When I first started to learn Italian I thought that I could just learn the articles together with the nouns like I did for Spanish. However, this strategy seems fruitless now that I have realised that the choice of the article depends on the first two letters of the adjective or noun that follows.

for example: l'amico. but il migliore amico

This is a problem because in order to know if a noun is masculine or feminine you learn it together with the article. This in turn helps you choose other words like the plural from. However since the article can depend on the adjective that follows, choosing the correct plural is just a guessing game at time point.

So my question is how do you learn articles with nouns and adjectives since they are not consistent like Spanish but change depending on the first two letter of the word that followers?

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    Welcome to ItalianSE!
    – abarisone
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 6:20
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    I fail to get the big difference. Even in Spanish if you learn el amigo then you're going to use the word amigo with something else in front of it all the time: un amigo, algún amigo, mi mejor amigo. Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 6:28
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    “to know if a noun is masculine or feminine you learn it together with the article”: this is true for other languages, perhaps, but not for Italian. Even ignoring adjectives, just think l'amico (m.) and l'amica (f.). What you have to learn is just the grammatical gender of each noun. Knowing it, and the general, consistent rules about which form of the article is to be used in front of which letters, you can univocally determine the result. In any case, the grammatical gender is also necessary to correctly agree adjectives and pronouns with the noun.
    – DaG
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 8:27

1 Answer 1


The article in Italian is quite complex, because it has several forms.

Easy for feminine nouns: the articles are ”la/le” (singular/plural), but the singular form is elided to ”l’” when the following word (which is not necessarily the accompanying noun) starts with a vowel:

  • la rana (the frog)
  • l'amica (the female friend)
  • la migliore amica (the best female friend)
  • le amiche (the female friends)

For masculine nouns there are two pairs, namely “il/i” and ”lo/gli”. The forms “lo/gli” are used when the following word (not necessarily the accompanying noun) starts with

  • any vowel (including i or u with consonantic value); in the case of a true vowel, the singular form is elided in “l’”
  • z
  • the digraph gn
  • s followed by a consonant (even if it is a digraph such as “sc”)
  • special initial groups not really belonging to Italian phonology such as “ps,pn,x”

In all other cases the forms “il/i” are used.

  • l'amico (the male friend)
  • il migliore amico (the best male friend)
  • gli amici (the male friends)
  • i migliori amici (the best male friends)
  • lo zucchero (the sugar; well, in English the article is out of place)
  • lo scimpanzè (the chimpanzee)
  • lo gnomo (the elf), gli gnomi (the elves)
  • lo studio (the study)
  • gli studi
  • lo scimpanzè (the chimpanzee)
  • lo psicologo (the psychologist)

Note that “preposizioni articolate” follow the same usage.

Usage in the last case may vary and it's not infrequent to hear “il pneumatico” (the tire) despite grammars prescribe “lo pneumatico”.

Regional use also may differ: in my region we eat “i gnocchi” and in Verona they elect “il papà del gnocco” during Carnival.

In modern Italian, plural forms of the articles are never elided. In old texts you may find “gl'inviti” for “gli inviti” or “l'erbe” for “le erbe” (elision for “gli” used to be allowed only when in front of a vowel “i”).

Elision in front of consonantic “i” is a matter of taste; grammars might prescribe “l’iato”, I'd always say “lo iato”. Elision in front of consonantic “u” is the rule: “l'uomo, l’uovo”.

Foreign words starting with a glide, such as “whisky” have no standard rule: some say “il whisky” (I, among them), other say “l’whisky”.

For indeterminate articles, they are “un” (following the rules for “il”), “uno” (following the rules for “lo”, including elision) and “una” (following the rules for “la”).

How can you determine the gender of a noun? There is no rule, I'm afraid. We say “la matita” (but it can also be “il lapis”, not really common nowadays), in Spanish it is “el lápiz”; we say “il latte”, but it is “la leche” in Spanish.

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