Unità 2 – Grammatica



La studentessa è generosa. (The student (F) is generous)

Marco è sincero. (Marco is sincere)


Generosa and sincero are adjectives. Adjectives are words that modify nouns, i.e. they tell us something more about a noun. In Italian, the endings of the adjectives change depending on the gender and number of the noun that they modify. For example, la studentessa is singular and feminine, so generosa is also singular and feminine. We call this “agreement”.


There are two kinds of adjectives in Italian:

1. Some adjectives, such as contento, have four different forms:

singolare plurale
maschile contento

Il ragazzo contento

(The happy boy)


I ragazzi contenti

(The happy boys)

femminile contenta

La ragazza contenta

(The happy girl)


Le ragazze contente

(The happy girls)

2. Other adjectives, such as felice, have only two forms, which can be used for either masculine or feminine nouns:

singolare plurale
maschile & femminile felice

Il ragazzo felice

(The happy boy)

La ragazza felice

(The happy girl)


I ragazzi felici

(The happy boys)

Le ragazze felici

(The happy girls)

Adjectives of nationality. Adjectives used to describe nationalities usually end in -ano (first type) or -ese (second type):

-ano italiano (Italian), coreano (Korean), indiano (Indian), messicano (Mexican), giamaicano (Jamaican)…
-ese francese (French), inglese (English), cinese (Chinese), senegalese (Senegalese)…
other (-o) greco (Greek), turco (Turkish), tedesco (German), spagnolo (Spanish)

Attenzione! Unlike in English, adjectives of nationality are not capitalized

The verb essere


Gina è felice e divertente. (Gina is happy and fun)

Di dove siete tu e Bernardo? Siamo di Firenze. (Where are you and Bernardo from? We are from Florence)

Anna, sei stanca? No, sono molto stressata. (Anna, are you tired? No, I am very stressed out)


Essere (to be) is an irregular verb – it changes a lot! Essere is the form in infinito mode – it is a basic form that is not tied to a specific person or subject. For now, we will not use it in a sentence. Instead, when we speak, we should use the form that matches the subject of our sentence.

We can use essere + adjective to describe our mental or physical state.


io sono (I am)
tu sei (you are)
lei / lui / Lei è (she / he is / You are)
noi siamo (we are)
voi siete (you are)
loro sono (they are)

Some of the adjectives that can be used to describe our physical or mental state include:

  • stanco/a (tired)
  • felice (happy)
  • triste (sad)
  • stressato/a (stressed out)
  • annoiato/a (bored)

Remember that these adjectives should agree with the gender and number of the subject of the sentence:

Marcus è stressato. (Marcus is stressed out)

Giulia e Heidi sono stressate. (Giulia and Heidi are stressed out)

The verb avere + noun can also be used to describe physical and mental states.

The verb avere


Katiuscia ha due penne. (Katiuscia has two pens)

Quanti anni hai? Ho diciannove anni. (How old are you? I am 19 years old)

Come stai? Ho sonno. (How are you? I am sleepy)


Ho, hai, ha are forms of the verb avere (‘to have’). In Italian, avere is primarily used to indicate possession, but it is also used to talk about age and state.


io ho (I have)
tu hai (you have)
lei / lui / Lei ha (she / he has / You have)
noi abbiamo (we have)
voi avete (you have)
loro hanno (they have)

We use these forms to indicate possession:

Ho una penna. (I have a pen)

Ahmed ha molti libri. (Ahmed has many books)


Avere is also used to talk about age:

Use the phrase quanti anni + avere to ask how old someone is.

Quanti anni hai? (How old are you? Lit. How many years do you have?)

Quanti anni ha Maria? (How old is Maria?)

Use the phrase avere + number + anni to express someone’s age.

Ho diciannove anni. (I’m 19.  Lit. I have 19 years)

Maria ha sessantadue anni. (Maria is 72)

Avere + noun is used in some fixed constructions to describe physical or mental states.

Avere caldo (to be hot)
freddo (to be cold)
fame (to be hungry)
sete (to be thirsty)
sonno (to be sleepy)
male (to be in pain)

C’è / Ci sono


Quanti studenti ci sono in classe? In classe ci sono 15 studenti. (How many students are there in class? In class, there are 15 students)

A Bryn Mawr c’è un teatro. (At Bryn Mawr there is a theater)


We have learned to use the verb essere to describe or qualify objects and people. To talk about the people or objects that are in a specific place, or are part of a group, institution, etc., we use c’è and ci sono, which correspond to the English “there is” and “there are”.


A Bryn Mawr ci sono molte studentesse  VS  Le studentesse di Bryn Mawr sono intelligenti. (At Bryn Mawr there are many students  VS  Bryn Mawr’s students are intelligent)

In classe c’è una lavagna  VS  La lavagna è grande. (In class there is a blackboard VS The blackboard is big)


We use c’è when the subject of the sentence is singular. We use ci sono when the subject is plural.

Attenzione! In sentences with c’è and ci sono the subject is usually after the verb:

Ci sono molte studentesse a Bryn Mawr. (There are many students at Bryn Mawr)

C’è una professoressa in classe. (There is a professor in class)

Use quante / quanti + plural noun” to ask how many things or people there are:

Quanti studenti ci sono in classe? (How many students (M) are there in class?)

Quante studentesse ci sono in classe? (How many students (F) are there in class?)

Attenzione! Quant* is an adjective and, as such, it should agree with the noun that it modifies. Use quanti for masculine names and quante for feminine names:

Quante matite ci sono nel tuo zaino? (How many pencils are there in your backpack?)

Quanti libri ci sono sulla scrivania? (How many books are there on the desk?)

Ci sono is usually followed by a number or by the adjective molte (F) /molti (M) (= many).

Expressions of time with the verb essere


Che ore sono? Sono le dieci di sera / è mezzanotte. (What time is it? It is 10pm / it is midnight)

Che giorno è? È mercoledì. (What day is it? It is Wednesday)


We use the third person of the verb essere to talk about time. We use the third person singular with the days of the week, noon, 1am, 1pm and midnight. We use the third person plural in all other cases.


To ask the time, we say either che ore sono? or che ora è?

To tell the time…

Usually, we follow this model:

Sono le due e un quarto di pomeriggio
verb article + hours minutes part of the day
È . . . l’una 1 (am/pm)
mezzanotte Midnight
mezzogiorno Noon
Sono . . . le due, le tre, le quattro (all other times)
(le sette) . . . e dieci 7:10
(le sette) . . . e un quarto 7:15
(le sette) . . . e mezza 7:30
(le otto) . . . meno venti 7:40
(le otto) . . . meno un quarto 7:45
(le otto) . . . meno dieci 7:50



Similar to English, after the first 35 minutes of an hour have passed, we can talk about the time that will pass before the next hour rather than the time that has passed since the previous hour. For example:
  • 7:45: “sono le otto meno un quarto” (it’s a quarter to eight)
  • 7:50: “sono le otto meno dieci” (it’s 10 to eight)
parts of the day
. . . di mattina AM morning
. . . del pomeriggio PM afternoon
. . . di sera evening
. . . di notte night

What we described above is the most common way to tell the time in Italian. So-called “military time”, however, is also used in Italy much more frequently than in the US. You will find it in official programs, at the train station, and in various professional settings. In these cases, we will indicate the hour, counting from 1 – l’una (1am) to 24 – le ventiquattro (12pm) and the minutes using only numbers.

When using “military time”, remember…

All hours except 1am are feminine plural and use the article le.


Le due

Le quindici

Since this way of expressing time already clearly indicates the parts of the day, we do not say “di mattina”, “di sera”, etc.

Sono le due del pomeriggio.

Sono le quattordici (NOT del pomeriggio).

We never use “e mezza”, “e un quarto”, “meno un quarto”, etc.:

Sono le sette e un quarto di sera.

Sono le diciannove e quindici.


To ask “at what time” things are happening, use a che ora è…:

A che ora è la lezione di italiano? (What time is the Italian class (at)?)

To respond, use the prepositions a / all’ / alle:

  • Use alle with most hours:

La lezione è alle due del pomeriggio. (The class is at 2pm)

La cena è alle otto di sera. (Dinner is at 8 in the evening)

  • Use all’ with una:

La lezione è all’una. (The class is at 1)

  • Use a with mezzogiorno and mezzanotte:

Il pranzo è a mezzogiorno.


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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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