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What is the rule for using articles with the soccer team names?

Why do you say la Inter (l'Inter), la Juventus, la Lazio, la Roma, but also il Milan, il Bologna, il Genoa, il Manchester United, and il Chelsea?


Qual è la regola per l'uso degli articoli con i nomi delle squadre di calcio?

Perché si dice la Inter (l'Inter), la Juventus, la Lazio, la Roma, ma allo stesso tempo il Milan, il Bologna, il Genoa, il Manchester United e il Chelsea?

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    Should we have among the first questions the infamous “qual’è versus qual è”? – egreg Nov 6 '13 at 13:49
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    @egreg :) I believe this question will appear soon anyway (my bet would be: immediately as the site goes into public beta!!). – I.M. Nov 6 '13 at 13:55
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Translating this article found on the Accademia della Crusca website:

Masculine

Whenever the team is named after the name of the city it belongs to - or a variant of it, such as Genoa - the masculine genre is used to distinguish it from its toponym, which is generally feminine.

Examples

La magnifica Cagliari → the city
Il magnifico Cagliari → the team

La magnifica Milano → the city
Il magnifico Milan → the team


Feminine

Probably due to the implicit noun squadra (team), is used with names derived from an ethnical adjective (such as Fiorentina or Udinese) and with names not related to a toponym.

Examples

La (squadra) Juventus, The Juventus (team)

La (squadra) Sampdoria, The Sampdoria (team)

Exceptions

The most notable exception to this explanation is la Roma, which is feminine despite being named after the city it belongs to. So

La sorprendente Roma -> the city

but also

La sorprendente Roma -> the team


Translation of the article

Whenever the team is named after the name of the city it belongs to - or a variant of it, such as Genoa - the masculine genre is used to distinguish it from its toponym, which is generally feminine (so la magnifica Cagliari = the city; il magnifico Cagliari = the team). The feminine, probably due to the implicit noun squadra (team), is used with names derived from an ethnical adjective (such as Fiorentina or Udinese) and with names not related to a toponym (such as Atalanta, Juventus, Sampdoria and Lazio, the latter being so distinguished from region name). The main exception to this explanation is la Roma.


original source

Quando la squadra porta lo stesso nome della città di appartenenza - o una sua variante, come nel caso del Genoa - il genere maschile serve a distinguerla dal toponimo, che è normalmente femminile (quindi la magnifica Cagliari = la città; il magnifico Cagliari = la squadra). Il femminile, probabilmente dovuto al sostantivo sottinteso squadra, si adopera con nomi derivati da un aggettivo etnico (la Fiorentina, l'Udinese) e con nomi che non corrispondono a un toponimo (quindi l'Atalanta, la Juventus, la Sampdoria e anche la Lazio, che così si distingue oltretutto dal nome della regione). La principale eccezione, di fronte a una spiegazione del genere, è la Roma.»

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  • 2
    La squadra Milan --> no, it's "il" Milan – Damien Pirsy Nov 5 '13 at 20:45
  • Examples La (squadra) Juventus, The Juventus (team) That's trying to make a general rules, which is failing in many cases – Damien Pirsy Nov 5 '13 at 20:46
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    Actually, no. As I explain Juventus doesn't have a related toponym, so team is implied. On the other hand Milan is a variant of Milano (the city), so a masculine article is used to disambiguate. La città di Milano, Il Milan. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 5 '13 at 20:48
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    it's La maggica Roma, actually :-) (for non-Italian speakers: it's a joke, since people in Rome tend to pronounce it in that way) @I.M.: usually all non-Italian words are felt as masculine, not only among soccer teams. There is some exception, but they happen when the Italian translation of the term is feminine: the first example I have in mind is "la net neutrality", because it is felt as "la neutralità della rete". – mau Nov 6 '13 at 16:00
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    @mau Thanks, I know (though, the question is still only about soccer teams). The feminine exceptions among foreign teams are very few, actually: all teams with the word "Dinamo" and la Stella Rossa. I just hoped that somebody would add it as an answer instead of a comment for the future users. – I.M. Nov 6 '13 at 16:07
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I fear there's no golden rule, but everything is left to the native speaker sensibility and to the common usage.

While in some cases you can argue that some names require a different article to avoid confusion (il Lazio as the region, la Lazio as the football team, similar for il Bologna and la bologna), ultimately it doesn't even come down to the type of consonant-vowels group that follows the article, since (the first example that comes to my mind) we say la Fiorentina and il Fiorenzuola - and the words share many common characters.

You need to forget the various grammar rules governing the use of articles. By a fast online research, I found this, allegedly from an Accademia della Crusca expert:

«Il problema, affrontato in modo convincente da Giuseppe Francescato (in "Lingua Nostra", XXXIII, 1972, pp. 132-37), è stato poi ripreso e riassunto con grande chiarezza da Jacqueline Brunet, Grammaire critique de l'italien, 5 [Le genre], Parigi, Université de Paris, VIII-Vincennes, 1982, pp. 80-82. Quando la squadra porta lo stesso nome della città di appartenenza - o una sua variante, come nel caso del Genoa - il genere maschile serve a distinguerla dal toponimo, che è normalmente femminile (quindi la magnifica Cagliari = la città; il magnifico Cagliari = la squadra). Il femminile, probabilmente dovuto al sostantivo sottinteso squadra, si adopera con nomi derivati da un aggettivo etnico (la Fiorentina, l'Udinese) e con nomi che non corrispondono a un toponimo (quindi l'Atalanta, la Juventus, la Sampdoria e anche la Lazio, che così si distingue oltretutto dal nome della regione). La principale eccezione, di fronte a una spiegazione del genere, è la Roma

but I sense it's more in the ears of the native speaker, and on the common use of the words - since we're almost raised hearing footbal teams names, we interiorized the use of a form, and that seems natural to us.

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Si sottointende la parola squadra, quindi: la (squadra) Inter, eccetera.

In altri casi, credo si sottointenda il club o football club, quindi: il (club) Milan, il (club) Bologna, eccetera.

Mi sembra evidente che si usi il maschile quando il nome della squadra e' anche un nome di citta', forse per evitare confusione, visto che le citta' prendono il femminile.


The word "team" is implied if the name is feminine, the word "club" is implied if the name is masculine.

The masculine terms are preferred in those cases when the teams have city names.

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  • 1
    It's going to be really hard to answer in English... – Sklivvz Nov 5 '13 at 20:39
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    Why not "IL club Juventus" then? Why not l(a) A(ssociazione) C(alcistica) Milan? – Damien Pirsy Nov 5 '13 at 20:41
  • Yep, added that. – Sklivvz Nov 5 '13 at 20:43
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    Se il genere dei nomi di citta' e' femminile, come mai si usa scrivere, almeno nelle carte geografiche, 'Il Cairo' e non 'La Cairo'? – Kyriakos Kyritsis Nov 5 '13 at 20:57
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    Il Cairo è il nome completo, in quanto deriva dall'arabo al-Qāhira – Gabriele Petronella Nov 5 '13 at 21:21
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For foreign teams the most common article is ‘il/lo’ (but ‘la Fluminense’). For Italian teams the rule is that no rule exists. One can give some criterions, just for immediately finding exceptions to them.

It used to be common saying ‘la Bari’, but the standard with city names prevailed; this hasn't happened with ‘la Roma’, however. About ‘la Sampdoria’ one should mention that its supporters always say ‘il Doria’.

We can find other exceptions to the criterions: the main rugby team in Padova is ‘il Petrarca’: saying ‘la Petrarca’ would expose to rough retaliations. ;-)

Teams with names of sponsors are usually feminine, like ‘la Scavolini Pesaro’ that becomes ‘il Pesaro’ when the sponsor's name is omitted; conversely it used always to be ‘il Lanerossi Vicenza’, as far as I can remember (maybe for distinguishing the team from the factory).

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    'la Roma' divenne 'la Roma', e non 'il Roma', perche' 'la Lazio', un'altra squadra di Roma fondata molti anni prima, influenzò i romani nell'uso dell'articolo 'la', that's all. – Kyriakos Kyritsis Nov 6 '13 at 14:08
  • La Dinamo Kiev? :) I like your notes about the sponsor names. And il Doria, of course! But I strongly feel that there are too many aspects in Italian, where one could say "the rule is that's no rule exists." This site is for providing the answers and I'd be happy if we can break the bad tradition of many textbooks to say "OK, don't try to understand this logic, just learn this by heart." – I.M. Nov 6 '13 at 14:09
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    @I.M. Rules can be defined only on retrospect and in all languages exceptions to ‘rules’ are always frequent. For ‘Dinamo’ the consonance with the Italian word probably explains the feminine article. I'd note that the Italian pronunciation is ‘dìnamo’, while in Slavic languages it's ‘dinàmo’ (with sound variations, of course). I feel that there's a logic in the assignment to masculine or feminine, but usage always wins against logic. – egreg Nov 6 '13 at 14:15
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    Forza la Juve! :) – Paulo Cereda Nov 22 '13 at 11:20

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