L05: INDEFINITE ADJECTIVES (Aggettivi indefiniti)
Indefinite adjectives are used in relation to an unspecified amount or number of people, animals or things: some men, few people, a few friends, several boys, many things, most women, much laughter, so many things, so much joy, too many people. Let us look at how to use these adjectives in Italian.
There are several ways in which to render some, both in English and in Italian. Examples are: a few problems, certain problems, a bit of a problem, quite a lot of problems, several problems.
1. del; alcuno; parecchio; certo
All these adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun. However, note that alcuna means any, as in non c’è alcuna fretta (there isn't any hurry).
del problema - some problem
della gente - some people
degli uomini - some men
parecchi problemi - some (quite a lot of) problems
alcuni problemi - some/a few/several problems
certe cose - certain (some) things
You will find more information on the use of alcuni/e as indefinite pronouns in Lesson L13 under Pronouns.
Qualche differs to the above adjectives in that it always takes a singular noun, even though the noun will have a plural meaning.
qualche volta - sometimes (a few times)
qualche cosa - some/few things
qualche giorno fa - some (a few) days ago
3. un po’ di
This means a bit of, which can act as a synonym of some, for example:
un po’ di confusione - a bit of/some confusion
un po’ di farina - a bit of/some flour
Note that there is a subtle difference in meaning between few and a few, which we look at next. Few means not many whilst a few is a synonym of some in the sense of several, which can be rendered by the use of alcuni/e (as in the above example alcuni problemi).
Few is rendered by poco, which in the singular is not really used as indefinite adjective. It agrees in number and gender with the noun to which it refers. Be aware, though, when used in the plural (pochi/e) it can also act as a noun, as shown in the examples below. You can also use qualche to mean few (as in the above example qualche cosa).
poche persone - both mean a few people
pochi problemi - few problems
Although poco is not normally used as a singular indefinite adjective, it is used in other ways, sometimes with a preposition, as can be seen by the following examples:
poco coraggioso - faint-hearted
poco caro - affordable
poco costoso - inexpensive
a poco prezzo - cheap
Rendered as molto in Italian, much can only take a singular noun, for example:
C’èra molta discussione sul soggetto
There was much discussion on the subject
The use of many almost always indicates the plural, a notable exception being gente (people). To render many you can use either molti or tanti. These are interchangeable and agree in gender and number with the noun.
Molti anni fa - many years ago
Ci sono tante cose da fare - there are many things to do
C’era molta gente alla partita - there were many people at the game
Most is a versatile word in that it is used in a number of ways; for example to indicate the greatest number (most people). It is rendered in Italian by either using più with or without the definite article, or by using a phrase such as la maggiore parte di or la maggioranza di when you want to to say most of.
Più gente vuole vivere una vita contenta
Most people want to live a contented life
Mi piace la maggioranza degli animali
I like most animals
Tra tutti noi Giovanni guadagna il più dei soldi
Amongst us all, John earns most money
This last example is actually a relative superlative (see Lesson L10 Part 1 for more information on this form of adjective).
Too much/too many
Too much – troppo/a - infers a singular noun, while too many – troppi/e infers a plural.
Non mi piace il caffè quando ha troppo zucchero
I don’t like coffee when it has too much sugar
Non riesco a fare troppe cose allo stesso tempo
I cannot do too many things at the same time
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