Italian Articles: Part 1


Italian Articles: part 1

When using Italian articles we must consider their function in a sentence. They serve to define the noun they are associated with, and with which they must agree in number and gender.

In this article we will look at the difference between Italian definite articles (ARTICOLI DETERMINATIVI) and Italian indefinite articles (ARTICOLI INDETERMINATIVI)








un / uno

dei / degli




Let’s start with Italian indefinite articles, “articoli indeterminativi”. They are used as follows:

  • To refer to something mentioned for the first time

    Vorresti un caffè? (Would you like a coffee?)

    Ieri ho incontrato un mio amico. (I met a friend of mine yesterday.)

    Finalmente ho trovato un buon lavoro. (At least I found a good job.)

  • Meaning “one”, referring to a single person or object

    Mi dia una mela, un’arancia e un limone, per favore. (Give me an apple, an orange and a lemon, please.)

    Nel ristorante ci sono due persone: un ragazzo e una ragazza. (There are two persons in the restaurant: a boy and a girl.)

  • To refer to something or someone unspecific

    Con chi parlavi al telefono? Con un’amica. (Who were you talking with at the telephone? With a friend of mine)

            Un medico lavora per passione. (A doctor works for passion’s sake.)






il / lo 

i /gli 





Let’s now take a look at the definite counterpart, articoli determinativi. Italian definite articles are used:

  • To refer to something that has already been mentioned

            Questa è una mela. La mela è rossa. (This is an apple. The apple is red.)

  • When both speaker and listener know what is being talked about

            Scusi, dov’è il bagno? (Excuse me, where is the toilet?)

  • Meaning “that”, “this”

    Dammi il (quel) libro! (Give me the (that) book!)

  • To refer to things we regard as unique

    Il sole, la luna, il cielo… (The sun, the moon, the sky…)

As a general rule, if the speaker wants to say something about a car (la/una macchina), he must first decide whether he or she refers to all cars (la macchina è un simbolo di condizione sociale – Cars are a social status symbol), or a specific one (Michele ha una macchina nuova – Michele has a new car).


Here’s a few examples of how to use Italian articles:

Marco è un professore molto stimato. Il miglior professore della nostra scuola. (Marco is an esteemed professor. The best professor in our school.)

Per il tuo compleanno ti ho comprato un libro. Non un libro qualunque, il libro che stavi cercando.(I bought a book for your birthday. Not just a book, the book you’ve been searching for.)

Il nuovo ragazzo di Laura è un tipo simpatico. (Laura’s new boyfriend is a friendly guy.)

The next post will be dedicated to peculiar usage of Italian articles.



Italian articles: Part 1

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  1. In one of the examples regarding the book for someone’s birthday, “you” must be singular (“your birthday” is not likely to be plural) However you say “stavi” for “you have been”. This looks like a plural “you”. Why not the 2nd person singular “stati”, particularly if the two people involved are close enough friends or relatives to address each other as “tu” (“tuo” e “ti”).
    (Per il tuo compleanno ti ho comprato un libro. Non un libro qualunque, il libro che stavi cercando.)

    • Ciao Peter, thank you for your comment.
      Allora, “stavi” refers to 2nd person singular of verb “stare”, so it does refer to “TU”. “Stavi cercando” means “you were looking for, you’ve been looking for”. The verb you mention “stati” does not have any translation in Italian.

      Hope this helps! ciao, Serena

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