Qualifying adjectives in Italian
Qualifying adjectives (aggettivi qualificativi) express a quality or a feature -positive, negative or neutral - of the noun they refer to.
|Una bella città||
A nice city
|Una grande, antica e bella città||
A large, ancient, nice city
- 1.Order of qualifying adjectives in Italian
- 1.1.Before the noun
- 1.2.After the noun
- 1.3.Different meaning according to position
- 2.Attributive and predicative adjectives in Italian
- 2.1.Attributive function
- 2.2.Predicative function
- 3.Irregular qualifying adjectives in Italian
- 3.1.Adjective buono
- 3.2.Adjective bello
- 3.3.Adjective grande
- 3.4.Adjective Santo
Order of qualifying adjectives in Italian
Italian adjectives can precede or follow the noun they describe.
Before the noun
In this position, the adjective has a "describing" function.
It adds a quality to the noun that can be well-known or obvious to all.
|i deliziosi vini italiani||
tasty Italian wines
|le malinconiche giornate di pioggia||
melancholic rainy days
After the noun
In this position, the adjective has a "distinctive" function.
It conveys new information about the noun.
|un formaggio italiano||
an Italian cheese
|una città moderna||
a modern city
Pro-tip: qualifying adjectives indicating colours and nationalities always follow the noun!
|il vino rosso||
the red wine
|il cantante inglese||
the English singer
Different meaning according to position
In some particular cases, the placement of the adjective changes the meaning of the sentence.
|Adjective before the noun||English||Adjective after the noun||English|
|una buona amica||
a real friend
a kind friend
|lo stesso treno||
the same train
|il treno stesso||
the train itself
Attributive and predicative adjectives in Italian
In Italian, adjectives can have an attributive or a predicative function.
In this case, the adjective goes with the noun as a simple attribute. It qualifies the element without the aim of distinguishing it from another one.
The adjective in this case usually precedes the noun it refers to.
Io abito in un grande palazzo
I live in a big building
The adjective is used to distinguish an element from another.
According to this function, the adjective usually follows the noun it refers to. It also follows the verb "to be" or another copulative verb.
Questa è una strada sicura / Questa strada è sicura
This is a safe street / This street is safe
Switching from the attributive function (adjective before verb) to the predicative function (adjective after verb), the meaning intended can change completely:
pover'uomo (sfortunato) vs. uomo povero (privo di mezzi)
unlucky man vs. man with little economical means
Irregular qualifying adjectives in Italian
Some Italian adjectives have irregular forms if they precede the noun.
Buono (good) becomes buon when it precedes any singular and masculine noun starting with a vowel or requiring the articles il and un.
|un buon amico||
a good friend
|un buon giocatore||
a good player
Bello (nice, pretty) resembles the corresponding definite article in its form.
|il ragazzo > il bel ragazzo||
the (nice) boy
|i gatti > bei gatti||
the (nice) cats
|gli specchi > begli specchi||
the (nice) mirrors
|l'albergo > bell'albergo||
the (nice) hotel
Grande (big, large) can become gran in front of masculine singular nouns starting with a vowel or requiring the articles il and un.
|un gran / grande problema||
a big problem
|un gran / grande amico||
a great friend
Santo (Saint) becomes San before masculine names beginning with consonant
Both Santo and Santa becomes Sant' before names beginning with a vowel.
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