If addressing formally a male person, should the adjective(s) and noun(s) be declined in feminine or masculine form? For instance

Vuole parlare in italiano o in inglese?
Come Lei si senta più comod(o/a).


Grazie per essere con noi. Lei è stat(o/a) molto gentile.


È passato molto tempo da quando l(a/o) ho vist(o/a).

1 Answer 1


Both are correct, but in contemporary Italian the use of the masculine gender prevails:

l'uso ormai generalizzato, parlato e scritto, presenta l'accordo al maschile: «lei non è sincero» (Serianni, Italiano, VII.90)

[the now generalized use, both spoken and written, has the agreement in the masculine: «you are not sincere [masculine]»]

The feminine can still be used, but it was more frequent in the past. For instance, in Manzoni's Promessi sposi (cited by Serianni), we read: «sappiam bene che lei non è venuta al mondo col cappuccio in capo».

As for your examples, in all cases the masculine would sound more natural, apart for the last one. Since atonic pronouns (in this situation) are always used in the feminine («vorrei dirle», «la apprezzo»), la is necessary, and la and visto so close to each other are a bit strident. So, I'd say either «...da quando l'ho visto» or «...da quando la ho/l'ho vista». By chance, this is quite similar to both examples of modern use of feminine in Serianni: «L'ho sempre letta» and «tutta l'Italia l'ha vista piangere» (in both cases the interlocutor was a man, of course).

Not relevant to the question, but in the sentence «Come Lei si senta più comod(o/a)» the subjunctive mood is not correct, and the explicit subject «Lei» is not idiomatic. So, one would simply say «Come si sente più comodo». And «Lei» with a capital initial (when it isn't the first word of a sentence) is very, very formal.

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