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Getting started with Italian 1
Getting started with Italian 1

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10 Definite articles

Now have a go at Activity 7.

Activity 7

Read the transcript of the recording about historic Italian coffee houses (copied below). Write down the specialities of each coffee house with the correct form of the definite article that precedes them. Then read the explanation below on the definite article.


Il gelato

Transcript: In Italia ci sono molti caffè storici. Sono eleganti e raffinati, e offrono varie specialità. Il Caffè Fiorio è a Torino. Le sue specialità sono il gelato in estate e la cioccolata calda in inverno. A Napoli c’è il Caffè Gambrinus, famoso per le sfogliatelle e i babà. È anche molto conosciuto il Caffè Florian di Venezia, dove servono il tipico liquore al caffè. Un caffè storico molto importante di Roma è il Caffè Greco, rinomato per la focaccia di polenta. Il Caffè San Marco, invece, è a Trieste. Serve gli aperitivi con gli spuntini salati.

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Here are the specialities from the transcript, with some of the forms of the Italian word for ‘the’ before them.

  • la cioccolata
  • le sfogliatelle
  • i babà
  • il tipico liquore al caffè
  • la focaccia di polenta
  • gli aperitivi
  • gli spuntini

Definite article il, la, lo, l’, i, le, gli

In Italian, the definite article (meaning ‘the’) is used, as in English, to indicate a specific person or object; for example, something just mentioned or requested.

  • Ecco il cappuccino. Here is the cappuccino.
  • Ecco la pizza. Here is the pizza.

It is also used, unlike English, when referring to a category of objects.

  • Le sue specialità sono il gelato e la cioccolata calda. Its specialities are ice cream and hot chocolate.

The Italian word for English ‘the’ (the definite article) is il, la, lo, l’ and the plural forms i, le and gli. The form depends on the gender (masculine/feminine) and number (singular/plural) of the noun it refers to and also on the first letter of that noun.

Masculine nouns take il with singular and i with the plural.

  • il bicchiere the glass - i bicchieri the glasses
  • il cornetto the croissant - i cornetti the croissants

Masculine nouns beginning with s + consonant (for example sc, sp), gn, pn, ps, x, z, and i or y followed by another vowel, take lo with the singular and gli with the plural.

  • lo scontrino the receipt - gli scontrini the receipts
  • lo zio the uncle - gli zii the uncles
  • lo yogurt the yogurt - gli yogurt the yogurts

Feminine nouns take la with the singular and le with the plural.

  • la birra the beer - le birre the beers
  • la pizza the pizza - le pizze the pizzas

Nouns beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) take l’ in the singular and gli or le in the masculine and feminine plural forms respectively.

  • l’aperitivo the aperitif - gli aperitivi the aperitifs
  • l’aranciata the orangeade - le aranciate the orangeades