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Adjectives

There are two basic differences between English and Italian adjectives: the Italian adjective is not invariable, and does not go before the noun.

Gender and Number of Adjectives

In Italian, the adjective is not invariable as in English, but has a masculine, feminine, singular and plural form. Moreover, whereas in English the adjective comes before the noun, in Italy most often goes after the noun, though we'll see more on the position of adjectives further on in this lesson. Adjectives ending in -o have four possible endings: masculine singular -o, masculine plural -i, feminine singular -a and feminine plural -e. Adjectives ending in -e have only two endings for both masculine and feminine: singular -e and plural -i. Some color adjectives (rosa, blu) and foreign words are invariable.
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Examples:
"alto"
"intelligente"
masculine singular
un ragazzo alto
un uomo intelligente
feminine singular
una ragazza alta
una donna intelligente
masculine plural
dei ragazzi alti
degli uomini intelligenti
feminine plural
delle ragazze alte
delle donne intelligenti


Position of Adjectives

In Italian, the order between the adjective and the noun is not fixed.
  • There is a tendency to put the adjective after the name for a quality that characterizes one thing in relation to others, so adjectives of quality usually follow the name
  • Other Adjectives - demonstrative, possessive, indefinite, interrogative and numerals - come before the name.
  • Adjectives of colors and nationalities always follow the name, though, along with possessive adjectives, may follow the name for emphasis.
  • When there are two adjectives with a same name, one comes before and the other after. Example:
    He has a fine German car --> Ha una bella macchina tedesca.
  • when the adjective is preceded by molto (very), troppo (too) or other modifying adverb, it always follows the name. Example:
    He's a very kind man --> È un uomo molto generoso.
  • When there is a choice, the position of the adjective takes a semantic meaning, for example: "un uomo grande" means a big man, whereas "un grand'uomo" means a great man. More examples of this kind and special adjectives:

Some Examples:
Adjective
"buono"
"cattivo"
"grande"
"povero"
"nuovo"
"vecchio"
"caro"
"bravo"
before the noun
un buon amico
un cattivo consiglio
una gran donna
un pover'uomo
un nuovo libro
una vecchia amica
un caro amico
un brav'uomo
English meaning
a true friend
a bad advice
a great woman
an unlucky man
another book
an old friend
a dear friend
a nice man
after the noun
un amico buono
un consiglio cattivo
una donna grande
un uomo povero
un libro nuovo
un'amica vecchia
un viaggio caro
un uomo bravo
English meaning
a good-hearted friend
an evil suggestion
a big woman
a poor man
a still unopened book
an elderly friend
an expensive trip
a clever man


Possessive Adjectives

In Italian there is no different form for possessive pronouns (as my vs mine), but the possessive is usually preceded by the definite article, so the order is article + possessive + noun. The article is not used for family members in the singular. Moreover, while for the third person in English the gender is related to the possessor (his, her, its) in Italian masculine vs feminine depend on the name that accompanies the possessive, and there is no neutral (as "its"). The possessive for the third person plural (their, theirs) is "loro" and is invariable.
English
my, mine
your, yours
his her its hers
our, ours
your, yours
their, theirs
sing., m.
il mio
il tuo
il suo
il nostro
il vostro
il loro
sing., f.
la mia
la tua
la sua
la nostra
la vostra
la loro
plur., m.
i miei
i tuoi
i suoi
i nostri
i vostri
i loro
plur., f.
le mie
le tue
le sue
le nostre
le vostre
le loro

Some Examples:
English
my car(s)
my book
his/her sister(s)
his/her brother8s)
singular
la mia auto
il mio libro
sua sorella
suo fratello
plural
le mie auto
i miei libri
le sue sorelle
i suoi fratelli


Demonstrative Adjectives

In Italian there are three demontrative adjectives (and pronouns); each of them has masculine, feminine, singular and plural forms, and is placed before the name. For the English "this, these" (pointing to something near to the speaker) we have questo/a/i/e (singular quest' before vowels), for "that, those" (pointing to something far from the speaker) we have quello/a/i/e, with masculine also quel/quei, and singular quell' in front of vowels. The third demonstrative in Italian is "codesto/a/i/e" referring to something which is near to the person we are speaking to. It is obsolete in most areas, though it is still largely used in Tuscany.

English
this, these
that, those

sing., m.
questo
quel(lo)
codesto
sing., f.
questa
quella
codesta
plur., m.
questi
quelli, quei
codesti
plur., f.
queste
quelle
codeste