Indefinite articles explained

Indefinite articles (articoli indeterminativi) refer to nouns more generally than definite articles and introduce a non-specific noun or concept. Italian indefinite articles are a similar function to “a” and “an” in English.

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

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

English indefinite articles have only two forms (“a” and “an”), while in Italian there are 4 indefinite articles: UNO, UN, UNA, and UN’. As with definite articles, the rules about selecting the right indefinite article are based on the noun’s spelling and grammatical gender. They are not based on grammatical numbers, as indefinite articles only have singular form and are not used with plural nouns.

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

Indefinite articles: conjugation

Singular, masculine:

  • UNO: it is used for all singular masculine nouns beginning with: z, gn, ps, or s+consonant
  • UN: it is used for all other singular masculine nouns: nouns that begin with a vowel and nouns that begin with a consonant not included in the exceptions for which uno should be used instead.

Singular, feminine:

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

You can follow these two table for the conjugation of singular and feminine nouns, according to the beginning of the word after the article. This word is usually a noun, but it could be an adjective too. Please note that un’ (with the apostrophe) is only used with feminine nouns and never with masculine nouns.

Masculine nouns:

z s+ consonant ps gn vowels and all other consonants
UNO UNO UNO UNO UN
zaino

(=backpack)

zero

(=zero)

specchio

(=mirror)

studente

(=male student)

psicologo

(=psychologist)

gnomo

(=gnome)

amico

(=male friend)

cameriere

(=waiter)

libro

(=book)

Feminine nouns:

consonants vowels
UNA UN’
casa (=house)

borsa (=bag)

studentessa (=female student)

pizza

amica (=female friend)

attrice (=actress)

emozione (=emotion)

 

Indefinite articles: when to use

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

  • When referring to something for the first time.

Maria ha un gatto. Il suo gatto è bellissimo!

Maria has a cat. Her cat is beautiful!

  • To introduce general or non-specific nouns (they don’t refer to an object/person/place in particular)

Vuoi una fetta di torta?

Would you like a slice of cake?

Mi puoi passare un fazzoletto?

Can you pass me a tissue?

  • To refer to groups, categories, or species:

Un leone mangia circa 14 chili di carne al giorno.

Lions (=each lion) eat about 14 kilos of meat per day.

Audio lessons to practice indefinite articles

To practice indefinite articles, take Lesson 6 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.

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