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 answer these and other questions 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 will change 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 for masculine nouns depends on the ending vowel of the singular noun.

Masculine words that end in -e and -o take on -i.

Mare, Mari
Sea, seas

Telefono, telefoni
Phone, phones

ringing black phone

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

Sistema, sistemi
System, systems

Cinema, cinema
Cinema, cinemas

Masculine words that end in –io take on -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 that end in -ca and -ga take on -chi and -ghi respectively.

Patriarca, patriarchi
Patriarch, patriarchs

Stratega, strateghi
Strategist, strategists

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

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Masculine words that end in -co and -go take on 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 that end in -a take on -e.

Finestra, finestre
Window, windows

Feminine words that end in -e take on -i, like masculine nouns ending in the same vowel.

Tigre, tigri
Tiger, tigers

Feminine words that end in -ca and -ga take on -che and -ghe respectively. The plural in Italian for the word mucca, for example, is mucche, as we’ve seen 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 that end in -scia take on -sce.

Ascia, asce
Axe, axes

Biscia, bisce
Grass snake, grass snakes

Feminine words that end in -o are either unchanged or take on -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 preceding the ending syllable. If it’s a vowel, the plural will be -cia/gie. If it’s a consonant, the plural will be -ce/ge.

It sounds complicated, so let me give 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 will then be camicie, with an -i-. The same can be said for ciliegia, the plural of which is ciliegie because the preceding letter is a vowel (e).

Arancia, arance
Orange, oranges

Forgia, forge
Forge, forges

In arancia, however, the letter that precedes the -cia syllable is a consonant (n). Its plural will be arance, without an -i-. The same can be said 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 Italian native speakers can’t always tell when to use -cie/ce or -gie/ge! 😉

Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!

Unchanged plural in Italian

Many nouns don’t change any vowel in the plural number. These mostly are:

  • one-syllable 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 only have one form, singular or plural. Legname, for example, which translates to timber in English, is a masculine singular noun and has no plural form. The same applies to abstract nouns such as codardia, cowardice, or fedeltà, loyalty.

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

Other nouns still 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 number and have a feminine gender in the plural number.

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

When you bump into a new word in Italian, always check what its plural form is in a dictionary! If you have no dictionary at hand, the following table will cover most words in Italian:

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

And that’s it with the plural in Italian! If you still have any doubts, feel free to leave a comment.

What next?

Now that you’ve seen how the plural in Italian works, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Or you might also want an excellent offline Italian grammar resource to take with you at all times (Amazon).

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