Partitive Article

Italian partitive articles
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Articolo partitivo

The partitive article refers to an unspecified quantity of food, liquid, or some other uncountable noun. English has no equivalent article – the partitive is usually translated by the adjectives "some" or "any," or may be left out entirely.

Per esempio…

Mangia ogni giorno del pane.   He eats bread every day.
Compro degli spinaci.   I’m buying (some) spinach.

Characteristics of partitive articles

  1. Used with uncountable nouns like chocolate, water, and money*
  2. Placed directly in front of a noun
  3. Agree with the noun in number and sometimes gender

* As opposed to countable nouns like bars of chocolate, glasses of water, and euros, which require the indefinite article.

Italian partitive articles

    Masculine   Feminine
a, an, one   del, dello, dell’   della, dell’
some   dei, degli   delle

+ There are four singular articles:

Masculine

Del is the normal masculine singular indefinite article.

It changes to dello in front of complex sounds like gn and st.

It contracts to dell’ in front of a vowel.

Feminine

Della is the normal feminine singular indefinite article.

It also contracts to dell’ in front of a vowel.

+ There are three plural partitive articles:

1. Masculine plural of del: dei
2. Masculine plural of dello and dell’: degli
3. Feminine plural: delle

 Plural partitive articles are identical to plural indefinite articles but 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.

Using partitive articles

The partitive article is needed when talking about an unknown or unspecified quantity of something uncountable – often food and drink.

Per esempio…

Voglio dell’acqua.   I want some water.
Compro del pane.   I’m buying some bread.

Water and bread are both uncountable – you can’t ask "how many" water or bread, only "how much." That’s how you know to use the partitive rather than the indefinite article.

In negative statements, the partitive is dropped.

Non voglio acqua.   I don’t want any water.
Non compro pane.   I’m not buying (any) bread.

 Related lessons

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Partitive articles in Italian