Unità 1 – Grammatica

Verbs and pronouns


Io sono italiana. (I am Italian)

Tu sei americana. (You are American)

Lei è cinese. (She is Chinese)


Sono, sei, è are verbs – that is, they indicate an action or a condition. Unlike in English, in Italian the form of the verbs usually changes depending on the person who does the action (the subject).

Io, tu, lei are pronouns – they stand in place of the noun. For example, one could say:

Chiara è italiana  OR   lei è italiana



The pronouns that can be used as the subject of a sentence are:

singular plural
io (I) noi (we)
tu (you) voi (you)
lei / lui / Lei  (she/he/You) loro (they)


  • In Italian, unlike in English, subject pronouns are often omitted. We can still understand the subject from context. For example:

Tu sei di Roma = Sei di Roma. (You are from Rome)

  • Unlike the subject pronoun “I”, io is never capitalized
  • Lei is mostly used to indicate a third person (“she”), but it can also be used as an equivalent of the singular “you” in a formal setting (to talk with strangers, older people, clients, and even professors!)

Ciao, Mario! Di dove sei? (Hello Mario! Where are you from?)

Buongiorno, Signor Muhammad. Di dove è Lei?  (Good morning, Mr. Muhammad. Where are you from?)

Note that when used as an equivalent of a formal “you”, Lei is capitalized.

Small talk questions: verbs chiamarsi and stare 


Come ti chiami? Mi chiamo Chiara. (What’s your name? My name is Chiara)

Come si chiama la studentessa? Lei si chiama Elinor. (What’s the student’s name? Her name is Elinor)

Come stai, Li? Sto bene, grazie! (How are you, Li? I’m good, thanks!)

Come sta Carla? Lei sta bene! (How is Carla? She’s good!)


Note that the ending of the verb changes depending on the subject.

Chiamarsi is used to ask people’s names
io mi chiamo Maria
tu ti chiami Michel
lei / lui / Lei si chiama Alex
Stare is used to describe people’s conditions
io sto bene
tu stai male
lei / lui / Lei sta così così

Remember that Lei can also be used as a formal “you”. In this case, the verb still ends in -a.

Come si chiama Lei, professoressa? Mi chiamo Daria Bozzato (What’s your name, Professor? My name is Daria Bozzato)

Come sta, professoressa? Sto bene! (How are you, Professor? I’m good)

Nouns – gender and number


La pizza è buona. (Pizza is good)

In classe ci sono gli studenti. (In class there are students)


Pizza and studenti are nouns. In Italian, nouns have different endings that tell us whether they are singular or plural, feminine or masculine. Typically, nouns indicating people of male gender are masculine and nouns referring to people of female gender are feminine. Nouns referring to objects can be either masculine or feminine.


Usually, masculine nouns end in -o (singular) and -i (plural) and feminine nouns end in -a (singular) and -e (plural):

  singular plural
feminine pizza pizze
masculine amico amici

There are several nouns that end in -e in the singular form and -i in the plural. These nouns can be masculine or feminine. Remember their gender when you learn them!

  singular plural
feminine televisione televisioni
masculine studente studenti

Most words ending in -ca/-co and -ga/-go add an “h” in the plural form, to maintain the hard “c” or “g” sound. For example:

L’amica > Le amiche (friend (F) > friends (F))

Lo gnocco > Gli gnocchi (gnocco > gnocchi)

Il gioco > I giochi (game > games)

One exception to this rule is amico (masculine form!), which does not add the letter “h” in the plural form:

L’amico > Gli amici (friend (M) > friends (M))

Words ending with an accent or a consonant (mostly foreign words) do not change in the plural form. For example:

La città > Le città (city > cities)

Il caffè > I caffè (coffee > coffees)

Il film > I film ( film > films)



Marina è una studentessa              La studentessa si chiama Marina

(Marina is a student)                        (The student’s name is Marina)

Carlo è uno studente                       Lo studente si chiama Carlo

(Carlo is a student)                            (The student’s name is Carlo)


La, lo, una, and uno are articles. Like in English, in Italian there are two kinds of articles:

  • indefinite articles (un, uno, una, un’ = a)
  • definite articles (il, lo, la, i, gli, le = the)

Articles change depending on the gender and number of the noun they refer to. For example, studentessa is singular and feminine, so we must use feminine singular articles: una or la una studentessa, la studentessa. Studente is singular and masculine, so we must use masculine singular articles – uno studente, lo studente.


Gli articoli indeterminativi

Indefinite articles (uno, una, un, un’) are used to designate an unknown or generic person or object. They correspond to the English “a/an”, and – like in English – they can only be singular. Similar to definite articles, their form changes based on the gender of the noun they refer to and the first letter of the word that follows them.

UN + consonant and  a, e, i, o, u
un libro, un amico
UNO + S+consonant-, Gn-, Ps-, Pn-, Z-, X-, Y-
uno zaino, uno scienziato, uno studente, uno psicologo
UNA + consonant
una pizza
UN’ + a, e, i, o, u
un’amica, un’idea
Uno is used with masculine words beginning with:
  • Z-
  • S + consonant (sc, sl, st, etc…)
  • Pn- and Ps-
  • Gn-
  • X-
  • Y-
Un’ is used only with feminine words beginning with vowel.

Gli articoli determinativi

Definite articles (il, lo, la, l’, i, gli, le) are used to designate a specific person or object – they correspond to the English “the” and their form changes depending on the gender and number of the noun they accompany, as well as the first letter of the word that immediately follows them.



IL + consonant
il libro

i libri

LO + S+consonant-, Gn-, Ps-, Pn-, Z- and others
lo zainoL’ + a, e, i, o, u (in the singular form, to avoid repeating vowels) 
gli zaini
gli orologi



LA + consonant
la pizza
le pizze
le amiche

L’ + a, e, i, o, u (in the singular form, to avoid repeating vowels) 

Lo and gli are used with masculine words beginning with:
  • Z-
  • S + consonant (sc, sl, st, etc…)
  • Pn- and Ps-
  • Gn-
  • X-
  • Y-


In Unit 1A, we have learned the indefinite articles un, uno, un’, una. These words are also used to express the quantity “1”.

Numbers between 0 and 20 are irregular and should be memorized:

0 – 10 11- 20
uno undici
due dodici
tre tredici
quattro quattordici
cinque quindici
sei sedici
sette diciassette
otto diciotto
nove diciannove
dieci venti

After venti, numbers are formed following a more regular pattern:


Follow the same pattern to create all numbers between 20 and 99:

20 – venti ventuno, ventidue, ventitré…
30 – trenta trentuno, trentadue, trentatré…
40 – quaranta quarantuno, quarantadue, quarantatré…
50 – cinquanta cinquantuno, cinquantadue, cinquantatré…
60 – sessanta sessantuno, sessantadue, sessantatré…
70 – settanta settantuno, settantadue, settantatré…
80 – ottanta ottantuno, ottantadue, ottantatré…
90 – novanta novantuno, novantadue, novantatré…
100 – cento

Attenzione! Note that venti, trenta, quaranta, etc. drop the final letter when combined with uno and otto: ventuno, trentuno, ottantuno…quarantotto, cinquantotto, novantotto…


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Voci: Corso elementare di lingua e culture italiane - Volume I by Daria Bozzato, Chiara Benetollo, and Metello Mugnai is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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