Introduction to Italian/Lesson 7

In English, adjectives are almost always the same and come before a noun. In Italian, adjectives are modified to fit a noun's gender and quantity and they can come after or before the noun, based on the type of adjective.


Some types of adjectives (such as colors) take on the suffix of the noun they modify (-o for a singular masculine noun, -e for a plural feminine noun, etc.). Others, such as sizes, do not. It varies on a situational basis and you will just have to memorize them. Here are some example sentences:
I cani grandi sono bianchi (the big dogs are white).
I cani bianchi sono grandi (the white dogs are big).
Le mele sono gialle (the apples are yellow).
Le mele sono rosse (the apples are red).
La carne è gialla (the meat is yellow).
La carne è rossa (the meat is red).
Although there isn't really any yellow meat, you should get the idea.

Possessive AdjectivesEdit

Possessive adjectives (in English) are my, your, his/her, etc. In English they are not preceded by a definite article, but in Italian they are (except when used to talk about your family members in the singular, including padre, madre, sorella, fratello, zia, zio, etc). For example:
Il mio cane è nero directly translates to the my dog is black, but in Italian simply means my dog is black. Normally you would say the big dog is black, so it really makes sense that since my is an adjective you would say the my dog is black.
This chart shows all of the possessive adjectives according to gender and quantity (by now you should have noticed that almost everything relates to those two things):

First Person mio mia miei mie
Second Person tuo tua tuoi tue
Third Person suo sua suoi sue
First Person
nostro nostra nostri nostre
Second Person
vostro vostra vostri vostre
Third Person
loro loro loro loro

Loro is both the pronoun and the possessive adjective for the third person plural. It doesn't change based on gender or quantity.

Using Possessive AdjectivesEdit

The gender and quantity of a possessive adjective is determined by the noun it modifies, not the possessor. Examples:
Giulia gioca con il suo cane (Giulia is playing with her dog). Even though Giulia is a girl, the possessive adjective modifies cane, so it is masculine.
Giovanni incontra la sua ragazza al ristorante (Giovanni is meeting his girlfriend at the restaurant).
Mio padre ha voglia del mio gelato (my father wants my ice cream).

Milan Cathedral.

Possessive Adjectives and Family MembersEdit

With family members the definite article is not used:
Mia madre è un architetto (my mother is an architect).
Mio padre è un dottore (my father is a doctor).
Mio fratello è un insegnante (my brother is a teacher).
Mia sorella è una studentessa (my sister is a student).
But the definite article is used when plurals or informal names are used:
I miei fratelli sono insegnanti (my brothers are teachers).
Le mie sorelle sono studentesse (my sisters are students).
Il mio papà è un dottore (my dad is a doctor).
La mia mamma è un architetto (my mom is an architect).

The Act of BelongingEdit

This is not technically an adjective but should be included with the possessives. In English, to describe an apple as belonging to Giacomo we would say Giacomo's apple. In Italian, however, there is no suffix like the apostrophe-s, so they would say la mela di Giacomo, which, of course, translates to the apple of Giacomo.

Some Basic AdjectivesEdit

grande – big (doesn’t change for singular nouns, does for plurals)
piccolo – little (always changes)
verde – green (always changes)
giallo – yellow (always changes)
rosso – red (always changes)
azzurro – blue (always changes)
nero – black (always changes)
bianco – white (always changes)
seduto – seated (always changes)
molto – can mean very, many, or much depending on the situation (always changes)
questo – this (always changes)
Note: Questo can also be used as a pronoun, as in questo è un gatto (this is a cat) or questa è una mela (this is an apple).