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Verbs are ALWAYS the same for masculine or feminine subjects. As Elena noted, they match person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (plural or singular). The gender, however, doesn't make any difference. That's for VERBS. Adjectives are different, they match gender as well. So:
He eats the red apple > Lui MANGIA (verb) la mela rossA (adj)
She eats the red ice cream > Lei MANGIA il gelato rossO
Actually, in some tenses (such as the present perfect) the verb changes to match gender and subject:
Sei andato? Where did you go? - asking a male
Sei andata? - Where did you go? - asking a female
Loro sono andati? - Where did they go?
For the most part you are correct though, they do not change!
That's acceptable but rare; for a while it was somewhat more common as an attribute, and the previous president of the Crusca insisted a lot on it, but nowadays the general sentiment has shifted back to using a generic masculine, which is felt as more neutral. Thankfully so, because words like "ministra" and "assessora", for a female minister and city councilor respectively, always irked me.
Yes. This is one of the side effects of having so many forms for each verb: the chance of matching an existing word multiplies.
On the other hand, English, with its thrifty conjugations, manages to have 'to drink' and 'a drink', 'to match' and 'a match', and many others :-)
The common Italian word for snake is "il serpente"; "la serpe" is a much less common synonym. Duolingo shows the closest accepted translation, so if you wrote "la serpente" it would tell you it should have been "la serpe", but that doesn't mean that "il serpente" is wrong, quite the opposite.
Well, you know how "book" in English can be a noun ("He is a reading a book") or a verb ("Did you remember to book our flight?")?
Same shape, different meanings.
Similar here. You have "la cucina" which is "the kitchen", a noun, and "cucinare" which means "to cook", and one of its forms is "cucina" for "he/she/it cooks".