Italian grammar: Possessive adjectives in Italian

Possessive adjectives (Aggettivi possessivi)

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Possessive adjectives (Aggettivi possessivi) in Italian, indicate who owns a thing, an animal or the relationship with a person, and agree in gender and number with the thing, the animal possessed or the person to whom the relationship refers.

La mia casa (my house) → "casa" is feminine singular.
Le mie case (my houses) → "case" is feminine plural.
Il mio cane (my dog) → "cane" is masculine singular.
I miei cani (my dogs) → "cani" is masculine plural.
La mia amica (my girl-friend) → "amica" is feminine singular.
I tuoi amici (your friends) → "amici" is masculine plural.

Note that possessive adjectives, in Italian, are almost always preceded by an article (See the chapter below for a more detailed discussion of this subject).

In English
Mio Miei Mia Mie My
Tuo Tuoi Tua Tue Your (Informal)
Suo Suoi Sua Sue Your (Formal)
Suo Suoi Sua Sue His / her / Its
Nostro Nostri Nostra Nostre Our
Vostro Vostri Vostra Vostre Your
Loro Loro Loro Loro Their


1. Use of the articles with possessives in Italian

As mentioned above, possessive, in Italian, are almost always preceded by an article but there are a number of occasions when the article is omitted:
  1. When the possessive refers to a singular noun indicating kinship, such as: "padre" (father), "madre" (mother), "fratello" (brother), "zio" (uncle), etc...

    - With "mamma" (mom) and "papà"/"babbo" (dad) the article is required.
    - The adjective "loro" is always preceded by the article.
    - If the noun indicating kinship is altered, the article is always required.
    - When an adjective of quality and the possessive refers to the same noun, the articles is always required.

    Singular → Mia madre mangia una mela (My mother eats an apple).
    Singular → Tuo fratello gioca a tennis (Your brother plays tennis).
    Singular → Nostro padre fuma il sigaro (Our father smokes cigars).
    Plural → I suoi fratelli sono divertenti (His/her brothers are funny).
    Plural → Le mie sorelle sono belle (My sisters are beautiful).
    "Mamma" → La mia mamma è bellissima (My mom is beautiful).
    "Papà" → Il mio papà ama il calcio (My dad loves soccer).
    "Loro" → Il loro nonno si chiama Paolo (Their granfather's name is Paolo).
    "Loro" → I loro genitori sono molto uniti (Their parents are very close).
    Altered noun → Il nostro fratellino ha gli occhi azzurri (Our little brother has blue eyes).
    Altered noun → La tua sorellastra è davvero cattiva (Your stepsister is really bad).
    With an adjective of quality → Il mio caro nipote (My dear nephew).
    With an adjective of quality → La nostra adorata madre (Our beloved mother).

  2. In vocative or exclamatory expressions where the possessive follows the noun the article is omitted.

    Figlio mio! (Oh my son!).
    Amici miei, bisogna andare (My dear friends, we must go).

  3. In some idiomatic expressions such as:

    "Da parte mia/tua/sua/etc..." (On my/your/his/etc... behalf).
    "A casa mia/tua/sua/etc..." (To/at my/your/his/etc... home).
    "Per colpa mia/tua/sua/etc...." (Because of me/you/him/etc...)

2. Omission of possessive adjectives

In general, possessives are not used with parts ot the body or clothing of the subject when they are the object of the action taken by the subject.

Mi sono lavato la faccia (I washed my face).
Gianni si è tolto il cappello (Gianni took off his hat).
I nemici alzarono le mani in segno di resa (Enemies raised their hands in surrender).
Piero chiuse gli occhi (Piero closed his eyes).

3. Other possessive adjectives

  1. Proprio (own)
    Proprio (fem. sing. → "propria", masc. plur. → "propri", fem. plur. → "proprie") expresses the idea of possession in a manner very clean and precise and can be used to replace the possessives of third persons "suo" and "loro".

    Mario ama il proprio lavoro (Mario loves his (own) job).
    Gigi e Luca non credevano ai propri occhi (Gigi and Luca couldn't belive their (own) eyes).
  2. Altrui
    Altrui (invariable) indicates an indefinite possessor and can be rendered in English with "of others".

    Devi rispettare le opinioni altrui (You have to respect the others opinions).
    Le cose altrui (The things of others).

Posted by Arnaldo Colonna on February 18, 2010 - All rights reserved

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