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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Marika here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Italian questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are modified nouns?
In Italian, you can modify nouns. That allows you to convey feelings, such as love, hate, or irony, in a concise and effective way.
“Modified nouns,” called nomi alterati, can take different endings that convey different feelings.
They’re usually divided into categories. Let’s see which ones.
To describe something positively or negatively, you can use vezzeggiativi and dispregiativi.
Vezzeggiativi express endearment. Some common suffixes are -uccio and -ino. For example: tesoruccio (“sweetheart”), gattino (“kitten”).
Dispregiativi express dislike: common suffixes are -accio and -astro. For example: Scarpaccia (“ugly shoe”), giovinastro (“lout”).
To describe the aspect of something, you can use accrescitivi and diminutivi:
Accrescitivi indicate a big size: the most common suffix is -one. For example: ragazzone (“big boy”), nasone (“big nose”).
Diminutivi indicate smallness: common suffixes are -ino, -etto, -otto, -ello. For example: topino (“little mouse”), bacetto (“small kiss”), leprotto (“small hare”), alberello (“little tree”).


Beware of “fake modified nouns,” or falsi alterati. These are words that look like modified nouns but mean a totally different thing.
Matto means “crazy person,” but mattone is not a big, crazy man; it’s a “brick”! And mulino means “mill,” not a small mule. That’s mulo.
Italian children often learn funny nursery rhymes in school about these “false modified nouns.” Here’s one I just invented, ready? Take note!
La gomma per cancellare,
Il gommone per andare al mare.
Col burro puoi cucinare,
Ma nel burrone non scivolare!
Se vedi un lampo, c’è il temporale,
Se vedi un lampone, lo puoi mangiare!
Which means:
“The eraser to erase,
The raft to go out to the sea.
With butter you can cook,
But don’t slip down the ravine!
If you see lightning, that’s a storm,
If you see a raspberry, you can eat it!”
Pretty fun, right? Do you know any other “false modified noun”?
Let us know in the comments!
A presto! “See you soon!”