I have read the following sentence in a Italian learning tool:

Loro sono dei poliziotti statali.

"They are some state police officers" is not usual in English in this neutral context, so I'd rather translate that sentence to "They are state police officers". So, I wonder: what is the difference between the above sentence and "Loro sono poliziotti statali" ?

  • 2
    The Italian sentences sound quite stilted too, in either form... For one, poliziotti statali is a curious hybrid of colloquial and formal; you'd either say poliziotti (nobody talks of poliziotti comunali, say) or agenti della Polizia di Stato (or more likely, simply agenti di polizia).
    – DaG
    Aug 26, 2019 at 18:44
  • 1
    @DaG: Anyway, the question would be if there is any difference between "sono poliziotti" e "sono dei poliziotti".
    – Charo
    Aug 26, 2019 at 19:04
  • Yes, @Charo, mine was just a comment.
    – DaG
    Aug 26, 2019 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


Speaking about the use of articles in Italian, in his book Grammatica dell'italiano adulto, Vittorio Coletti explains that the so called "articolo partitivo" ("dei", "degli" or "delle") is used to make the plural of an indeterminative article, but that such a plural is also frequently expressed by simply omitting the article:

L'articolo partitivo funge anche da plurale dell'indeterminativo, quando il plurale è ammissibile, ovviamente: «voglio una torta» e «voglio delle torte». Un plurale indeterminato è spesso dato anche solo dall'assenza di articolo; la frase «ci sono studenti» è uguale a «ci sono degli studenti» ed entrambe sono diverse da «ci sono gli studenti».

So, as in the example given by Coletti («ci sono studenti» is the same as «ci sono degli studenti»), both the sentences «sono poliziotti» and «sono dei poliziotti» are correct and mean the same.


To express someone's profession, you would usually say:

{subject} {to be} {profession}
example: Io sono professore di italiano.

To express the profession or quality of an unnumbered subset of people in a numbered group of people you would usually say:

{subject (subset of a bigger group)} {to be} {articolo partitivo} {profession/quality/characteristic}

The same form can be used to express a quality:

{subject} {to be} {articolo partitivo} {profession/quality/characteristic}
example: Puoi fidarti di Luca e Paolo, sono dei bravi ragazzi.

An "articolo partitivo" is the combination of the preposition "di" and a definite article. It is used to express an undetermined quantity of something in a group. You can also find it used as the plural form of the indeterminate article it is composed of.

In your example, if the intention was to express the profession of the subject "loro", loro sono poliziotti is the correct form. Still, you can hear loro sono dei poliziotti used to express a profession.

loro sono dei poliziotti would be correct if dei was actually used as a partitivo, to indicate that "some guys in a counted group of people" are poliziotti.

  • 1
    Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Aug 27, 2019 at 18:04
  • 1
    “loro sono poliziotti is the correct form”: So you think the other one isn't?
    – DaG
    Aug 27, 2019 at 19:41
  • 3
    In this kind of sentences, dei is more precisely called an articolo partitivo (treccani.it/enciclopedia/…).
    – DaG
    Aug 27, 2019 at 19:43
  • @DaG you're right about the partitivo, answer updated. Still, i'd say the correct form is the one without 'dei' if the intention is to express the profession or activity of the subject
    – aetonsi
    Aug 28, 2019 at 22:28
  • Could you clarify why “dei” would be incorrect, gives as it is a regular Italian articolo partitivo?
    – DaG
    Aug 28, 2019 at 22:59

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