Languages › English as a Second Language Indefinite Article Forms How to use un, uno, and una Share Flipboard Email Print Alberto Guglielmi English as a Second Language Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Writing Skills Reading Comprehension Business English Resources for Teachers By Michael San Filippo Italian Expert M.A., Italian Studies, Middlebury College B.A., Biology, Northeastern University Michael San Filippo co-wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Italian History and Culture. He is a tutor of Italian language and culture. our editorial process Michael San Filippo Updated June 19, 2018 “Chiamerò UN medico!” This means, “I’ll call a doctor.” But since we don’t know which doctor it is, we use the indefinite article “un,” which can be translated as “a.” The Italian indefinite article (articolo indeterminativo) indicates a generic, indefinite thing, which is considered unknown. Italian Indefinite Article Forms 1) Un The form “un” precedes masculine nouns beginning with a consonant except s + consonant, z, x, pn, ps, and gn and sc, with usage corresponding to the article il: un bambino - a childun cane - a dogun dente - a toothun fiore - a flowerun gioco - a game The form “un” also precedes masculine nouns that start with a vowel (including u): un amico - a friendun elmo - a helmetun incubo - a nightmareun oste - an innkeeperun uragano - a hurricaneun whisky - a whiskeyun week-end - a weekend Note that in front of a vowel the indefinite article “un” is never apostrophized since it’s not an elided form: un'anno, un'osso would be equivalent to una anno, una osso, both of which are incorrect. For the same reason un idea, un ora cannot be written without the apostrophe. Note the difference between un assistente (man) and un'assistente (woman). 2) Uno The form “uno” precedes masculine nouns beginning with s + consonant, z, x, pn, ps, and gn and sc, with usage corresponding to the article lo: uno sbaglio - a mistakeuno zaino - a backpackuno xilofono - a xylophoneuno (or also un) pneumatico - a tireuno pseudonimo - a pseudonymuno gnocco - a dumplinguno sceicco - a sheikhuno iato - a hiatus For words of foreign origin beginning with h, the same rules apply as lo. 3) Una (un') The form “una” precedes feminine nouns and is elided to “un” before a vowel (but not before the semivowel j), to be used with the article la: una bestia - a beastuna casa - a houseuna donna - a womanuna fiera - a fairuna giacca - a jacketuna iena - a hyenaUn'anima - a soulUn'elica - a propellerUn'isola - an islandUn'ombra - a shadowUn'unghia - a fingernail TIPS: Sometimes the indefinite article refers to a type, category, or variety and is equivalent to the word “ogni - each, every, any, all.”In the spoken language the Italian indefinite article is also used to express admiration (Ho conosciuto una ragazza!—I knew a girl!) or in the superlative sense (Ho avuto una paura!—I was fearful!).It may also indicate approximation and correspond to circa, pressappoco (about, approximately): dista un tre chilometri. (distance of three kilometers).In the example below, the use of the indefinite article overlaps with the definite article (articolo determinativo). Il giovane manca sempre d'esperienza. - All youngsters always lack experience.Un giovane manca sempre d'esperienza. - All youngsters always lack experience. Is there a plural? The indefinite article does not have a plural. However, the forms of the (articoli partitivi) dei, degli, and delle or of the (aggettivi indefiniti) qualche (followed by the singular), alcuni, and alcune can function as plurals: Sono sorte delle difficoltà. - Difficulties have arisen.Ho ancora qualche dubbio. - I still have some doubts.Partirò fra alcuni giorni. - I will leave in a few days. or even: alcune difficoltà - some difficultiesnumerosi dubbi - many doubtsparecchi giorni - many days Another alternative is to use neither the partitive nor the indefinite adjective, and instead express the plural noun without any description: Sono sorte difficoltà. - Difficulties have arisenHo ancora dubbi. - I still have doubts.Partirò fra giorni. - I will leave in a few days.