Difference between GRAN and GRANDE in Italian

What is the difference between gran and grande in Italian? English speakers often confuse them. Are there any situations in which you have to use one or the other? Are they even interchangeable?

In this lesson, we will look at how to use these adjectives with the help of many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the difference between gran and grande!

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Gran and grande in Italian

Many students wonder what the difference is between gran and grande in Italian. At first glance, these adjectives both mean “big”. However, they are not always interchangeable.

Gran is usually used before nouns that begin with a single consonant. It never comes after a noun.

Gran
Big, great

Ho combinato un gran pasticcio.
I made a big mess.

You can’t say: pasticcio gran.

Grande, on the other hand, can be placed anywhere around a noun. It doesn’t matter if the noun is masculine or feminine, because grande is interchangeable.

Grande
Big, great

Beethoven è stato un grande compositore.
Beethoven was a great composer.

beethoven writing a letter

Still confused about the difference between gran and grande in Italian? Let’s take a closer look at each verb.

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.


How do you use gran in Italian?

As we said, gran translates as big. Unlike grande, gran is only used in front of nouns that begin with a single consonant. It’s basically the contracted form of grande and grandi (plural form of grande).

For example, you could say…

Luca è un gran lettore.
Luca is a heavy reader.

L’auto sta correndo a gran velocità.
The car is running at great speed.

I miei nonni sono dei gran lavoratori.
My grandparents are hard workers.

group of 5 hard workers

It’s important to remember that gran is not mandatory. It’s just a common contraction, especially in spoken language. You can say grande velocità and grandi lavoratori without any problem.

You must also remember that you can’t use gran in front of nouns starting with certain consonants and clusters (sc-, st-, ps-, gn-, -z). You can’t say gran strada, but only grande strada.

Gran is only ever mandatory when used in common expressions that include this word. Some of them are:

  • di gran lunga, by a great deal
  • gran parte di, great part of
  • a gran voce, out loud
  • essere al gran completo, to be full (eg. fully booked)

How do you use grande in Italian?

One big difference between gran and grande in Italian is that grande can be used before vowels and all kinds of consonants. In front of plural nouns, it becomes grandi.

For example, you can say…

Mi sei stato di grande aiuto.
You have been a great help to me.

Ho una grande casa con un ampio giardino.
I have a big house with a large garden.

Leoni e tigri sono grandi felini.
Lions and tigers are big cats.

tiger facing the reader

Grande can be shortened to grand’, with an apostrophe, in front of singular nouns that begin with a vowel. However, this is not common.

Il signor Rossi è davvero un grand’uomo.
Mr. Rossi is indeed a great man.

Another difference between gran and grande in Italian is that grande, when used after a noun, also means “big” in a physical sense.

Un grande uomo, un grand’uomo
A noble man

Un uomo grande
A big, tall man

And that’s the end of our lesson on the difference between gran and grande in Italian!


What next?

Now that you’ve seen the difference between gran and grande in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

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