Now that we already know the indefinite articles (una, un, un’) in Italian, let’s take a look at the definite articles (il, la) in this lesson.

  • In English, the definite article is “the”. But in Italian, the form of “the” changes, depending on the gender of the word.
  • “The” is known as the definite article because it refers to a particular object (“the dog” means exactly the particular dog that you’re thinking of)

“The Cat” in Italian

Il gatto in Italian means the cat.

Il gatto

“Il” in Italian means “the”. “Il” is only used with masculine words.

  • “Gatto” is a masculine word. If you want to specify a particular cat and say “the cat”, you’ll have to use the article “il”.
  • Italian words that end with ‘o’ (for example gatto or tavolo), are usually words of masculine gender. Gatto is masculine. Il is the definite article for Italian words of masculine gender.

Italian for “The Cake”

La torta means the cake.

La torta

With masculine gendered words you have to use “il” but with feminine words you have to use “la”.

  • La is the definite article for feminine words (feminine words in Italian usually finish with “a”).

How to Say “What” in Italian

Cosa in Italian means thing.

It can also be used as a question: cosa? means what?

Cosa
  • In Italian if the letter “s” in a word is placed between two vowels (like in “cosa” and in “casa”) then usually it is pronounced like “z” in “zoo”.

“What Is It” in Italian

Che cos’è? in Italian means What is it?

Che cos’è?

If you want to know the Italian word for something, just ask “Che cos’è?” while pointing at the object, and you’ll get the answer in Italian. :)

  • The Italian word for thing, is actually “cosa”. But when you say it before è (“is”), the final “a” is missed off (and replaced with an apostrophe in written Italian).

The Italian for Is

È un gatto in Italian means It is a cat.

È un gatto
  • Notice that Italians use one word here where English people use two; the Italian literally translates as “is a cat” but it means “it is a cat”.
  • Pay attention, because “è” (meaning “is”) is always written with a grave accent.

Italian for And

Un cane e un gatto in Italian means A dog and a cat.

Un cane e un gatto

The Italian word for “and” is “e”.

  • Notice that while “è” (“is”) has an accent, “e” (meaning “and”) does not.
  • “E” is pronounced a bit longer than è.

Exercises

Translate the following sentences into English.

Click the link below to view the answers. But have a go first!

  1. Un’anatra e un cane.
  2. La casa
  3. La birra
  4. Un cane e un gatto.
  5. Che cos’è?
  6. É una porta.
  7. Che cos’è?
  8. É un albero.
Show answers »
  1. A duck and a dog.
  2. The house
  3. The beer
  4. A dog and a cat.
  5. What is it?
  6. It is a door.
  7. What is it?
  8. It is a tree.

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