How to Say “Some” in Italian

Learn how to use partitive articles in Italian

Italian man drinking wine at a sidewalk cafe
Italian man drinking wine at a sidewalk cafe. Cultura RM Exclusive/Antonio Saba

I need to buy SOME bread and a BIT of wine.

How do you express a quantity, like how many glasses of wine you just drank, that’s uncertain or approximate?

In Italian, you use something called l'articolo partitivo (partitive article). This article appears before singular nouns (del miele, del caffè, del burro) as well as before plural nouns of an unspecified amount (dei libri, delle ragazze, degli studenti).

In the simplest terms, it can be defined as meaning “some”, but you may also use it to mean, “any” or even “a few”, when it’s meant to be a rough estimate.

The partitive is expressed by the Italian preposition “di”, which typically means “of” or “from”, combined with the definite article, like “il” or “le”. For example:

  • Ho delle cravatte blu. - I have a few blue ties.

  • Beve del caffè. - She is drinking some coffee.

  • Esco con dei compagni. - I go out with some friends.

  • Manca del burro. - He needs some butter.

  • Abbiamo soltanto della zuppa e un paio di cornetti. - We only have some soup and a couple of croissants.

ITALIAN PARTITIVE ARTICLES

 

SINGULAR

PLURAL

feminine

della

delle

feminine (before a vowel)

dell'

delle

masculine

del

dei

masculine (before a vowel)

dell'

degli

masculine (before the letters z, x +consonant, and gn)

dello

degli

Un po’ di

However, using a form of the preposition “di” as the partitive article isn’t the only way to express an imprecise amount.

You can also use the expression “un po’ di”, which translates to, “a bit of”.

For example:

  • Vuoi un po’ di zucchero? - Do you want a bit of sugar?

  • Vorrei un po’ di vino rosso. - I would like a bit of red wine.

  • Aggiungi un po’ di sale e di pepe! - Add a bit of salt and pepper!

  • Ci sono andato/a, perché volevo un po’ di pace. - I went there because I wanted a bit of peace.

  • Avete dei cibi senza glutine? - Do you have food without gluten?

  • Mi serve un po’ d’acqua. - I need a bit of water.

When do you use the partitive article “di” vs. “un po’ di”?

To answer your question, imagine this scenario. You walk into a panetteria because you want del pane (some bread) and you tell the fornaio:

Do you see the difference there? Del pane is a more general way to say what you want, and you use un po di’ when you want to be more specific.

Finally, instead of using a partitive article or the phrase “un po’ di”, you can use an indefinite pronoun, like “alcuni - some”, as in “alcuni ragazzi - some boys” or “qualche”, as in “qualche piatto - some dishes”.