Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Intro

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 masculine and feminine nouns, and how are they different?
Explanation
In Italian, all nouns have a gender. A noun can either be masculine or feminine. That applies to plural nouns too and to all the words that can modify nouns, such as articles and adjectives.
Other Romance languages have a similar system of masculine and feminine nouns. It’s a trait that comes from Latin. The gender depends on the origin of the Latin word.
English doesn’t have masculine and feminine nouns, though. So the easiest way for English speakers to tell a noun’s gender is by looking at the last letter of the noun.
If a noun ends with -o in the singular and -i in the plural, it’s usually masculine. If a noun ends with -a in the singular and -e in the plural, it’s usually feminine.
For example, sedia, meaning “chair,” ends with an -a, so it’s feminine: la sedia. In the plural: le sedie.
Libro, meaning “book,” ends with an -o, so it’s masculine: il libro. And in the plural: i libri, ending with an -i.
The -o, -i for masculine and -a, -e for feminine rule doesn’t always work, though. Most of the time, but not always. There are some exceptions: like la moto, meaning “the bike,” which is feminine, and il problema, meaning “the problem,” which is actually masculine.
To make things even more complicated, there’s a third class of nouns ending with -e in the singular and -i in the plural. These can be masculine or feminine, depending on the word.
That’s why it’s important to learn nouns and their respective genders together with the right definite articles. The definite articles are different for each gender, so they’ll help you remember.
For example, take bicchiere, meaning “glass,” which is in that third category of nouns ending in -e. The right article for bicchiere is il, so il bicchiere is masculine.
How about nave meaning “ship”? The right article for this one is la, so la nave is feminine.
Again, there’s unfortunately no formula to find the right gender. The Latin origins of words go way back, and often people don’t know why some words have a certain gender today.
Your best guide is going to be our first rule: singular -o and plural -i for masculine, and singular -a, plural -e for feminine. Just try to memorize the articles with the nouns, and before you know it, the gender classifications will come naturally to you.

Outro

Whew! That’s it for this lesson.
Please send in any more questions you have, and I’ll try to answer them!
A presto! “See you soon!”

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