Translated by Alanna Quintyne

In today’s article called “When NOT to use articles in Italian”, I am talking about the Italian articles. I am sure you know that in Italian we have to use articles almost all the time. But when they are not necessary? When do you make a mistake if you use them?

Today you can learn the cases that don’t need articles, so if you want to know more, keep reading!

Italian is not only a beautiful and melodious language, but it is also rather easy because it has quite clear rules and few exceptions.

Don’t worry, I know you’re thinking that saying this might be a bit obvious for me, since Italian is my native language, but if we compare it with many other languages, we realize that it really is easy and that you can learn it in a relatively reasonable time.

So, in the first part of this article I stated that Italian has clear rules and one of these rules concerns articles. In their first Italian classes, I explain to my students that articles are very important in this language and that they must be used “almost” all the time.

Why do I say almost? Because there are cases in which using them in Italian sentences leads to making serious mistakes and ending up with strange sentences.

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So, let’s see 6 cases in which you should avoid using articles in Italian.

1. With family members’ titles preceded by possessive adjectives

I’m sure all of you have learned this rule almost immediately. To avoid any doubt, however, I would like to explain this concept to you again.

When you use a family member’s title in its singular form preceded by a possessive adjective, you must not use the article, as in the following cases:

  • Mio zio / Mia zia – My aunt/uncle
  • Mio fratello / Mia sorella – My brother/sister
  • Mio cugino / Mia cugina – My cousin

Remember that this rule does not apply to the plural, so you can say:

  • I miei zii / Le mie zie – My uncles/aunts
  • I miei fratelli / Le mie sorelle – My brothers/sisters
  • I miei cugini / Le mie cugine – My cousins

But what nouns are considered “family members”?

To answer this question as simply as possible I will use other questions: Is there a marriage that binds these people? Is this connection official? If the answer is yes, we should not use articles before the possessive adjective:

  • Mia moglie / Mio marito – My wife/husband
  • Mia figlia / Mio figlio – My daughter/son
  • Mio cognato / Mia cognata – My brother-in-law/sister-in-law

If, on the other hand, we are referring to people who are not yet officially part of the family and with whom we do not have a direct link, we need to use the article, as in the following cases:

  • Il mio ragazzo / La mia ragazza – My boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Il mio fidanzato / La mia fidanzata – My boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé
  • Il mio compagno / La mia compagna – My companion/partner
  • Il mio partner / La mia partner – My partner

This way of explaining this concept may seem a bit simplistic and reductive, but I assure you that it is really very effective in getting my students to understand how to construct grammatically correct sentences.

This way of explaining this concept may seem a bit simplistic and reductive, but I assure you that it is really very effective in getting my students to understand how to construct grammatically correct sentences.

But are there exceptions to these exceptions?

Of course there are. In Italian, we really don’t miss a thing… So, pay attention to the following nouns:

  • Il mio bisnonno / La mia bisnonna – My great-grandfather/great-grandmother
  • Il mio patrigno / La mia matrigna – My stepfather/stepmother
  • Il mio figliastro / La mia figliastra – My stepson/stepdaughter
  • La mia sorellastra / Il mio fratellastro – My stepbrother/stepsister

2. With Adjectives and Indefinite Pronouns

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I generally don’t like to use big words related to grammar in my articles, but in this case, I couldn’t help myself. To give you an idea of these indefinite pronouns and adjectives I will list a few:

alcuno, poco, molto, parecchio, troppo, also qualcuno are part of this group…

Well, when you use these terms, you don’t need the articles, and your sentence will indeed sound strange to Italians if you use them.

  • Ci sono alcune le persone.
  • C’è parecchia la distanza.

These are 2 examples of what to avoid at all costs because they are grammatically wrong. Therefore, avoid articles and instead say:

  • Ci sono alcune persone. = There are some people.
  • C’è parecchia distanza. = There is a lot of distance.

Let’s try another example with a different sentence.

  • Ho mangiato la torta. = I ate the cake.

And let’s try to add to this sentence each of the indefinites listed above:

  • Ho mangiato alcune torte. = I ate some cakes.
  • Ho mangiato poca torta. = I ate a little cake.
  • Ho mangiato parecchia torta. = I ate lots of cake.
  • Ho mangiato troppa torta. = I ate too much cake.
  • Ho mangiato la torta di qualcuno = I ate someone’s cake.

Be careful though!

We can come up with exceptions, using tutto and certo for example, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.

  • Mangio tutta la torta. = I eat all the cake.
  • C’è una certa quantità di torta. = There is a certain amount of cake.

3. Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns

Another category to be careful with is that of adjectives and demonstrative pronouns. If you are wondering what they are, here they are: questo, questa, quel, quei, quelle

Even when you are faced with these words, you must not use articles. In fact, saying:

  • Quelle le persone sono simpatiche, or
  • Le quelle persone sono simpatiche,

as I have heard some students say a few times, is not the best choice. Remove the articles and just say:

  • Quelle persone sono simpatiche. = Those people are nice.

 

4. University Departments

Talking about our academic journey and achievements makes us proud, so it’s always nice to speak about them. Remember, however, that even though the Italian language loves articles, it does not use them when talking about university departments. Here are some examples:

  • Io frequento il primo anno di Psicologia. = I am in my 1st year of Psychology.
  • La facoltà di Matematica è dura, ma mi piace. = The Math Department is hard, but I like it.
  • Biologia è una facoltà stimolante. = Biology is a stimulating department.

In general, choose your articles carefully, and don’t be tempted to use Italian articles even where the language does not require them!

5. With Sports

Sports is another category to pay attention to because you must not abuse the articles.

Let me explain: in general, you can use articles to talk about a sport in order to describe it.

  • Trovo che il calcio sia uno sport interessante. = I find soccer to be an interesting sport.
  • Lo yoga prevede tanta disciplina. = Yoga involves a lot of discipline.

But when we want to say that we practice a sport, it is often not necessary to use an article.

  • Io faccio sport = I play sports.
  • Io faccio esercizio fisico. = I exercise.
  • Io pratico nuoto. = I practice swimming.

6. With Software and Online Platforms

Last, but not least, is the technology sector, which includes various software and online platforms.

When we use words like Internet, Facebook, Skype, Zoom, Twitter, we must not use articles:

  • Non funziona internet. = The internet isn’t working.
  • Carico un video su YouTube = I upload a video to YouTube.
  • Insegno la lingua italiana su Lingoci. = I teach Italian on Lingoci.

Remember, as with the previous cases the use of the article here will make the sentence unnatural and a bit strange, especially if heard by Italian speakers.

Conclusion

The Italian language, as I mentioned earlier, loves articles, and they must be used almost always in Italian. In general, they are needed in front of nouns, but as seen in this article there are some exceptions.

I hope you find this article useful, and I hope it has better clarified what the exceptions are and how not to make mistakes. Keep these 6 points in mind and treasure them so that you can improve the way in which you communicate in Italian.

ila firma

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