Blog » Learn Italian » Italian Grammar » Italian Adjectives: Everything You Need to Know to Use Them Correctly

Italian Adjectives: Everything You Need to Know to Use Them Correctly

Let’s say you have a dog and want to describe its appearance in Italian. Is it a small dog or a large dog? Is it brown or white? Are its ears pointed or floppy? Is it aloof, or is it everyone’s best friend?

Small, big, brown, and aloof are all adjectives.

To make your dog unique in Italian, you need to know how Italian adjectives work. Adjectives are an essential part of the language, and we use them to describe just about everything, so it’s important that you know how to use them correctly.

In this lesson, we will look at the rules for using adjectives in Italian, and we will also see two kinds of very common adjectives in the language.

Let’s get started!

How do you use Italian adjectives?

First, let’s brush up on the definitions of adjective and noun: a noun is an object you can count or an abstract concept (table, house, sky, and speed are all nouns), while adjectives are used to describe nouns (round table, big house, blue sky, fast speed).

Just like English adjectives, Italian adjectives are used to describe something (aggettivo qualificativo) or to talk about something specific (aggettivo determinativo), as in:

  • Il cane è grosso e ha il pelo bianco.
    The dog is big and has white fur. (describing)
  • Questo è il mio cane.
    This is my dog. (determining)

They can modify the noun directly without using a verb:

  • Il gatto nero dorme.
    The black cat sleeps.

Or they can be linked to the noun by a verb, like essere, to be, and sembrare, to look. This kind of linking verb is called a copula, and the adjective always comes after it, just like in English.

  • L’insegnante è severo.
    The teacher is strict.
  • Sembri stanco.
    You look tired.

Where to put Italian adjectives

Qualifying Italian adjectives are usually placed after the noun, while determining adjectives will go before the noun.

There are a few exceptions to these rules. Notable exceptions are colors, shapes, and nationalities, which must always follow the noun.

  • Un tavolo bianco, una foglia verde, un albero alto, un uomo inglese
    A white table, a green leaf, a tall tree, an English man…
  • Un cuscino rotondo, una scatola quadrata
    A round cushion, a square box…
  • Questo gatto, tre sedie, i miei cani, questa lampada…
    This cat, three chairs, my dogs, this lamp…

Numbers, on the other hand, always come before the noun. This includes ordinal numbers.

  • Due mani, tre bicchieri, quattro ruote…
    Two hands, three glasses, four wheels…
  • La prima volta, la seconda pagina, il terzo incrocio…
    The first time, the second page, the third crossroads…

Other adjectives have a very slight change in meaning depending on where they are placed in the sentence.

  • Un vecchio amico
    An old friend – “someone you’ve known for a long time”
  • Un amico vecchio
    An old friend – “an elderly friend”
  • La mia vecchia auto
    My old car – “the car I previously owned”
  • La mia auto vecchia
    My old car – “I have more than one car and one of them is old”
  • Un pover’uomo
    A poor man – “a pitiful and unlucky man”
  • Un uomo povero
    A poor man – “a man without money”

Italian adjectives and their forms

You probably already know that Italian nouns have two genders, masculine and feminine, and two numbers, singular and plural.

Well, Italian adjectives have genders and numbers too! They must match the gender and number of the noun. If the noun is plural, the adjective will be plural. If the noun is masculine, the adjective will be in its masculine form, and so on.

So you have four different forms for any given Italian adjective, as shown in the tables below.

nero, black sing. pl.
masc. nero neri
fem. nera nere
questo, this sing. pl.
masc. questo questi
fem. questa queste

Note that the form that is found in dictionaries is the masculine singular form.


  • Questo gatto è aggressivo.
    This cat is aggressive.
  • Questi gatti sono aggressivi.
    These cats are aggressive.
  • Questa sedia è scomoda.
    This chair is uncomfortable.
  • Queste sedie sono scomode.
    These chairs are uncomfortable.

Common adjectives that follow this pattern are:

  • alto (high)
  • basso (low, small)
  • grosso (big)
  • piccolo (small)
  • bello (nice)
  • brutto (ugly)
  • buono (good)
  • cattivo (bad)
  • caldo (hot)
  • freddo (cold)
  • lento (slow)
  • ricco (rich)
  • povero (poor)
  • vicino (near)
  • lontano (far)
  • vecchio (old)
  • primo (first)
  • secondo (second)
  • terzo (third)

A large number of Italian adjectives end in -e. These adjectives change only in the plural, as they have the same singular form for both genders:

felice, happy sing. pl.
masc. felice felici
fem. felice felici


  • Marco è gentile.
    Marco is gentle.
  • I bambini sono molto felici.
    The children are very happy.

Common adjectives that follow this pattern are:

  • grande (big)
  • veloce (fast)
  • facile (easy)
  • difficile (difficult)
  • gentile (gentle)
  • felice (happy)
  • triste (sad)
  • divertente (fun)
  • giovane (young)
  • importante (important)
  • migliore (better, best)
  • peggiore (worse, worst)

Other adjectives still end in -a, and these will have three different endings: they have only one singular form, but different plural forms for each gender.

pessimista, happy sing. pl.
masc. pessimista pessimisti
fem. pessimista pessimiste


  • Luca è un tipo molto pessimista.
    Luca is a very pessimistic guy.
  • Non c’è bisogno di essere così pessimisti!
    There is no need to be so pessimistic!

Common adjectives that follow this pattern are:

  • ottimista (optimistic)
  • entusiasta (enthusiastic)

If you have a mixed group of something like uomini e donne, men and women, where one noun is masculine, and the other is feminine, all the adjectives will be masculine.

  • I libri e le matite nuovi sono sulla scrivania.
    The new books and pencils are on the desk.

There are also a small number of Italian adjectives that have only one form, so they remain unchanged while the noun they describe changes in number and gender. Most of these adjectives describe unusual colors, such as viola, purple, and rosa, pink:

  • Il vestito ha le maniche viola.
    The dress has purple sleeves.
  • Le mie scarpe sono rosa.
    My shoes are pink.

Let’s play with Italian adjectives!

Now, how about trying to choose the correct form of some Italian adjectives I am going to give you? Don’t worry, I will help you along the way!

First, let’s take a random sentence and translate “the mouse eats” into Italian: il topo mangia.

Can you tell what gender topo is? There are two telltale signs: the definite article il, which is only used for masculine nouns, and the ending vowel of the noun itself, since many Italian nouns ending in -o are masculine.

So topo is masculine!

All masculine articles are: un, uno, il, lo/l’, gli.

Now we need to describe the animal. What color is it? Let’s say it’s black, nero. We’ll put the adjective after the noun.

  • Il topo […] mangia.

However, nero is the basic form of the adjective, the one you find in dictionaries. Do we need another form?


  • Il topo nero mangia.
    The black mouse eats.

If your answer was “No, we need to use nero,” congratulations! Topo is a singular masculine noun, so we don’t need to change the adjective to another form.

Let’s step it up a notch now.

  • I topi […] mangiano.
    The […] mice eat.

Most Italian nouns ending in -o in the singular end in -i in the plural. If you scroll up a bit, you will find the table for the adjective nero, and you will see that its masculine plural is neri.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

  • Topo > Topi
  • Nero > Neri

So we will have:

  • I topi neri mangiano.
    The black mice eat.

Other examples:

  • Il vaso è rotto. I vasi sono rotti.
    The vase is broken. The vases are broken.
  • Il gatto rosso miagola. I gatti rossi miagolano.
    The red cat meows. The red cats meow.

Feminine adjectives behave the same way. Feminine nouns ending in -a take -e in the plural, as do feminine adjectives ending in -a:

  • La donna anziana, le donne anziane
    The elderly woman, the elderly women
  • La finestra aperta, le finestre aperte
    The open window, the open windows

All feminine articles are: una, un’, la, l’, le.

Finally, adjectives ending in -e in the singular can describe both masculine and feminine nouns, but they take -i in the plural for both genders, as we’ve already seen.

  • Il ghepardo è veloce. La donna è felice.
    The cheetah is fast. The woman is happy.
    I ghepardi sono veloci. Le donne sono felici.
    The cheetahs are fast. The women are happy.

Your turn now

Now it’s your turn! Change the adjective in the square brackets to the correct form for the given noun:

  • I prati [verde] (the green meadows)
  • Il pennarello [giallo] (the yellow marker)
  • Le serate [divertente] (fun evenings)
  • I numeri [primo] (prime numbers)
  • Le bevande [caldo] (hot beverages)
  • Una volpe [furbo] (a sly fox)
  • Un rumore [lontano] (a distant sound)

Scroll to the bottom of this page to find the exercise key.

Other kinds of Italian adjectives

We’re entering intermediate territory here, but our lesson on Italian adjectives wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two common types of determiner adjectives.

Possessive Italian adjectives

A very common class of determining adjectives is possessive adjectives, which are used to specify the owner of something.

m. sing. m. pl. f. sing. f. pl.
io mio miei mia mie
tu tuo tuoi tua tue
lui/lei suo suoi sua sue
noi nostro nostri nostra nostre
voi vostro vostri vostra vostre
loro loro loro loro loro


  • Quella è la mia casa.
    That is my house.
  • Dove sono i nostri biglietti?
    Where are our tickets?
  • Come si chiamano i tuoi genitori?
    What are your parents’ names?
  • Le sue matite sono sul tavolo.
    His/her pencils are on the table.

You will notice that most of these adjectives follow the same rules as descriptive adjectives: masculine singular adjectives end in -o, feminine singular adjectives end in -a, and their plural forms end in -i and -e respectively!

Demonstrative Italian adjectives

We then have the demonstrative Italian adjectives questo and quello, this and that.

m. sing. m. pl. f. sing. f. pl.
questo questi questa queste
quel/quello quei/quegli quella quelle

Again, we see the same pattern as with all the other adjectives:

  • -o for masculine singular
  • -i for masculine plural
  • -a for feminine singular
  • -e for feminine plural

For example, you could say…

  • Questa torta è molto buona.
    This cake is very good.
  • Non mi piace questo colore.
    I don’t like this color.
  • Di chi sono quei guanti?
    Whose gloves are those?
  • Non conosco quelle ragazze.
    I don’t know those girls.

Only lots of practice will make using Italian adjectives easier. This is why I recommend studying on the best Italian resources out there and making sure you keep track of your progress over time.

Most importantly, you will learn adjectives more easily if you learn Italian by context. Think about it: adjectives are linked to nouns and verbs, and Italian has a lot of noun + adjective combinations that occur very frequently in the language, such as pressione alta, high blood pressure, or strada sterrata, unpaved road.

Practice a lot, and Italian adjectives will no longer be a mystery to you!

Exercise key:

  • I prati verdi (masculine plural)
  • Il pennarello giallo (masculine singular)
  • Le serate divertenti (feminine plural)
  • I numeri primi (masculine plural)
  • Le bevande calde (feminine plural)
  • Una volpe furba (feminine singular)
  • Un rumore lontano (masculine singular)

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Learning to use Italian adjectives might seem daunting at first, but don’t worry, it comes naturally with practice.

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with forms of Italian adjectives.

Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of Italian sentences at Clozemaster.

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Italian.

Take your Italian to the next level. Click here to start practicing with real Italian sentences!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *