Italian basics: Definite Articles (singular)

(how to say THE in Italian)

Il fruttivendolo— fruit stand/vendor, excerpt from Food Picture Dictionary Vol. 01 from
Il fruttivendolo, excerpt from Food Picture Dictionary Vol. 01 

Last time, we talked about indefinite articles, which in English are: a/an, but what if we want to say "THE"?

"The" is a definite article.  In English, it remains the same no matter the gender or number of the noun we are referring to:

the dog
the cats
the boy
the girls

Italian nouns have a gender (either masculine or feminine) and a number (singular or plural)

and Italian articles do too…

(Today, however, we'll focus just on the singular!)

The masculine, singular definite article is IL:

il libro
the book

il ragazzo
the boy

il giorno
the day

The feminine, singular definite article is LA:

la cosa
the thing

la ragazza
the girl

la casa
the house

la birra
the beer

In general, nouns that end in "o" are masculine, and nouns that end in "a" are feminine, but there are some exceptions that must be memorized as well as nouns that end in -e, -à and others.  When learning a new noun, I recommend learning it with the article, so that the association of the noun with its gender becomes automatic.

Just like Italian indefinite articles, definite articles have different forms depending on the starting sound of the word that follows them.

If the word starts with a VOWEL, the article is L' and 
(for both masculine & feminine!)

l'occhio (m.)
the eye

l'albero (m.) 
the tree

l'occasione (f.) 
the occasion

l'aria (f.) 
the air

If the word is masculine and starts with Z, S+consonant, PS or GN, the article is LO

lo zaino
the backpack

lo sport
the sport

lo psicologo
the psychiatrist

lo gnocco
the dumpling

This means that there are 4 different versions of the singular definite article, which can be summed up in the following chart:

It may seem like a lot, but really the main articles are IL and LA, and the others are variations based on pronunciation.  

When you learn a new word, LEARN IT WITH THE ARTICLE and say it out loud several times so that it begins to sound natural to you!

When I make vocab lists, I always include the proper article in parentheses and the gender if it isn't obvious from the article/ending:

cosa (la) — thing
sport (lo) - sport
anno (l') — year
occasione (l') (f.) - occasion
città (la) - city

Tutto chiaro? 
                  (Is it all clear?)

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See also:

Frasi celebri su Via Optimae

Frasi celebri su Via Optimae
Acque del sud (To Have and Have Not) original: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow."