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Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 1

See also: Getting Adjectives to Behave - Part 2

In Italian, gender and number affect not only a noun and its article, but also the adjective describing the noun. We looked at some special cases in a previous lesson, which Daniela also discusses in her lesson series. But let's get back to general adjective behavior.

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Adjectives fall into two categories: positivi (positive) and neutri (neutral). In simplistic terms, it's a way of dividing them according to their endings: o or e

 

In this video lesson, Daniela starts out with the most common kind of adjective. She calls it an aggettivo positivo (positive adjective). It’s the kind of adjective that in its basic form (masculine singular), ends in o. Many of us are already familiar with this type: bello (beautiful, nice), piccolo (small), grasso (fat), magro (thin), alto (high, tall), buono (good), and so on. This kind of adjective matches up with its nouns in all four kinds of endings: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, and feminine plural. 

 

Allora, quando parlo di aggettivo positivo vuol dire che un aggettivo positivo è quello che ha tutte e quattro le finali.

So, when I talk about positive adjectives, it means that a positive adjective is one that has all four endings.

Captions 41-42, Corso di italiano con Daniela Aggettivi positivi e neutri - Part 1

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These adjectives are easy to deal with because they are entirely predictable: the masculine singular ends in o. The masculine plural ends in i, the feminine singular ends in a, and the feminine plural ends in e, just like many of the nouns they describe:

Masculine singular:
Il vestito è bello (the dress is beautiful).
Masculine plural:
I vestiti sono belli (the dresses are beautiful).
Feminine singular:
La gonna è bella (the skirt is nice).
Feminine plural:
Le gonne sono belle (the skirts are nice).

 

It’s important to know the gender of the nouns you are describing. The good news is that much of the time the gender is easily determined by looking at the ending of a noun, as Daniela explains in this video lesson.

 

Even if the noun is absent but implied, as when you tell someone they look nice, the rule still applies!

If you’re talking to a man:
Sei bello (you're handsome).
If you’re talking to a woman:
Sei bella (you're beautiful).
If you're talking to two men:
Siete belli (you're [both] handsome).
If you're talking to two women:
Siete belle (you're [both] beautiful).
If you're talking to a man and a woman:*
Siete belli (you're [both] beautiful).

*Masculine reigns, even though it seems unfair. 

 

It's easy to know the gender when referring to people. But don't forget that not only people have gender, but every kind of noun.

Il tavolo è alto (the table is high).
I materassi sono duri (the mattresses are hard).
La sedia è comoda (the chair is comfortable).
Le finestre sono aperte (the windows are open).

 

You can see why, when learning a new noun, it’s a good idea to learn the article along with it. "Positive" adjectives are the easiest ones to use, so they're a good place to start for understanding noun-adjective agreement. 

 

Further practice:
After viewing a Yabla video, check out the Vocabulary Review. You’ll recognize the nouns, because most of them will have articles attached to them, whether singular or plural. Check out the adjectives, too. Can you pick out the positive ones? Hint: they'll end in o, because they're given in the masculine singular. While you're at it, why not go through the other endings (masculine plural, feminine singular, and plural) for each positive adjective you find? 

 

Stay on the lookout for a lesson on aggettivi neutri, coming soon on Yabla. They're the adjectives that end in e, and they aren't quite as well-behaved as the aggettivi positivi.

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Just in case you're getting discouraged:
Learning to speak correctly is important, but remember, communication is the real key. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble getting it all straight. For people coming from languages where gender is nonexistent, it’s a huge challenge to get genders right all the time, not to mention grasping how adjectives work. Don’t let your doubts stop you from using your new language skills.
 

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