the gender of that noun.

un – masculine singular indefinite article


This article is used for any singular masculine noun that does not begin with z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.

  • un albero = a tree
  • un libro = a book
  • un divano = a couch
  • un amico = a (male) friend

uno – masculine singular indefinite article


This article is used for any singular masculine noun that does begin with z, s + another consonant, gn, pn, ps, x or y.

  • uno zaino = a backpack
  • uno yo-yo = a yo-yo
  • uno sbaglio = a mistake
  • uno psicologo = a phycologist

una – feminine singular indefinite article


This article is used for any singular feminine noun that does not begin with a vowel.

  • una zebra = a zebra
  • una sedia = a chair
  • una macchina = a car/machine
  • una bottiglia = a bottle

un’ – feminine singular indefinite article


This article is used for any singular feminine noun that does begin with a vowel.

  • un’amica = a (female) friend
  • un’oca = a goose
  • un’epoca = an era
  • un’isola = an island
Two female friends in the street
Un’amica è per sempre. = A friend is forever.

What about plural indefinite articles? Quite simply, they don’t exist! Instead, Italians use the partitive articles: del, dello, della, dei, degli and delle.

  • del pane = (some) bread
  • dello zucchero = (some) sugar
  • della pancetta = (some) bacon
  • dei fagioli = (some) beans
  • degli amici = (some) friends
  • delle amiche = (some) female friends

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