Italian For Beginners: Describing Possession

Now that we understand noun gender and articles, the next thing to explore is possession, and the adjectives used to describe it.

Fortunately, in Italian, possession is only described by way of possessive adjectives (similar to English). Unlike languages with noun declension (eg, German, Russian, Polish), I don't have to worry about learning genetive cases and endings. Your mileage may vary.

Six subjects of possession

As always, there are six possible subjects, so there must be six possible possessors. Thus, there is a possessive adjective which corresponds to each subject: io, tu, lui/lei, noi, voi, and loro.

singularplural
1st personmionostro
2nd persontuovostro
3rd personsuoloro

However, because the endings on Italian nouns and adjectives also reflect gender and plurality, this means there are four different ways of describing each of these six — with the exception of loro, which does not change.

Thus, we have not only mio, but also mia, miei, and mie. And likewise for the other four subjects:

mio, mia, miei, mie
tuo, tua, tuoi, tue
suo, sua, suoi, sue
nostro, nostra, nostri, nostre
vostro, vostra, vostri, vostre

And as I said, loro does not change to match gender.

Now, for the twist

The Italian language has a peculiar trait regarding possessives which I have never seen in another language. In most languages, the possessive adjective replaces the article, but in Italian, you keep the article.

While it might sound strange in English to say "my the car", it is absolutely correct in Italian to say la mia macchina. And where it would grind nerves in English to say "the their houses", in Italian you must say le loro case.

The only time you do not keep the article is in front of a family member in the singular. It is correct to describe "my brother" as mio fratello. However, in the plural you still keep the article, and "my brothers" are still i miei fratelli.

What little twists have you discovered in the language you are studying? Leave a comment and share with everyone else!


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