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I am confused as I thought "mia famiglia" translated to "my family", but I was recently corrected and told it was "la mia famiglia"... What is the difference?

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    Just to add something more general to the good answers: the norm, in Italian and unlike English, is that you use the article before possessive adjective just like before nouns or other adjectives (la famiglia, la grande famiglia, la mia famiglia...). There are few exceptions to this, in particular those pointed out in CarLaTex's answer.
    – DaG
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 9:50

4 Answers 4

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In English the definite article must not be put before the possessive adjectives, in Italian in general is the contrary:

Il mio vestito è blu correct

Mio vestito è blu wrong (if you say it we understand immediately that you are a foreigner).

However, there is an exception with singular names which represent family members, for example:

Mia cugina è logorroica correct

La mia cugina è logorroica wrong

Mio nonno faceva il muratore correct

Il mio nonno faceva il muratore wrong.

With famiglia the definite article is necessary:

La mia famiglia è di origini milanesi correct

Mia famiglia è di origini milanesi wrong.

As egreg correctly pointed out, with mamma and papà or babbo both forms are used, maybe with a slightly different meaning, for example:

La mia mamma è bella I say this because I love my mother and for me she's beautiful

Mia mamma è bella I say this as a matter of fact, she's a beautiful woman.

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    On the other hand, la mia mamma or il mio babbo/papà are fairly common.
    – egreg
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 9:33
  • @egreg Thank you! I've edited my answer. Moreover in Milanese dialect we always put the article: la me' zia, el mi' nonu (I've written them as they are pronounced, since I cannot write in Milanese).
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 10:24
  • Where I live, the article is never used: me mama, me opà, me zio, me nona.
    – egreg
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 10:41
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    @egreg I think Milanese people put articles everywhere: also la Carla, l'Enrico... :)
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 10:55
  • Forse dire che "il mio nonno..." è wrong è un po' eccessivo. Forse è poco comune... poi mi sembra che in Toscana l'articolo in questi casi lo usino di più, magari perchè dicono "il mio figliolo". Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 5:45
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The definite article (or articolo determinativo in Italian) is used to reference a general category of people, animals, object or concepts.

In your case it is correct to translate My family with La mia famiglia (mind also the letter case) since also with the presence of the possessive adjective mia the use of the definite article la is always required.

You can find a very good reference in this Treccani Italian grammar

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With the singular of sorella, fratello, figlio/a, mamma, papà, nonno/a, etc. do not use the article either il or la with possessive (mia sorella, mio fratello). With the plural forms of family members, use the articles le or i plus possessive as in the examples le mie sorelle, i miei fratelli, i miei nonni, le mie nonne, i miei genitori, etc.

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Mia nonna and la mia nonna: both are ok, see M. Dardano "La lingua italiana" (Zanichelli), which also gives il mio papà, il mio babbo, la mia mamma, and not mio papà, mio babbo, mia mamma. Clearly there are no correct answers here - except "Dipende".

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    Welcome! Please, consider that the question is not about “mia nonna” or “la mia nonna” and this is not a forum. I see that there is another off-topic answer.
    – egreg
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 13:12

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