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I'm a little confused in my understanding of this. My Italian teacher said that, like in French, you can use "gli amici" for example in "uscire con gli amici" since it would be clear from context whose friends I'm going out with. But can I also say "il vestito è grigio" for example? Would it be clear whose suit/dress I mean?

TL;DR What are the rules for when I can just say "il [noun]", and what are the rules for when I have to say "il mio [noun]"?

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  • With all due respect, if your Italian teacher really says that "i amici" is correct, than there are more serious problems there. That's not Italian at all, it's just wrong. Note that there is a fundamental and important difference between [j]/[l] and [ʎ]. Mar 4, 2022 at 5:26
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    Perhaps the teacher is just Roman: “j'amici” (and I say this as a Roman). :)
    – DaG
    Mar 4, 2022 at 11:57
  • My bad, that’s on me. It’s definitly gli amici, I just forgot it while writing!
    – Rainbridge
    Mar 4, 2022 at 16:51
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    There is no hard rule, just like there is no hard rule dictating whether to say "I met some friends" or "I met some friends of mine". Obviously you always specify the possessive adjective, when the owner does not correspond to the subject of the sentence.
    – secan
    Mar 16, 2022 at 13:54
  • One situation where you definitely don't use the possessive adjectives mio, tuo etc. is for “reflexive” actions, such as washing one's hands or wearing one's clothes. The sense of whose those things are is conveyed by a pronoun, such as mi (literally, “to me”): mi lavo le mani, mi metto la camicia and so on.
    – DaG
    Mar 21, 2022 at 12:32

2 Answers 2

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I think there is not a rule. "Uscire con amici" is more vague than "Uscire con gli amici", which is more vague than "Uscire con i miei amici", which is different from "Uscire con miei amici".

"Uscire con amici" gives the idea of the fact per se, without specifying which friends (mine? your?). The same is "Uscire con gli amici", but the determinative article restricts just a little the concept, implying that those friends are the abitual ones.

"Uscire con i miei amici" is the more precise one: it specifies clearly "my" (abitual) friends.

"Uscire con miei amici" (or "Uscire con certi miei amici") is legitimate but strange and probably uncommon, to speak more generally, intentionally leaving out the article and giving a sense of vagueness.

And then yes, "Il vestito è grigio" is perfectly valid and the context must be present to understand which dress the phrase refers to.

An easy example comes to my mind where Italian is quite different from English: "I feel pain in my knee" is normally said in Italian as "Ho male al ginocchio", without using my/mio. In such cases (talking about the body) the context is mostly available, so italians tend to omit the possessive: "Use your hand" translates to "Usa la mano" or "Usa una mano", where "Usa la tua mano" can be said to reinforce that you should use your own hand, not the one of someone else...

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on the learning point of view, there is nothing wrong to always specify the possession of the subject: "il mio vestito", "i miei amici". Like also "il tuo vestito", "i tuoi amici" etc...

As you practice you will find situations where the possession of the subject can be extracted from the context, especially in long dialogues or texts.

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