In English, if I want to say something like "my beloved aunt and uncle", beloved is understood to modify both words. How do you do this in Italian if the two words are masculine and feminine (or at all, if "mia zia e mia sorella diletta" doesn't modify both)?

My best attempt is "mio zio e mia zia diletti" thinking that the beloved becomes plural. Is there a more eloquent way of doing this other than "mio zio diletto e mia zia diletta"?

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    Your attempt is perfect. When the noun refers to multiple people of more than one gender, masculine plural is used. Even better I miei zii diletti.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:03
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    Does that work if I'm addressing the two people? I miei zii diletti sounds like I'm referring to "my aunts and uncles" rather than "my aunt and uncle". Or is this just a nuance of English?
    – Marco
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:10
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    Well, if you wanted to emphasize that they are just two you could say I miei due zii diletti but it is not necessary. Usually it is inferred from context.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


In Italian, masculine + feminine = masculine plural: e.g., il tavolo e la sedia bianchi. It is probably more common to encounter this construction with a copula (il tavolo e la sedia sono bianchi), but it is correct also for modifiers.

See e.g. on the Treccani site for a grammar reference:

• Se i nomi sono di genere diverso, l’aggettivo si declina al maschile plurale

Ho conosciuto un ragazzo e una ragazza spagnoli

In your case maybe diletti isn't the best choice of word because it sounds a bit out of fashion: I would expect to hear it in an opera but not in everyday language. I recommend I miei cari zii. It's perfectly fine to use it also for a couple.

If you are addressing them directly in a salutation, for instance at the beginning of a letter, the proper form is miei cari zii or cari zii (without the article).

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    So, in custom, it seems that if I was writing a letter (or addressing them, for the first time), that cari zii does mean dear aunt and uncle. It could also mean, dear aunts and uncles but from the context it's implied that it's to them? Am I understanding that correctly?
    – Marco
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:56
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    @Marco Yes, that is correct. It means that there are two or more of my uncles and/or aunts, and at least one of them is male. Indeed, uno zio + una zia = zii is another instance of the same rule that masculine + feminine = masculine plural. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:01
  • @Frederico Poloni Grazie! Makes sense. As an aside -- you said diletto is out of fashion. I did, indeed, get it from an Opera, but my understanding was it's more than dear which is what caro was. Or is that too pedantic?
    – Marco
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:09
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    Let me confirm that diletto, independently on the gradation of the affection it might express, is quite old-fashioned, and probably some young people wouldn't even understand it. The last time I saw it used “in the wild” (i.e., not in operas or old poetry) was, I believe, in some papal speech, four or five popes ago.
    – DaG
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:24
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    @Marco Yes you are right, multiple feminine nouns require the feminine plural. Another option if you wanted to strengthen the "dear" part of i miei cari zii, you could use the superlative i miei carissimi zii.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 19:21

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