The apostrophe sign (‘) replaces certain letters in a word to join two words together. Think of the English expressions it is and it’s.
A female friend
How does the apostrophe work in Italian? Can you always replace a letter with this symbol? Read on to find the answers to these questions and more in this ultimate guide to the apostrophe in Italian!
The apostrophe in Italian
When elision occurs, an apostrophe is added in Italian.
What is elision? If you have a word that ends with an unstressed vowel, such as the indefinite article una, you can cut off that vowel if the following word also begins with a vowel, such as amica.
A female friend
However, elision is not always necessary, and sometimes it is downright wrong to use it. Let’s see why in the next section.
When to use the apostrophe in Italian
Elision is mandatory before una when it precedes a word beginning with a vowel.
It is also required with indefinite adjectives ending in -una, such as ciascuna or nessuna. The following word must always begin with a vowel.
The apostrophe in Italian is required before the definite articles lo and la and the demonstrative adjectives quello and quella.
The exam, that exam
The bee, that bee
It is mandatory before ci + conjugations of the verb to be beginning with e-, such as era, è or erano.
C’era, which translates into the English sentence there was, is actually the elision of ci era. However, you NEVER write it as ci era.
You always use an apostrophe in Italian in common expressions such as nient’altro, tra l’altro or quarto d’ora.
Quarter of an hour
Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!
When NOT to use the apostrophe in Italian
Elision in Italian is never used with the indefinite articles un and uno and with the indefinite adjectives such as nessuno or qualcuno, even if the last vowel is dropped.
The apostrophe in Italian is also not allowed before words that begin with a semi-vowel, such as iena. Even if the definite article is la, it is never
l’iena and always la iena.
It is also never used before the definite articles le and gli.
The apostrophe in Italian is also never used before ci when translating “us”, unless the following word begins with i-.
We love each other
You listen to us
Ci interrogano, c’interrogano
They interrogate us
The apostrophe is also not allowed in front of the pronouns le and li.
I love them
I hate them
Poco can be shortened to po’, with an apostrophe. It’s never written as pò.
Un po’ di zucchero
A little sugar
Quale è is shortened to to qual è, never as
Qual è il tuo colore preferito?
What is your favorite color?
An apostrophe can also be used to cut off the first part of the years in the 20th century.
Negli anni ’80 lavoravo come operaio.
In the 1980s I worked as a factory worker.
And that’s the end of our guide to the apostrophe in Italian! If you still have any doubts, feel free to leave a comment.
Now that you’ve seen how the apostrophe in Italian works, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:
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