Italian grammar genders: masculine and feminine

Nouns are the words used for people, animals, things, and places. In Italian, all nouns are classified according to their grammatical gender, and there are only 2 grammatical genders: masculine and feminine (maschile e femminile). There is no neutral gender. In addition, most masculine and feminine nouns can be singular or plural.

The gender of Italian nouns can be often established by looking at the word ending, but there are many exceptions. The general rule is that nouns ending in “-o” are masculine and nouns ending in “-a” are feminine. Nouns ending in “-e” can be either masculine or feminine and the only way to know the gender of the noun is to look them up in a dictionary or look at other elements of the sentence, for example articles and adjectives.

Masculine and feminine nouns: rules

Nouns ending with “-o”:

  • Most nouns ending with “-o” are masculine
  • The plural form of masculine nouns ending with “-o” is “-i”

Example: libro (=book)

Masculine
Singular libro
Plural libri

Exceptions: some very common nouns ending with “-o” are actually feminine! For example: la mano (= the hand), l’auto (=the car), la moto (the motorbike).

Nouns ending with “-a”:

  • Most nouns ending with “-o” are feminine
  • The plural form of masculine nouns ending with “-a” is “-e”

Example: tazza (=mug)

Feminine
Singular tazza
Plural tazze

Exceptions: some very common nouns ending with “-a” are actually masculine! For example: il papà (= the dad), l’aroma (=the odor), il parabrezza (the windshield).

Nouns ending with “-e”:

  • They can be either masculine or feminine
  • To know the gender of these nouns, you can use the dictionary or check other elements of the sentence (like articles or adjectives)
  • The plural form of ALL nouns ending with “-e” is “-i”

Example: fiore (=flower), masculine:

Masculine
Singular Fiore
Plural Fiori

Example: television (=television), feminine:

Masculine
Singular televisione
Plural televisioni

Nouns that have both masculine and feminine form:

  • Many nouns that refer to people (or even pets) can be both masculine or feminine, according to the actual gender of the person they refer to
  • They change ending vowel according to their gender

Example: gatto/gatta (=cat)

Masculine Feminine
Singular gatto gatta
Plural gatti gatte

Example: cameriere/cameriera (=waiter/waitress)

Masculine Feminine
Singular cameriere cameriera
Plural camerieri cameriere

Masculine and feminine nouns: How to use with adjectives

In Italian, adjectives are usually placed after the noun they refer to. Adjectives can end in “-o”, “-a”, or “-e”.

Adjectives ending with “-o”:

  • They are used with masculine nouns
  • The plural form of adjectives ending with “-o” is “-i”

Adjectives ending with “-a”:

  • They are used with feminine nouns
  • The plural form of adjectives ending with “-a” is “-e”

Example: carino (=cute) with gatto/gatta (=cat, masculine and feminine)

Masculine Feminine
Singular gatto carino gatta carina
Plural gatti carini gatte carine

Adjectives ending with “-e”:

  • They are used with both masculine and feminine nouns
  • The plural form of adjectives ending with “-e” is “-i”

Example: interessante (=interesting) with libro (=book, masculine) and tazza (=mug, feminine)

Masculine Feminine
Singular libro interessante tazza interessante
Plural libri interessanti tazze interessanti

Audio lessons to practice masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives

To practice the genders of Italian nouns and adjectives, take Lesson 4 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!”.


For a printable version, register or login.

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