Essential Italian Grammar – Adjectives
The adjective is a variable part of the speech, which is added to a noun in order to give it a quality or to define it in a better way. Adjectives give sentences meaning, color and excitement. Without them, it would be difficult to visualize the people, places and things that are described in a given narrative. Imagine reading a story with no descriptions of the characters, such as their physical attributes or their emotional state. It would be a pretty boring story, wouldn't it?
Adjectives in English appear before a noun. Now, let's take a look at adjectives in Italian:
According to the linked noun, the adjective can have:
- an attributive function, when it is linked directly to a noun.
Il cielo azzurro mi rilassa. – The blue sky relaxes me.
- a predicative function, when it is linked to the noun through the verb essere, to be
Il cielo è azzurro. – The sky is blue.
The adjectives agree always on gender and number with the noun. When they are linked to various nouns, if there is just one masculine, the adjectives are all masculine too.
Ho bisogno di una sciarpa (f) e una giacca (f) nuove. – I need a new scarf and a new jacket.
Ho bisogno di un pullover (m) e una giacca (f) nuovi. – I need a new pullover and a new jacket.
The forms of the adjectives:
- adjectives ending in masculine singular with –o
Il gioco nuovo. – The new toy.
I giochi nuovi. – The new toys.
La casa nuova. – The new house.
Le case nuove. – The new houses.
- adjectives ending in masculine singular with –ista
L'uomo egoista. – The egoist man.
La donna egoista. – The egoist woman.
Gli uomini egoisti. – The egoist men.
Le donne egoiste. – The egoist women.
- adjectives ending in masculine singular with –e
L'uomo gentile. – The kind man.
La donna gentile. – The kind woman.
Gli uomini gentili. – The kind men.
Le donne gentili. – The kind women.
The following adjectives have just an invariable form:
- pari (pair) and dispari (odd)
- adjectives of colors, which derive from nouns: rosa, ocra, viola, nocciola, marrone
- adjectives composed by the prefix anti + noun: antinebbia (fog lights), antifurto (anti-theft)
Il muro rosa. – The pink wall.
I muri rosa. – The pink walls.
La casa rosa. – The pink house.
Le case rosa. – The pink houses.
The position of the adjectives.
The adjectives can be used before or after the noun.
- C'era un grande lago. – There was a big lake.
- C'era un lago grande. – There was a big lake .
The position gives a different tone to a sentence, according to these rules:
- The adjective before the noun has less power than the one after.
- Luisa è una bella ragazza. Luisa is a beautiful girl. This is less powerful than
- Luisa è una ragazza bella. (The meaning is more like "Luisa is REALLY beautiful.")
- Sometimes the adjective before the noun has a descriptive function, while after it has a distinctive function
- Luigi è venuto con la sua bella figlia. – Luigi has come with his beautiful daughter.
- Luigi è venuto con la figlia bella. – Luigi has come with his daughter, the beautiful one.
- In some cases, the different position can influence the meaning of the sentence.
- Il nostro vicino è un uomo povero. – Our neighbor is a poor man.
- Il nostro vicino è un pover'uomo. – Our neighbor is a worthless man.
There are adjectives which are used just after the noun. They indicate:
- nationality (italiano, tedesco, americano, etc.)
- membership (democratico, socialista, comunista, etc.)
- location or position (destro, sinistro, etc.)
- physical characteristics (cieco, gobbo, etc.)