A noun is a word naming people (Marco, girl - ragazza), places (Italy - Italia, Paris - Parigi, school - scuola) or things (desk - scrivania, book - libro).

Feminine and masculine nouns

Nouns in Italian have gender. They are either masculine or feminine. Many feminine and masculine nouns can be recognised by their ending:

Feminine, end with -aMasculine, end with -o
donna - womangatto - cat
macchina - caruomo - man
casa - houseorologio - watch

With some nouns it is possible to change their gender by changing the ending. For instance:

amico (male friend) vsamica (female friend)
ragazzo (boy)vsragazza (girl)
zio (uncle) vszia (aunt)

There’s also a group of nouns ending with -e. Occasionally, it is possible to predict gender because of their meaning. For instance, padre (father) is masculine and madre (mother) is feminine. In other cases you have to learn the gender of these nouns by heart e.g. amore (love) is masculine, while pace (peace) is feminine.

The plural of nouns

There are three main patterns of formation of the plural form of nouns in Italian, depending on the ending:

Feminine nouns ending with - a get an - e sedia (chair)
rosa (rose)
tavola (table)
sedie (chairs)
rose (roses)
tavole (tables)
Masculine nouns ending with -o get an - iragazzo (boy)
pizzaiolo (pizza maker)
panino (sandwich)
ragazzi (boys)
pizzaioli (pizza makers)
panini (sandwiches)
Both genders ending in - e leone (lion)
voce (voice)
leoni (lions)
voci (voices)

Irregular plural nouns

There are many nouns with irregular plural forms in Italian. Some of them follow certain patterns, which makes it easier to learn them:

Some nouns ending in -ca, -co, -go and -ga get an “h” in plurallago (lake)
amica (female friend)
cuoco (cook)
laghi (lakes)
amiche (female friends)
cuochi (cooks)
Nouns finishing with -logo and relating to things get an “h” in pluralcatalogo (catalogue)
dialogo (dialogue)
cataloghi (catalogues)
dialoghi (dialogues)
Nouns ending in -io with unaccented “i” drop the “o” in pluralpremio (prize)
studio (study)
premi (prizes)
studi (studies)

From the list of completely irregular nouns the most important ones to remember are:

uomo (man) - uomini (men)
ala (wing) - ali (wings)
arma (gun) - armi (guns)

Invariable nouns

Some nouns remain the same in plural and singular. Among these nouns we distinguish:

Nouns finishing in an accented vowelcittà (city)
caffè (coffee)
città (cities)
caffè (coffees)
One-syllable nounsre (king)re (kings)
Certain words of foreign originsport (sport)
yacht (yacht)
sport (sports)
yacht (yachts)
Abbreviated nounsfoto (photo)
moto (motorbike)
foto (photos)
moto (motorbikes)
Nouns with plural only-
forbici (scissors)
gemelli (twins)
occhiali (glasses)
Nouns with singular only including names, substances, phenomena and abstract nounsGrecia (Greece)
carbone (carbon)
orgoglio (pride)

Capitalization rules

As a rule, Italian capitalizes less often than English. Here is the list of when you need a capital letter in Italian:

In the beginning of a sentence

Always start a sentence with a capital letter:

Sono in ritardo. (I’m late.)

Names and surnames

Names and surnames start with capital letters, regardless of where they are in the sentence:

  • Sophia Loren
  • Giuseppe Verdi
Cities, countries, continents, seas and similar geographic names:
  • Milano (Milan)
  • Germania (Germany)
  • Africa (Africa)
Official names and institutions:
  • Presidente della Repubblica (President of the Republic)
  • Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies)
  • Ministero dell’Interno (Ministry of the Interior)