What are definite articles in Italian?

Definite articles (articoli determinativi) refer to or introduce a particular, specific noun or a known concept (something that was previously mentioned).

In Italian definite articles have different forms according to the following things:

  • the gender of the noun (masculine or feminine)
  • the number of the noun (singular of plural)
  • the first letters of the noun or adjective it precedes

Italian definite articles generally correspond to the English article “the”, but while in English “the” has only one form, in Italian there is a total of 7 different definite articles: LO, IL, LA, L’, GLI, I, LE. This makes learning definite articles a bit more complicated, but once you know the structure, it’s relatively simple to get used to.

Tip: definite articles are great clues to understand the noun’s grammatical gender!

To learn more about nouns’ gender in Italian

Definite Articles: Conjugation

Singular, masculine:

  • LO: it is used for all singular masculine nouns beginning with: z, gn, or s+consonant
  • IL: it is used for all singular masculine nouns beginning with a consonant, except the nouns for which LO is used instead.
  • L’: it is used for all singular masculine nouns beginning with a vowel

Singular, feminine:

  • LA: it is used for all singular feminine nouns beginning with a consonant.
  • L’: it is used for all singular feminine nouns beginning with a vowel

Plural, masculine:

  • GLI: it is used for all plural masculine nouns beginning with: vowels, z, gn, or s+consonant
  • I: it is used for all other plural masculine nouns

Plural, feminine:

  • LE: it is used for all plural feminine nouns.

You can follow this table for the conjugation of singular and feminine nouns, according to number (singular and plural) and beginning of the word.

Masculine Feminine
Singular LO studente (=student)

specchio (=mirror)

zero (=zero)

zaino (=backpack)

gnomo (=gnome)

LA borsa (=bag)

casa (=house)

studentessa (=female student)

IL cameriere (=waiter)

sole (=sun)

libro (=book)

L’ amore (=love)

insegnante (=teacher)

uomo (=man)

L’ attrice (=actress)

elettricità (=electricity)

Plural I camerieri (=waiters)

libri (=books)

LE borse (=bags)

case (=houses)

studentesse (=female students)

GLI insegnanti (=teachers)

uomini (=men)

studenti (=students)

studenti (=students)

zaini (=backpacks)

When to use definite Articles

Let’s take a look at when to use definite articles and some example sentences.

  • To indicate a particular/specific thing, person or an object.

Hai visto il gatto di Maria?

Have you seen Maria’s cat?

Mi hanno rubato il passaporto

They stole my passport

  • To indicate something that was mentioned previously.

Maria ha un gatto. Il suo gatto è bellissimo!

Maria has a cat. Her cat is beautiful!

  • To talk about parts of the body.

Mi fa male la testa.

My head hurts.

Luca si è rotto il braccio.

Luca broke his arm.

  • To indicate a category or a species in a generic sense:

Mi piacciono i gatti.

I like cats.

Il cane è il miglior amico dell’uomo.

Dog is men’s best friend.

  • Before the name of a language, except when the verbs parlare (to speak) or studiare (to study). For those cases, it’s up to you whether you want to use it or not.

L’italiano è una lingua molto musicale.

Italian is a very musical language.

Mi piace imparare l’italiano.

I like learning Italian.

  • To refer to geographical locations, such as:
    • Continents: l’America, l’Europa
    • Countires: l’Italia, la Spagna
    • Regions: la Toscana
    • Big islands: la Silicia, il Madagascar
    • Rivers: il Tevere
    • Mountains: il Monte Bianco

Audio lessons to practice definite articles

To practice definite articles, take Lesson 5 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.

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