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Why is there "Il" in "Il mio tesoro intanto"? Isn't "Il" just definite a article and thus not needed?

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    Welcome to Italian.SE! For those who are wondering about where this sentence comes from, context – Denis Nardin Sep 29 '19 at 18:11
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    Why should it be “not needed”? – DaG Sep 29 '19 at 18:12
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    @DaG I assume because the rule in French and English works like that, and so someone unfamiliar with Italian might assume that's the case there too. – Denis Nardin Sep 29 '19 at 18:13
  • Thanks, @DenisNardin, a likely guess. OP, was that your thinking? – DaG Sep 29 '19 at 18:14
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Italian, unlike French, English or German, does not treat the possessive adjectives as determiners. They are ordinary adjectives and so are normally prefaced by the article when appropriate.

In particolar mio in Il mio tesoro intanto ("Meanwhile, my treasure") works exactly like dolce in Il dolce tesoro intanto ("Meanwhile, the sweet treasure").

Note that this allows one to use the indefinite article un,uno as well, which in English is impossible and requires the usage of periphrases to be expressed. For example

Un mio amico (A friend of mine)

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  • I realise I'm being fantastically thick, but what do you mean by "it's impossible in English to use the indefinite article"? "One friend of mine" seems legitimate, and could (in certain contexts) have the same meaning as "A friend of mine". What part of the puzzle am I not getting (I should add that my knowledge of Italian extends as far as 'gelato') – Strawberry Sep 30 '19 at 14:15
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    @Strawberry I mean that you cannot write "*A my friend", so you need a periphrasis using the possessive pronoun "mine", or maybe something like "one of my friends". – Denis Nardin Sep 30 '19 at 14:18
  • Ah - got it! Thanks for the clarification! – Strawberry Sep 30 '19 at 14:20
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    @Strawberry No problem, and welcome to Italian.SE! – Denis Nardin Sep 30 '19 at 14:22
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Italian wants the article with possessive adjectives and pronouns.

The article is omitted when the possessive refers to relations: mia madre, mio padre, mio fratello, mia sorella, mia zia, mio cugino and so on. With madre and padre the noun is always omitted, with other relations the name can be added: mio fratello Asdrubale. It is also omitted in vocatives: Tesoro mio, ti amo; it can also be mio tesoro, ti amo.

It is also omitted in special phrases: casa mia (that corresponds to the English my home), but la mia casa (which is my house).

Don Ottavio is singing

Il mio tesoro intanto
andate a consolar.
E del bel ciglio il pianto
cercate di asciugar.

The article is used with mio and bel1 (fused with the preposition di, as usual).

Among Romance languages, Italian is not unique for this: Catalan and Romanian use the article (postponed in the latter); French and Spanish don't. Related: https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/26261/why-does-italian-use-definite-articles-before-possessive-adjectives-except-when


Footnote

1 The adjectives bello and quello have peculiar forms:

  1. bel and quel are used when before a name that takes the article il
  2. bello and quello are used when before a name that takes the article lo
  3. bei and quei are used when before a name that takes the article i
  4. begli and quegli are used when before a name that takes the article gli

The forms are regular for the feminine (bella, quella, belle, quelle) and when the masculine adjective is postponed or bello is used as aggettivo sostantivato.

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  • It makes sense to say The treasure. So in Italian one just add My to this. Thus we have My "the treasure". Am I correct or wrong? – Hank Sep 30 '19 at 9:36
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    @Hank I'd say rather "The my treasure", in the same way in which you say "The beautiful treasure" when the adjective is not a possessive. – Denis Nardin Sep 30 '19 at 11:59

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