Italian School of Dallas
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Definite Articles

The definite article is used to talk about a thing or a person known to the listener or that has been mentioned at least once before during the conversation.

In English there is only one definite article: 'the'.  There are eight different ways to say ‘the’ in Italian.  
Articles vary because they have to agree in gender and number with the noun they are referring to, and the added complication is that they also vary depending on with which letter (or first two letters) the noun starts.  Just like nouns, articles can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural.  Let’s start with the masculine:

Masculine Singular

LO – is used before any masculine singular noun that starts with s+consonant, z, ps, gn, y.  There aren't that many of them, but it's good to remember these few:

Lo studente, lo zio (the uncle), lo sbaglio (the mistake), lo specchio (the mirror), lo yogurt, lo psicologo (the psychologist).

IL – is used before any masculine singular noun that starts with any other consonant.  This is the most common masculine article, so when in doubt use this one.  Examples:

Il bambino, il libro, il cane, il tavolo, il ragazzo, il film, il professore, il pesce, il pane

L’ – is used before all masculine singular words that start with any vowel:

L’ amico, l’albergo, l’ufficio (the office), l’uomo, l’esercito (the army)


Masculine Plural

Gli – is used before any masculine plural noun that start with s+consonant, z, ps, gn, y AND for all masculine plural noun starting with any vowel:

Gli studenti, gli zii, gli sbagli, gli yogurt, gli psicologi, gli gnomi, gli amici, gli alberghi, gli uffici, gli uomini, gli eserciti

I – is used before all masculine plural nouns that start with any other consonant:

I bambini, i libri, i cani, i tavoli, i ragazzi, i film, i professori, i pesci



Feminine Singular

La – is used before all feminine singular nouns that start with any consonant:

La ragazza, la famiglia (the family), la casa, la mamma, la rosa (the rose), la scuola (the school), la zia

L’ - is used before all feminine singular nouns starting with any vowel:

L’amica, l’oca (the goose), l’opera, l’uva (the grapes), l’indipendenza (independence)


Feminine Plural

Le – is used before ALL feminine plural nouns:

Le ragazze, le famiglie, le case, le mamme, le rose, le scuole, le zie, le amiche, le oche, le opere


Now You Try Some!

Find the correct articles for the following singular nouns:

rosa  = rose
bicchiere  (mn) = glass (drinking)
canzone (fn) = song
poltrona  = armchair 
porto  = harbor
tazza  = cup
gattino = kitty
muro  = wall
chiave (fn) = key
tavolo = table
occhio = eye
sbaglio = mistake
allarme (mn) = alarm
amore (mn) = love

Well done!
Now, if you really want to challenge yourself, try to turn all of these nouns and articles into plural forms.