Italian is such a beautiful, melodic language full of enchanting vocabulary, funny idioms, and… some potentially tricky grammar points, like the twenty-four possessive adjectives. Yes, twenty-four. But I promise that you’re going to get the hang of them after reading this article!
Listen, it’s time to master the possessive adjectives in Italian. These are necessary in your language-learning journey, because they will help you describe ownership of things, like your Ferrari car, your beautiful Italian greyhound, your favorite scarf, and a whole lot more. This article is going to walk you through the different possessive adjectives in Italian, show you a helpful chart that you can reference, and give you some useful phrases. Oh, and there’s even a song at the end. Let’s get started!
What are possessive adjectives in Italian?
Possessive adjectives in Italian show to what or to whom something belongs. In English, the possessive adjectives are: my, your, his/her/its, our, your, and their. The good news is that Italian follows relatively the same concept as English… but instead of eight possessive adjectives, there are twenty-four of them! This is because in Italian, the possessive adjective must agree with the gender and number of the noun it’s referencing. In English, the possessive adjective just needs to agree with the possessor.
Woah. Don’t worry, though! This article will break everything down and take it step by step.
What’s the difference between possessive adjectives vs possessive pronouns?
Let’s quickly review the minor difference between possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns to avoid any confusion.
In English, the possessive pronouns are: mine, yours, his/hers/its, ours, yours, and theirs.
See how they’re slightly different to the possessive adjectives we looked at earlier?
In Italian, possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns are spelled exactly the same, but they’re used in different contexts. We’ll look at the full list in just a bit!
Remember, possessive pronouns in Italian aren’t attached to a specific noun. Instead, they replace the noun so we don’t have to repeat it in a sentence. Take a look at this conversation below to get a better idea of that, especially with Lucia’s response.
Marco: La borsa è tua? (Is the purse yours?)
Lucia: Si, è mia. (Yes, it’s mine!)
In this article, we’re going to focus on using the possessive adjectives. They don’t replace the noun, because they are used with the noun. Let’s take a look at a different conversation to understand it a bit better:
Marco: Vuoi usare la mia macchina stasera? (Do you want to use my car tonight?)
Lucia: Si, per favore! Devo prendere il mio amico all’aeroporto. (Yes, please! I need to pick up my friend from the airport.)
Notice how Marco (a male) uses the feminine la mia to reference his car. That’s because macchina is a feminine noun in Italian! And Lucia uses the masculine il mio to reference her friend (who is a male).
Now that we’ve gone through those key differences, let’s delve into the possessive adjectives in Italian. Our chart in the next section goes through each one and provides some useful examples as well.
Italian possessive adjectives
Keep in mind that when it comes to “His, Her, Its”, the possessive adjectives in Italian are all the same. So, if we’re in a large group of people and someone says È il suo compleanno oggi!, we would need to use some context to figure out exactly whose birthday it is, because it could be his, hers, or its.
However, Italian does differentiate between the informal and formal (polite) you forms. So, let’s imagine you need to use a possessive adjective when talking to an older stranger on a train. In that case, you would address that person in the third person, which you’ll see in the table as “His, her, its, your (formal)”.
Example: Signore, il Suo orologio è molto bello! (Sir, your watch is really nice!)
Remember: we need to understand the “gender” of the object (the watch). In Italian, orologio is masculine and takes the definite article il. This means that we must use the masculine possessive adjective, even if we are talking to a woman. Our example sentence would remain the same, even if we’re talking to a Signora!
This is probably the biggest difference (and source of confusion) for English speakers learning Italian. Don’t sweat it, though. It definitely takes time and practice to get this down! For now, you can refer to this table for some useful examples and create some of your own.
|English||Masculine, singular||Feminine, singular||Examples||Masculine, plural||Feminine, plural||Examples|
|My||mio||mia||Il mio computer è nuovo. La mia casa è piccola.||miei||mie||I miei amici sono simpatici. Le mie amiche sono simpatiche.|
|Your||tuo||tua||Il tuo divano è comodo. La tua macchina è veloce.||tuoi||tue||I tuoi libri sono interessanti. Le tue riviste sono vecchie.|
|His, her, its, your (formal)||suo||sua||Il suo armadio è grande. La sua bottiglia è piena.||suoi||sue||I suoi giorni sono noiosi. Le sue scarpe sono nuove.|
|Our||nostro||nostra||Il nostro giardino è rovinato. La nostra festa è iniziata!||nostri||nostre||I nostri vestiti sono larghi. Le nostre mele sono marce.|
|Your||vostro||vostra||Il vostro matrimonio è stato bello. La vostra casa è bellissima.||vostri||vostre||I vostri quaderni sono vuoti. Le vostre giacche sono gialle.|
|Their*||loro||loro||Il loro cane è bravo. La loro scuola è aperta.||loro||loro||I loro amici sono strani. Le loro tazze sono belle.|
*Notice how loro remains the same. The only thing that changes is the definite article!
Useful examples using possessive adjectives
The best way to feel comfortable using possessive adjectives is to use them as often as you can in applicable situations. So, we’ve done just that. Read through the different scenarios below, where possessive adjectives could come up frequently.
1. Breaking the Ice / Networking
Are you ever in those awkward situations where you don’t know how to strike up a conversation? Oddly enough, possessive adjectives can help!
- Amo la sua sciarpa! / I love his/her scarf! OR I love your scarf! (depending on the formality)
- Posso avere il tuo biglietto da visita? / Can I have your business card? (informal)
- Ecco il mio numero di telefono. / Here’s my phone number.
2. At the restaurant
You can also use possessive adjectives when talking to your waiter. Of course, the last example should only be used with close friends or family!
- Quali sono i vostri piatti del giorno? / What are your specials today?
- Il mio cibo è delizioso! / My food is delicious.
- Posso assaggiare il tuo piatto? / Can I try some of your food?
3. At the Doctor’s Office / Pharmacy
Uh-oh, your stomach hurts. If you have to describe your pain or your body, you’ll need to keep some exceptions in mind first. When it comes to body parts, you should actually omit the possessive adjective, but keep the definite article.
Think about it this way: it’s obvious that the headache you’re feeling is from your head, so you can skip saying the possessive adjective. Take a look at the examples below.
- Gli fa male la caviglia. / His ankle hurts.
- Mi fa male lo stomaco. / My stomach hurts.
- Mi fa male la testa. / My head hurts.
Speaking of this, it’s not a bad idea to brush up on the body parts in Italian!
4. Italian possessive adjectives and family members
The last few examples are all about possessive adjectives in Italian with family members. There are actually a couple of exceptions to keep in mind when it comes to possessive adjectives and familial bonds. Let’s break it down to make things as clear as possible.
When not to use the definite article:
1. Talking about a singular family relationship
Often, the definite article is not used when talking about a singular family relationship. You would still use the possessive adjective, but you would omit the definite article that comes before it!
- mio padre / my father
- mia madre / my mother
- mio fratello / my brother
When to use the definite article:
2. Talking about a plural family relationship
If you’re talking about your two brothers, or your three cousins, then you need to bring back that definite article.
- i miei fratelli / my brothers (or my siblings, if it’s a mixed gender group)
- le mie cugine / my cousins (female)
- le vostre nipote / your nieces
3. Using adjectives to modify the family member
If you want to talk about your Italian cousin, or your blonde sister, then you need to use the definite article.
- Il mio cugino italiano / my Italian cousin
- la mia sorella bionda / my blonde sister
4. Anything to do with “loro”
If you’re talking about “loro”, you need to keep the definite article. It’s as simple as that!
- Il loro padre / their father
- la loro madre / their mother
- le loro sorelle / their sisters
5. When it’s up to you:
More endearing terms like “mamma” or “papà” play by their own rules, and it’s up to you! You can also decide to use or omit the article when talking about your grandparents (nonno, nonna).
- (il) mio papà è simpatico / my dad is nice
- (la) mia mamma è perfetta / my mom is perfect
- (il) mio nonno è simpatico / my grandpa is nice
- (la) mia nonna è perfetta / my grandma is perfect
If you want to brush up on all the branches of your family tree, make sure to review our in-depth article!
In doubt, sing it out
Once you start learning Italian grammar, you’ll start to notice it everywhere… especially in TV series, films, and even songs. Jovanotti, a popular Italian and international singer, relies on possessive adjectives all throughout the lyrics in his song, "Come musica".
Take a look at some of the lyrics below and notice how each line uses a possessive adjective. It’s like he wrote this song just for this article! PS: You can listen to the whole thing here.
|Italian Lyrics||English Lyrics|
|1. I tuoi grandissimi sogni, i miei risvegli lontani
2. I nostri occhi che diventano mani
3. La tua pazienza di perla, le mie teorie sull'amore fatte a pezzi da un profumo buono
4. Il tuo specchio appannato, la mia brutta giornata
5. La mia parte di letto in questa parte di vita
6. Il tuo respiro che mi calma
7. La nostra storia che non sa finire
|1. Your great dreams, my distant awakenings.
2. Our eyes that become hands.
3. Your valuable patience, my theories about love, torn apart by good perfume.
4. Your foggy mirror, my horrible day.
5. My side of the bed in this part of life.
6. Your breath that calms me down
7. Our story that doesn’t have an end.
|1. Le nostre false partenze, i miei improvvisi stupori
2. Il tuo "Sex and the City, " i miei film con gli spari
3. I nostri segni di aria in questi anni di fuoco.
4. I tuoi silenzi che accarezzano le mie distrazioni.
5. Il nostro amore immenso che non puoi raccontare
|1. Our false starts, my sudden astonishment.
2. Your “Sex and the City” and my action films.
3. Our air signs in the years of fire. O
4. Your silences that caress my distractions.
5. Our immense love that is impossible to recount.
“Our” article has come to “its” end
We covered quite a bit of rules and details when it comes to the Italian possessive adjectives, and don’t worry if you need to revisit this information as you practice using them in conversation!
Like anything, mastering our twenty-four new friends (and other Italian grammar and vocabulary) will take some time and patience. See you next time!