Plural of nouns and adjectives (Italian grammar 3)

Learn the Italian grammar of avere with rules, examples, and links to practice.

2019/06/10

Stefano Lodola

By Stefano Lodola

How to make the plural form of nouns and adjectives

Mastering Italian grammar can be difficult. Here are the rules to form plural nouns and adjectives.

The main rul to make the singular of nouns and adjectives is as follows:

Nouns ending in –o, the ending changes to –i in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: il libro
  • Plural: i libri

Nouns ending in –a, the ending changes to –e in the plural.

  • Singular: la bambina
  • Plural: le bambine

Nouns ending in –ca change to –che in the plural.

  • Singular: l’amica
  • Plural: le amiche

Nouns ending in –e change to –i in the plural.

  • Singular: lo studente
  • Plural: gli studenti

The same applies to adjectives:

  • bello, belli
  • bella, belli
  • grande, grandi

Exceptions to the rule for nouns

There are several exceptions to the rules listed above:

For the nouns that end in –io, the -i is generally not repeated in the ending. An exception to this are words like lo zio, which becomes gli zii. See example below:

  • il cavallo, i cavalli
  • il tavolo, i tavoli
  • il negozio, i negozi

There are certain feminine nouns ending in –a that change to –i in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: l’ala
  • Plural: le ali

There are certain masculine nouns ending in –a that change ending to –i in the plural, along with nouns ending in –o and –e, which can be masculine or feminine. See examples below:

  • Singular: il problema
  • Plural: i problemi
  • Singular: la mano
  • Plural: le mani

There are also nouns ending in –a that can be both masculine and feminine. Dentista, for example, can be accompanied by the masculine or feminine article; la dentista or il dentista.

In these cases, the masculine noun changes to –i in the plural and the feminine noun changes to –e in the plural. See example below:

  • Masculine Plural: i dentisti
  • Feminine Plural: le dentiste

Nouns that end in –ca and –ga have a hard sound that needs to be preserved in the plural. To do so, the plural forms add an -h, but are otherwise normal in their pluralization. These nouns can be either feminine or masculine. Here is an example of each:

  • Singular: la barca
  • Plural: le barche
  • Singular: il collega
  • Plural: I colleghi

The same addition of the ‘h’ in the plural also applies to nouns ending in –go and in –co. Some nouns ending in –co, however, don’t include ‘h’ in the plural (l’amico à gli amici).

  • Singular: il dialogo
  • Plural:i dialoghi
  • Singular: il pacco
  • Plural: i pacchi

Lastly, another type of noun with a spelling change are those that end in –cia or –gia. If the –i in this ending is unstressed in the singular, it drops the –i in the plural. However, if the –i is stressed, it is retained in the plural.

  • Singular: la mancia
  • Plural: le mance
  • Singular: la farmacia
  • Plural: le farmacie

In Italian grammar, there are other types of nouns that are abbreviated, which are shortened to make them easier to write and say. La foto, for example, which is short for la fotografia.

With these nouns, they retain the same ending in the plural shortened forms (le foto). Similarly, nouns that end with an accented vowel or a consonant don’t change in the plural, either. See examples below:

  • Singular: il caffé
  • Plural: i caffé
  • la città, le città
  • la virtù, le virtù
  • il papa, i papà

Nouns ending in consonants (which are often borrowed ‘foreign’ words) also have identical singular and plural forms.

Examples:

  • il computer, i computer
  • lo yogurt, gli yogurt
  • il film, i film

All nouns ending in “-io” form the plural under the following rules.

If the “-i” is stressed, they form the plural in “-ìi”

Examples:

  • Zio (uncle) – accent, zìo
  • Rinvio (postponement) – accent, rinvìo

change the ending in “-ii”

Examples:

  • Zii
  • Rinvii

If the “-i” is unstressed, they form the plural in “-i”

Examples:

  • Cambio (change) – accent, càmbio
  • Figlio (son) – accent, fìglio

change the ending in “-i”

Examples:

  • Cambi
  • Figli

In Italian, there are also some nouns that in the plural change the root.

  • L’uomo (the man), gli uomini;
  • Il dio (god), gli dei;
  • L’ala (wing), le ali;
  • L’arma (weapon), le armi;
  • Il tempio (temple), i templi / i tempi;
  • Il bue (ox), i buoi;
  • L’eco (feminine) (echo), gli echi (masculine)

A few masculine nouns ending in “-o” become feminine in the plural.

  • Il paio (pair), le paia;
  • L’uovo (egg), le uova;
  • Il migliaio (thousand), le migliaia;
  • Il riso (laugh), le risa;
  • Il centinaio (hundred), le centinaia;
  • Il miglio (mile), le miglia;

Free Italian lesson on the plural form

Try this free preview of an audio lesson to practice plurals.

These sentences with plurals are taken from Lesson 3 of my Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!”. 

Find more simple notes to understand Italian grammar and exercises to master it.

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