Indefinite Article

Italian definite articles
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Articolo indefinito

The aptly named indefinite article indicates an unspecific or unidentified noun.

Per esempio…

Vedo una gatta e un cane.   I see a cat and a dog.
Ha un’idea.   He has an idea.

Characteristics of indefinite articles

  1. Used with countable nouns (as opposed to uncountable nouns like money and water)
  2. Placed directly in front of a noun or an adjective + noun
  3. Agree with the noun in gender and number

Italian indefinite articles

    Masculine   Feminine
a, an, one   un, uno   una, un’
some   dei, degli   delle

+ There are two singular articles for each gender, each of which can mean a, an, or one:

Masculine

Un is the normal masculine singular indefinite article.

It changes to uno in front of a noun beginning with:

  • gn
  • i + vowel (ia, ie, etc)
  • pn
  • ps
  • s + consonant (sc, st, etc)
  • x
  • y
  • z

The consonants in the above list are called "impure consonants" and require changes in other Italian grammar features, including definite articles.

Feminine

Una is the normal feminine singular indefinite article.

It contracts to un’ in front of a vowel.

  Note that all of the above rules also apply to the number "one."

+ There are three plural indefinite articles, all equivalent to "some":

1. Masculine plural of un: dei
2. Masculine plural of uno: degli
3. Feminine plural: delle

 Many Italian grammars say that there is no plural indefinite article, or that you just use the partitive when you need a plural. While the plural forms of the indefinite and partitive articles are indeed identical, there is a difference between them.

  • The indefinite article is used for an unspecified number of countable nouns:
Ha visto dei cani.   He saw some dogs.
Sto comprando degli gnocchi.   I’m buying (some) dumplings.
  • The partitive article indicates some amount of something uncountable.
Ha fatto dei danni.   He did some damage.
Sto comprando degli spinaci.   I’m buying (some) spinach.

 Note that "some" is not considered an article in English but rather an adjective and isn’t always needed.

  The Italian indefinite article is not always used when talking about a person’s profession with essere (to be) …

Nico è autore.
Nico è un autore.
  He’s an author.
Sono insegnante.
Sono un insegnante.
  I’m a teacher.

It’s a bit more common in northern Italy and in writing, but otherwise, it’s correct with and without.

However, it is required when modified by an adjective or other descriptor:

Nico è un autore famoso.   He’s a famous author.
Sono un insegnante di scuola elementare.   I’m a grade school teacher.

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Indefinite articles in Italian