Indefinite Article Forms

How to use un, uno, and una

Indefinite articles in Italian
Alberto Guglielmi

“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 child

  • un cane - a dog

  • un dente - a tooth

  • un fiore - a flower

  • un gioco  - a game

The form “un” also precedes masculine nouns that start with a vowel (including u):

  • un amico - a friend

  • un elmo - a helmet

  • un incubo - a nightmare

  • un oste - an innkeeper

  • un uragano - a hurricane

  • un whisky - a whiskey

  • un 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 mistake

  • uno zaino - a backpack

  • uno xilofono - a xylophone

  • uno (or also un) pneumatico - a tire

  • uno pseudonimo - a pseudonym

  • uno gnocco - a dumpling

  • uno sceicco - a sheikh

  • uno 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 beast

  • una casa - a house

  • una donna - a woman

  • una fiera - a fair

  • una giacca - a jacket

  • una iena - a hyena

  • Un'anima - a soul

  • Un'elica - a propeller

  • Un'isola - an island

  • Un'ombra - a shadow

  • Un'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 difficulties

  • numerosi dubbi - many doubts

  • parecchi 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 arisen

  • Ho ancora dubbi. - I still have doubts.

  • Partirò fra giorni. - I will leave in a few days.

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article, indefinite. "Indefinite Article Forms." ThoughtCo, Jan. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/italian-indefinite-article-forms-2011438. article, indefinite. (2017, January 30). Indefinite Article Forms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-indefinite-article-forms-2011438 article, indefinite. "Indefinite Article Forms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-indefinite-article-forms-2011438 (accessed November 18, 2017).