The plural in Italian

Like English, Italian has two numbers: singular and plural.

1 mucca
One cow

4 mucche
Four cows

family of four cows facing left

How do you form the plural in Italian? Does every noun have a plural number, or are there uncountable nouns? Read on to find the answers to these questions and more in this ultimate guide to the plural in Italian!

The plural in Italian

The plural in Italian is most commonly formed by changing the final vowel of a noun.

Albero, alberi
Tree, trees

Porta, porte
Door, doors

How the vowel is changed depends on the gender of the noun itself, which can be either masculine or feminine. Let’s see why.

Plural of masculine nouns

The plural in Italian of masculine nouns depends on the last vowel of the noun.

Masculine words ending in -e and -o take -i.

Mare, Mari
Sea, seas

Telefono, telefoni
Phone, phones

ringing black phone

Masculine words that end in -a can either remain unchanged or take -i.

Sistema, sistemi
System, systems

Cinema, cinema
Cinema, cinemas

Masculine words ending in –io take -ii if the -i carries the stress.

Addio, addii
Farewell, farewells

Zio, zii
Uncle, uncles

uncle sam pointing at reader

If the -i- does NOT carry the stress, they just drop the final -o.

Figlio, figli
Son, sons

Ghiacciaio, ghiacciai
Glacier, glaciers

Masculine words ending in -ca and -ga take -chi and -ghi, respectively.

Patriarca, patriarchi
Patriarch, patriarchs

Stratega, strateghi
Strategist, strategists

Masculine words ending in -co and -go take either -chi/ghi or ci/gi depending on where the stress is.

If the stress is on the second to last (penult) syllable, the plural in Italian will be -chi/ghi.

Arco, archi
Bow, bows

Sugo, sughi
Sauce, sauces

If the stress is on the third to last (antepenult) syllable, the plural of the word will be -ci/gi.

Asiatico, asiatici
Asian, Asians

Psicologo, psicologi
Psychologist, psychologists

woman talking to therapist

Plural of feminine nouns

Feminine words ending in -a take -e.

Finestra, finestre
Window, windows

Feminine words ending in -e take -i, as do masculine nouns ending in the same vowel.

Tigre, tigri
Tiger, tigers

Feminine words ending in -ca and -ga take -che and -ghe, respectively. For example, the plural in Italian for the word mucca is mucche, as we saw at the very beginning of this lesson.

Formica, formiche
Ant, ants

Strega, streghe
Witch, witches

smiling witch riding on a broom with a black cat

Feminine words ending in -scia take -sce.

Ascia, asce
Axe, axes

Biscia, bisce
Grass snake, grass snakes

Feminine words ending in -o are either unchanged or take -i. Nouns that take -i are very rare.

Auto, auto
Car, car

Mano, mani
Hand, hands

clean hand

Feminine words ending in -cia/gia always take on -cie/gie if the -i- carries the stress.

Farmacia, farmacie
Drug store, drug stores

Bugia, bugie
Lie, lies

If the -i- doesn’t carry the stress, the plural can be either -cia/gie or -ce/ge, depending on the letter that comes before the final syllable. If it’s a vowel, the plural is -cia/gie. If it’s a consonant, the plural is -ce/ge.

It sounds complicated, so let me give you an example…

Camicia, camicie
Shirt, shirts

Ciliegia, ciliegie
Cherry, cherries

two cherries

In camicia, the letter that precedes the -cia syllable is a vowel (i). Its plural in Italian is then camicie, with an -i-. The same is true for ciliegia, whose plural is ciliegie because the preceding letter is a vowel (e).

Arancia, arance
Orange, oranges

Forgia, forge
Forge, forges

In arancia, however, the letter preceding the -cia syllable is a consonant (n). Its plural is arance, without an -i-. The same is true for forgia, where the preceding letter is also a consonant (r), so its plural in Italian will be forge.

If this rule still sounds daunting to remember, know that even native Italian speakers can’t always tell when to use -cie/ce or -gie/ge! 😉

Unchanged plural in Italian

Many nouns don’t change vowels in the plural. These are mostly:

  • monosyllabic nouns
  • foreign words
  • some masculine nouns ending in -a (see paragraph Plural of masculine nouns)
  • some feminine nouns ending in -o (see paragraph Plural of feminine nouns)
  • words that end in a stressed vowel
  • nouns ending in -ie and -i

For example…

Il re, i re
The king, the kings
(One-syllable word)

king sitting on his throne

Il computer, i computer
The computer, the computers
(Foreign word)

La metà, le metà
The half, the halves
(Stressed vowel)

La carie, le carie
The cavity, the cavities
(Ends in -ie)

Irregular plurals in Italian

A number of Italian nouns have only one form, singular or plural. For example, legname, which translates to timber in English, is a masculine singular noun and has no plural form. The same is true for abstract nouns such as codardia, cowardice, or fedeltà, loyalty.

Some common nouns that are only plural are occhiali (glasses), pantaloni (trousers) and forbici (scissors). As you can see, they are always plural in English as well!

Other nouns can have more than one plural, such as braccio, arm. It can either be braccia, meaning human arms, or bracci, the arms of a mechanical structure.

Other nouns are masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural.

L’uovo, le uova
The egg, the eggs

Il carcere, le carceri
The prison, the prisons

man going out of a prison gate and drawing a breath

Whenever you come across a new word in Italian, always check a dictionary to see what its plural form is! If you don’t have a dictionary at hand, the following table will cover most Italian words:

Masculine -oAlberoAlberi
Masculine -ePrigionePrigioni
Masculine -aSistemaSistemi
Feminine -aMammaMamme
Feminine in -eTigreTigri
Feminine in -oManoMani

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