Italian Adjectives

Learn how to make your Italian more descriptive with adjectives

Young woman in Italy with scooter
Young woman in Italy with scooter. Westend61 / Getty Images

The big piazza, the clear sky, and the handsome Italian man are all examples with an adjective, or something that gives more information about a noun. Oftentimes this is a description.

In Italian an adjective agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies, and there are two groups of adjectives: those ending in -o and those ending in -e.

Adjectives ending in -o in the masculine have four forms:

 MaschileFemminile
Singolare-o-a
Plurale-i-e
 il libro italianola signora italiana
 i libri italianile signore italiane
 il primo giornola mesa universitaria
 i primi giornile mense universitarie

COMMON ITALIAN ADJECTIVES ENDING IN -O

allegro

cheerful, happy

buono

good, kind

cattivo

bad, wicked

freddo

cold

grasso

fat

leggero

light

nuovo

new

pieno

full

stretto

narrow

timido

timid, shy

Adjectives ending in -o have four forms: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, and feminine plural. Observe how the adjectives nero and cattivo change to agree with nouns they modify.

Note that when an adjective modifies two nouns of different gender, it keeps its masculine ending. For example: i padri e le madre italiani (Italian fathers and mothers). If an adjectives ends in -io, like "vecchio - old", the o is dropped to form the plural.

  • l'abito vecchio - the old suit

  • gli abiti vecchi - the old suits

  • il ragazzo serio - the serious boy

  • i ragazzi seri - the serious boys

  • Uli è tedesco. - Uli is German.

  • Adriana è italiana. - Adriana is Italian.

  • Roberto e Daniele sono americani. - Robert and Daniel are American.

  • Svetlana e Natalia sono russe. - Svetlana and Natalia are Russian.

Adjectives ending in -e are the same for the masculine and the feminine singular.

In the plural, the -e changes to an -i, whether the noun is masculine or feminine.

  • il ragazzo inglese - the English boy

  • la ragazza inglese - the English girl

  • i ragazzi inglesi - the English boys

  • le ragazze inglesi - the English girls

ENDINGS OF -E ADJECTIVES

SINGULAR

PLURAL

il ragazzo triste - the sad boy

i ragazzi tristi - the sad boys

la ragazza triste - the sad girl

le ragazze tristi - the sad girls

 

ITALIAN ADJECTIVES ENDING IN -E

abile

able

difficile

difficult

felice

happy

forte

strong

grande

big, large, great

importante

important

intelligente

intelligent

interessante

interesting

triste

sad

veloce

fast, speedy

There are quite a few other exceptions for forming plural adjectives.

For instance, adjectives that end in -io (with the stress falling on that ) form the plural with the ending -ii: addio/addii; leggio/leggii; zio/zii. The table below contains a chart of other irregular adjective endings you should know.

FORMING PLURAL ADJECTIVES

SINGULAR ENDING

PLURAL ENDING

  

-ca

-che

  

-cia

-ce

  

-cio

-ci

  

-co

-chi

  

-ga

-ghe

  

-gia

-ge

  

-gio

-gi

  

-glia

-glie

  

-glio

-gli

  

-go

-ghi

  

-scia

-sce

  

-scio

-sci

  

Where do the adjectives go?

Unlike in English, descriptive adjectives in Italian are usually placed after the noun they modify, and with which they agree in gender and number.

1. Adjectives generally follow the noun.

  • È una lingua difficile. - It is a difficult language.

  • Marina è una ragazza generosa. - Marina is a generous girl.

  • Non trovo il maglione rosa. - I can't find the pink sweater.

TIP: Note that adjectives of colors that derive from nouns, like “rosa”, “viola”, or “blu” are invariable.

2. Certain common adjectives, however, generally come before the noun.

Here are the most common:

  • bello - beautiful
  • bravo - good, able
  • brutto - ugly
  • buono - good
  • caro - dear
  • cattivo - bad
  • giovane - young
  • grande - large; great

TIP: When you place “grande” before a noun, it means “great”, like “una grande piazza”, but if you place it after, it means “big”, like “una piazza grande”.

  • lungo - long
  • nuovo - new
  • piccolo - small, little
  • stesso - same
  • vecchio - old
  • vero - true

Here are some examples:

  • Anna è una cara amica. - Anna is a dear friend.

  • Gino è un bravissimo dottore. - Gino is a really good doctor.

  • È un brutto affare. - It's a bad situation.

But even these adjectives must follow the noun to emphasize or contrast something, and when modified by an adverb.

  • Oggi non porta l'abito vecchio, porta un abito nuovo. - Today he is not wearing the old suit, he is wearing a new suit.

  • Abitano in una casa molto piccola. - They live in a very small house.

Click here, here and here to get practice with adjectives.