Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 6

Noun
noun
1: a word that can be used to refer to a person or place or thing
2: a word that can serve as the subject or object of a verb

All languages were not created equally. Unlike English, every Italian noun has a gender. In other words, every noun is either masculine or feminine. This is the case for other languages as well such as French, Portuguese, German, and Spanish.

When you are not accustomed to matching a noun with a gender, it can at times be confusing. It is certainly not uncommon for me to “gender bend” nouns when I’m speaking Italian. There is no one way to learn nouns and their respective genders, however, with a little practice and some general rules of thumb you will begin to identify the gender of nouns with a bit more ease.

So, let’s have a look at some basic and helpful tips/reminders when it comes to identifying the gender of Italian nouns. Keep in mind, there are always exceptions to the rules and things will get a bit more detailed as you move forward, but this can be a good starting point.

Noun Endings

Masculine nouns usually end in –o:
un ragazzo (a boy)

Feminine nouns usually end in –a:
una ragazza (a girl)

Also, nouns ending in –zione are always feminine:
una stazione (a station)

However, like I mentioned before, there are exceptions to the rules that you will just have to memorize:
un problema (a problem) is actually masculine
una radio (a radio) is actually feminine
un ristorante (a restaurant) is masculine

English-Italian Dictionary

Your dictionary is one of the best tools you can have when it comes to identifying the gender of a noun. You will notice when you look up a noun your dictionary should mark whether the noun is masculine or feminine. So, when you aren’t sure, look it up!

treno nm (abbreviation for noun masculine) – train
bicicletta nf (abbreviation for noun feminine) – bicycle

Other Random Reminders

~ Days of the week and months are masculine with the exception of Sunday (la domenica), which is feminine.
~ Cars are always feminine: una Ferrari (a Ferrari)
~ City names are usually feminine: la bella Roma (beautiful Rome)
~ Bodies of water (lakes, rivers, seas) are usually masculine: il Mediterraneo (the Mediterranean)

With practice, identifying the gender of nouns will get easier and will involve less brainpower to figure out. To help you get to that point sooner it is really important to try and learn the gender of the noun when you are learning the word. If you use flashcards, be sure to include whether the noun is masculine or feminine. This will save you having to go back and relearn it later on.

Have you noticed any trends when it comes to the gender of Italian nouns? Do you have any tricks to remembering Italian nouns and their genders? If so, please share them!! 🙂

Check out my other “Adventures of Learning a Language”:
Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 5
Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 4
Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 3
Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 2
Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 1

  1. passagetoitaly

    May 11, 2012 at 10:36 am

    I came across your blog recently, and I love it! Like you, I’m receiving dual citizenship through jure sanguinis. It has been quite a journey, and a long one at that.
    German has a neuter gender as well! 🙂 Latin also had a 3 gender system, but thankfully for those learning Italian, it only has a 2 gender system, which MOST modern Romance languages have in common.

    If this helps for those learning Italian, usually Greek derived words ending in -ema in Italian are masculine, for example un problema, il tema.

    1. LuLu

      May 12, 2012 at 1:57 am

      @passagetoitaly I know what you mean. Even though my process went fairly smoothly, I felt like it would never end!! best of luck on the rest of your journey to dual citizenship. Also, thanks for the tip with Greek derived Italian words.

  2. Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 7 « Calabrisella Mia

    July 7, 2009 at 7:06 am

    […] out my other “Adventures of Learning a Language”: Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 6 Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 5 Adventures of Learning a Language – Part 4 […]

  3. Piccola

    November 18, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve pretty much got the whole noun gender thing down because it’s the same in Spanish, so I just say the word in Spanish and take it from there. It defintely helps to know another latin language. It’s the irregular verbs that kill me!

  4. Assentia

    November 17, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Another pattern, that seems a bit unnatural: Trees are masculine, while their fruit are feminine.

    un arancio (orange tree) – un’ arancia (orange)
    un ciliegio (cherry tree) – una ciliegia (cherry)
    un mandorlo (almond tree) – una mandorla (almond)

    etc

    That’s another good one!! 🙂 I don’t know how they decide what will be masculine and what will be feminine…I can just picture like a noun tribunal or something!! haha

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