When to Use the Partitive Article in Italian

Learn when to the Italian word for “some”
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In Italian grammar, the partitive article (articolo partitivo) is used to introduce an unknown amount.

  • Ho trovato dei fichi a poco prezzo. - I found some cheap figs.
  • A volte passo delle giornate impossibili. - Sometimes I have some impossible days.
  • Vorrei delle mele, degli spinaci e dei pomodori. - I'd like some apples, some spinach, and some tomatoes.

The partitive article is formed much like articulated repositions (preposizioni articolate): (di + definite articles).

Similar to articulated prepositions, partitive articles vary depending on the gender, number, and the sound that follows. It gets its name from the fact that it normally indicates a part of a set or a whole and is used in Romance languages, such as French and Italian.

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There are no fixed rules for the use of the partitive. You can often get the same meaning by using the words “qualche - some,” “alcuni - some,” and “un po' di - a bit of.”

  • Berrei volentieri del vino. - I would gladly drink some wine.
  • Berrei volentieri un po' di vino. - I would gladly drink a bit of wine.
  • Berrei volentieri vino. - I would gladly drink wine.

A distinction is usually made between the use of the singular (much less frequent) and plural (more common). The partitive singular is used for an unspecified amount of an item that’s considered non-countable:

  • Vorrei del vino fruttato. - I would like some fruity wine.
  • I viaggiatori presero della grappa a poco prezzo ed andarono via. - The travelers had some cheap grappa and left.

In the plural, however, the partitive indicates an undetermined quantity of a countable element.

  • Ho visto dei bambini. - I saw some children.

In this case, the partitive article is treated as a plural form of the indefinite article (articolo indeterminativo).

While definite articles have a plural form, indefinite articles do not. Therefore, when referring in general to objects in the plural, use either a partitive article or an (aggettivo indefinito) such as alcuni or qualche (alcuni libri - some books, qualche libro - some books).

Some nouns, depending on the context, can be considered both as countable (prendo dei caffè - I’ll have some coffee) and as uncountable (prendo del caffè - I’ll have some coffee).

In Italian, in contrast to French, the partitive article can often be omitted. For example, certain combinations of prepositions and partitive articles are not recommended, either because it doesn’t sound good or because of its use combined with abstract words.

  • Ho comprato delle albicocche veramente eccezionali. - I bought some truly outstanding apricots.

In this example, it would be preferable to use an adjective (or indicate a certain kind of apricot) with the noun. Where it would be appropriate to omit it, the partitive article can be replaced by an expression that depends on the context.







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Filippo, Michael San. "When to Use the Partitive Article in Italian." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/italian-partitive-articles-2011451. Filippo, Michael San. (2023, April 5). When to Use the Partitive Article in Italian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-partitive-articles-2011451 Filippo, Michael San. "When to Use the Partitive Article in Italian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-partitive-articles-2011451 (accessed June 2, 2023).