italian grammar

Italian Grammar Rules: How to Form Singular and Plural Nouns

italian grammar

Mastering Italian grammar can be difficult. Nonetheless, it’s important if you want to become proficient in the Italian language. Below, Italian teacher Nadia B. shares some tips and tricks on how to form singular and plural nouns…

In Italian, it’s important to understand how to form singular and plural nouns. After all, nouns are a cornerstone of the Italian language—or any language for that matter.

Luckily, this Italian grammar rule is easy to master as it follows a certain pattern. Once you learn this recognizable pattern, you’ll be able to express more exponentially in Italian. Let’s get started!

Identifying the Gender of a Noun

Regardless of number, each noun has a gender: masculine or feminine. It’s important that you understand how to recognize whether a noun is feminine or masculine.

Once you know whether a noun is feminine or masculine in the singular, you can make changes to the ending to pluralize.

If a noun is feminine, it generally ends in –a in the singular and if it is masculine, it generally ends in –o in the singular. See examples below:

  • Feminine: la mela
  • Masculine:  il ragazzo

However, there are some nouns that end in –e, which can be feminine or masculine. See examples below:

  • Masculine: il ristorante
  • Feminine: la notte

Pluralizing the Noun

The most basic way to pluralize singular nouns is as follows:

Nouns ending in –o, the ending changes to –i in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: il libro
  • Plural:  i libri

Nouns ending in –a, the ending changes to –e in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: la bambina
  • Plural: le bambine

Nouns ending in –ca change to –che in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: l’amica
  • Plural: le amiche

Nouns ending in –e change to –i in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: lo studente
  • Plural: gli studenti

Exceptions to the Rule

There are several exceptions to the rules listed above:

For the nouns that end in –io, the -i is generally not repeated in the ending. An exception to this are words like lo zio, which becomes gli zii. See example below:

  • Singular: il negozio
  • Plural:  i negozi not i negozii

There are certain feminine nouns ending in –a that change to –i in the plural. See example below:

  • Singular: l’ala
  • Plural: le ali.

There are certain masculine nouns ending in –a that change ending to –i in the plural, along with nouns ending in –o and –e, which can be masculine or feminine. See examples below:

  • Singular: il problema
  • Plural: i problemi
  • Singular: la mano
  • Plural: le mani

There are also nouns ending in –a that can be both masculine and feminine. Dentista, for example, can be accompanied by the masculine or feminine article; la dentista or il dentista.

In these cases, the masculine noun changes to –i in the plural and the feminine noun changes to –e in the plural. See example below:

  • Masculine Plural: i dentisti
  • Feminine Plural: le dentiste

Nouns that end in –ca and –ga have a hard sound that needs to be preserved in the plural. To do so, the plural forms add an -h, but are otherwise normal in their pluralization. These nouns can be either feminine or masculine. Here is an example of each:

  • Singular: la barca
  • Plural: le barche
  • Singular: lo stratega
  • Plural: gli strateghi

The same addition of the ‘h’ in the plural also applies to nouns ending in –go and in –co. Some nouns ending in –co, however, don’t include ‘h’ in the plural (l’amico à gli amici).

  • Singular: il dialogo
  • Plural:i dialoghi
  • Singular: il pacco
  • Plural: i pacchi

Lastly, another type of noun with a spelling change are those that end in –cia or –gia. If the –i in this ending is unstressed in the singular, it drops the –i in the plural. However, if the –i is stressed, it is retained in the plural.

  • Singular:la mancia
  • Plural: le mance
  • Singular: la farmacia
  • Plural: le farmacie

Abbreviated Nouns

In Italian grammar, there are other types of nouns that are abbreviated, which are shortened to make them easier to write and say. La foto, for example, which is short for la fotografia.

With these nouns, they retain the same ending in the plural shortened forms (le foto). Similarly, nouns that end with an accented vowel or a consonant don’t change in the plural, either. See examples below:

  • Singular: il caffé
  • Plural: i caffé
  • Singular:  il film
  • Plural: i film

An important part of understanding nouns is also understanding what articles accompany them, including definite and indefinite articles. You can read more about articles in this blog post.

While there are many exceptions to nouns, the basic rules of how to form singular and plural nouns will take you quite far. As you work with your Italian tutor, you can learn the exceptions through practice, listening, and repetition. Before you know it, you will naturally form singular and plural nouns perfectly!

Photo by llmicrofono Ogglono

nadiaBPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches Italian in New York, NY. She graduated summa cum laude from New York University, with a double degree in Italian Language and Literature and Classical Music Performance. Learn more about Nadia here!

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