Like English, Italian has two numbers: singular and plural.
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.
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.
Masculine words that end in -a can either remain unchanged or take -i.
Masculine words ending in –io take -ii if the -i carries the stress.
If the -i- does NOT carry the stress, they just drop the final -o.
Masculine words ending in -ca and -ga take -chi and -ghi, respectively.
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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.
If the stress is on the third to last (antepenult) syllable, the plural of the word will be -ci/gi.
Plural of feminine nouns
Feminine words ending in -a take -e.
Feminine words ending in -e take -i, as do masculine nouns ending in the same vowel.
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.
Feminine words ending in -scia take -sce.
Grass snake, grass snakes
Feminine words ending in -o are either unchanged or take -i. Nouns that take -i are very rare.
Feminine words ending in -cia/gia always take on -cie/gie if the -i- carries the stress.
Drug store, drug stores
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…
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).
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! 😉
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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
Il re, i re
The king, the kings
Il computer, i computer
The computer, the computers
La metà, le metà
The half, the halves
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
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:
|Feminine in -e||Tigre||Tigri|
|Feminine in -o||Mano||Mani|
And that’s the end of our guide to the plural in Italian! If you still have any doubts, feel free to leave a comment.
Now that you’ve seen how the plural in Italian works, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:
- Useful Italian Words Series
- Common Italian Phrases Series
- Italian grammar lessons and tricks
- Italian idiomatic expressions
Or you might also want an excellent offline Italian grammar resource to take with you at all times (Amazon).
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