L7: Usage of the Definite Article

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L7: Usage of the Definite Article

Post by BillyShears »

L7: Usage of the Definite Article

With general or abstract nouns

The definite article must be used with all general or abstract nouns.
I cani sono animali domestici. (Dogs are domestic animals.)
L'odio è una cosa terribile. (Hate is a terrible thing.)
Il rosso è il mio colore preferito. (Red is my favorite color.)

With languages

The definite article is used with languages. The article is optional with the language immediately following the verbs parlare, studiare or insegnare. It is not used with the prepositions di or in.
Carlo wrote:I agree with Ember about "insegnare" and "studiare". This is how Lepschy explains it in "The Italian Language Today":

"When a recognized subject of study is being referred to (and this applies to any subject, not just a language), the article may be omitted: studia russo all'università, insegna tedesco in un liceo"
I find this coincides with my own usage: I say "insegno inglese in un istituto tecnico" but I would say "sto insegnando l'inglese a mio nipote".

As for "parlare", here's a useful distinction from "A Reference Grammar":

"After parlare the article tends to be omitted where the sense is closer to "speak in the language", whereas it is present if the sense is "be able to speak"/"know the language": Tutta la mia famiglia parla il russo anche se di solito parliamo inglese.
Parliamo molto bene italiano. (We speak Italian very well.)
Parliamo molto bene l'italiano. (We speak Italian very well.)
Ho un libro di francese. (I have a French book.)
La lettera è in spagnolo. (The letter is in Spanish.)

With geographical names

The definite article is used with geographical names (continents, countries, regions, some islands, rivers, etc.).
L'Asia è un continente grande. (Asia is a large continent.)

The definite article is not used with feminine, unmodified geographical names preceded by the prepositions in or di.
Pietro va in Toscana. (Peter goes to Tuscany.)
La capitale d'Italia è Roma. (The capital of Italy is Rome.)
Il cielo della bella Italia è spesso azzurro. (The sky of beautiful Italy is often blue.)
  • Note - della = di + la - since Italia is modified by bella the definite article is used.
La Sicilia è un'isola italiana. (Sicily is an Italian island.)
Cuba è nei Caraibi. (Cuba is an island in the Caribbean.)
  • Note - The definite article is omitted with certain islands (Capri, Ischia, Procida, Formosa, Cuba, etc.).
La Spagna è più grande della Germania. (Spain is bigger than Germany.)
  • Note - when di is used in the comparative (translated as than), the definite article is used.
The definite article is optional with masculine, unmodified geographical names preceded by the prepositions in or di.
Vado in Messico. (I go to Mexico.)
Vado nel Messico. (I go to Mexico.)
  • Note - Nel = in + il
With titles before names

The definite article is used with titles. It is omitted when directly addressing someone. It is never used before the title of don.
La signora Marino abita a Napoli. (Mrs. Marino lives in Naples.)
Il dottor Leone è molto intelligente. (Dr. Leone is very intelligent.)
Don Luca suona il mandolino. (Don Luca plays the mandolin.)
Buona sera, signor Rosa. (Good evening, Mr. Rosa.)

With adjectives and verbs used as nouns

The definite article is used with adjectives and verbs used as nouns.
Il bello è che eravamo amici! (The funny thing is that we used to be friends!)
Lo sfaticato fra noi è mio fratello.(The lazy one among us is my brother.)

With time expressions

The definite article is used with time expressions, including the hour, year, and season.
È l'una. (It's one o'clock.)
Sono le tre. (It's three o'clock.)
La primavera è la mia stagione preferita. (Spring is my favorite season.)
Abito qui dal millenovecentoottanta. (I've been living here since 1980.)
  • ( Note - dal = da + il)
With days of the week

The definite article is used with days of the week, to indicate a repeated action or event occurring on a certain day.
Il lunedì è il giorno più faticoso. (Monday is the is the most tiring day of the week.)
Il sabato gioco a calcio. (On Saturdays I play soccer/football.)
La domenica non c'è mai scuola. (There's never any school on Sundays.)
  • Note - Domenica is the only feminine day of the week.
Before last names of famous women

The definite article is used before last names of famous women.
La Schiffer (Claudia Schiffer, the top model)
La Stone (Sharon Stone, the actress)
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Chi domanda non fa errori.

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