What are the most difficult grammar rules in Italian?
First of all, language learning is very relative and subjective.
So, what someone else might find difficult might be easy for you, and vice versa.
For instance, if you’re an English native speaker learning Italian, what you might find tricky is probably not the same as what might be considered difficult by a speaker of a Romance language, like French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian.
Also, it really depends on your level.
If you’re a beginner of course that you’ll find advanced content very difficult. So, don’t get discouraged! Focus on your level.
The most difficult grammar rule is probably difficult for everyone to some extent, so don’t think you’re the only one who finds it hard.
We’ll first focus on the most difficult grammar rule in Italian for English speakers: the gender of words.
We’ll then focus on what’s probably the most difficult grammar rule, even for Italian speakers. That is the dear congiuntivo (subjunctive).
The most difficult grammar rule in Italian for English speakers
Especially for English speakers, differentiating between female and male words is understandably difficult.
In English, a chair doesn’t have a gender. In Italian, it does: it’s feminine.
We say sedia and nouns ending in -a are usually (but not always!) feminine.
Why? Just because.
In fact, the gender of Italian nouns is totally arbitrary so you have to learn it by heart.
But don’t worry! At least there’s a rule that will help you guess the gender of things:
- singular feminine nouns end in -a
- plural feminine nouns end in -e
- singular masculine nouns end in -o
- plural masculine nouns end in –i
Note there are exceptions, but most Italian nouns follow this rule.
One more thing: if a noun is, let’s say, feminine, then also the definite article and adjective have to be feminine.
Definite articles are words like il, la, i, le, gli, and lo. In English, you’re lucky, you only have one: the.
Adjectives are words like: carino (nice), simpatico (fun), straniero (foreign), etc.
Have a look at the examples below and pay attention to how all articles, nouns, and adjectives agree in gender (and number too):
La sedia è nuova.
The chair is new.
Le finestre sono vecchie.
The windows are old
Il tavolo è rosso.
The table is red.
I fiori sono gialli.
The flowers are yellow.
By the way, dictionaries tell you whether a noun is feminine and masculine so we recommend checking out the best Italian dictionaries online.
The most difficult grammar rule in Italian
The rule concerning the congiuntivo (subjunctive) gets the prize as the most difficult grammar rule in Italian.
We use the congiuntivo to talk about hopes, hypotheses, desires, fears, possibilities, and doubts.
The congiuntivo is usually preceded by the word che.
In the following examples, sentences A don’t need the congiuntivo, whereas sentences B do:
A: Tu sei felice.
A: You’re happy.
B: Voglio che tu sia felice.
B: I want you to be happy.
A: Loro stavano meglio.
A: They were better.
B: Speravo che loro stessero meglio.
B: Io hoped they were better.
A: Il cane ha fatto un disastro.
A: The dog made a mess.
B: Credo che il cane abbia fattoun disastro.
B: I think the dogs made a mess.
A: Lui aveva detto la verità.
A: He said the truth.
B: Sembrava che lui avesse detto la verità.
B: It seemed like he was saying the truth.
How to learn the most difficult grammar rules in Italian?
Again, don’t get discouraged!
If you want to read more about these topics, we recommend reading our following posts:
- Gender of nouns and adjectives
- Italian adjectives: gender and number
- Definite articles
- The subjunctive
- The past of the subjunctive