This may be a bit silly to ask but can someone explain to me the difference between using il, la and lo. They all mean 'the'. I know that 'i' is the plural form of 'the'. Is it masculine/feminine? If so, how can you tell which words are masculine and which are feminine. Thanks
You're question is not silly at all. It's a pretty important question in learning Italian.
"il" is the regular masculine singular form, "la" is the regular feminine singular form. For the plurals, "i" is the masculine regular and "le" is the feminine form, "l gatto, i gatti, la gatta, le gatte."
If a masculine noun begins with an s+ another consonant, or a z "il" becomes "lo" in the singular and "gli" in the plural, "le", "lo scrittore, gli scrittori."
If a noun starts with a vowel whether that noun is masculine or plural the definite article (the) becomes l'. So if you wanted to say the animal, which is "animale" you would say, "l'animale."
In the plural masculine nouns that begin with a noun take "gli" as the definite article, but feminine nouns take the regular feminine article . For indefinite articles "a, an", when you would use "lo" for the definite use "uno", and form feminine nouns that start with a vowel, una drops the second a and attaches to the noun, so a bee, becomes "un'ape".