12 Easy Mistakes You May Be Making with Italian Irregular Nouns

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This post originally appeared on The Iceberg Project – check it out here

We’ve all been there. You start feeling confident with your Italian, and you are proud of the progress you’ve made, until you stumble upon an irregular noun. Perhaps you use the wrong “gender” or forget that in the plural it doesn’t follow the regular rules, in either case, it is frustrating! The good news though is that these are easy mistakes to overcome. With a little repetition and memorization, you’ll never say it was “la problema” again!

1.) il problema / i problemi
Did you catch that in the introduction? One easy mistake to make is to forget that “problema” is masculine and takes the masculine article “il.” In the plural, the “a” turns to an “i” instead of an “e,” making it i problemi.

2.) Il tema /i temi
Just like “il problema,” “il tema” (the theme) is masculine and follows masculine rules in the plural form.

3.) la mano / le mani
I find it is easy to remember this one by remembering the expression, “give me a hand.” Practice saying “dammi una mano” enough and “una mano” will stick!

4.) il paio / le paia
“The pair” in Italian is a tricky combination. Starting off masculine singular, in the plural it becomes “le” and ends in “a.”

5.) il riso / le risa
Similar to “the pair(s),” the laugh or laughter also has irregular endings.

6.) l’uovo / le uova
Noticing a pattern? “The egg” ends in “o”, but “the eggs” uses “le” with an “a” ending.

7.) il braccio / le braccia
“The arm” and “the arms” also follow the pattern of “laugh” and “egg.”

8.) il dito / le dita
“The finger” is singular masculine, but “the fingers” are feminine plural with the singular ending “a.”

9.) il labbro / le labbra
“The lip” and “the lips” are using the same pattern we’ve seen before.

10.) il lenzuolo / le lenzuola
This is my favorite example of masculine single changing to plural feminine with a singular ending. I remember this one by repeating it often and making a mental note of all the other nouns that follow suit.

11.) il muro / i muri / le mura
The simple word “muro” actually changes meanings as it changes endings. “Il muro” is a wall, “i muri” are walls within a home, but “le mura” are walls surrounding a city, like the ones that circle many Italian towns.

12.) il ginocchio / le ginocchia
Like many other words on this list, the masculine singular “il ginocchio” becomes plural feminine with a singular ending: “le ginocchia.”

Have you encountered any other tricky nouns? How do you memorize them in their irregular forms?

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