https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CivisRomanus

Articles and prepositions with country names, and geographical adjectives.

Almost every Italian country name takes a definite article, unlike English ones. So learners should think of these names in terms of "the Italy", "the Germany", "the Switzerland", and so on.
The main hurdle, though, is not the use of the article itself, but the prediction of the grammatical gender of the country name, which can be either masculine or feminine, as any other Italian noun, and the choice of the correct preposition for going to, being in, and coming from a country.

Not only country names take an article in Italian; also the names of continents do so, as well as the names of administrative subdivisions of a country, such as regions, provinces, or states.

A majority of these names end with the vowel -a and, quite intuitively, are feminine:

l'Italia = Italy
la Germania = Germany
la Svizzera = Switzerland
l'Ungheria = Hungary
la Turchia = Turkey
l'Australia = Australia
la Malesia = Malaysia

l'Europa = Europe
l'America = America
l'Asia = Asia
la Lombardia = Lombardy
la Bretagna = Brittany
la Scozia = Scotland
la California = California

However, a few names that end with -a are masculine; most of them are original (not Italianized):

il Canada
il Guatemala
il Kenya
il Sudafrica = South Africa
lo Sri Lanka
il Venezuela
lo Zambia

il Nebraska
il Nevada

All names that end with any other letter, including consonants, are masculine:

il Regno Unito = the United Kingdom
il Belgio = Belgium
il Portogallo = Portugal
il Giappone = Japan
l'Iraq
l'Afghanistan
l'Uruguay
lo Yemen  (not l'Yemen!)
lo Zaire

Some names are in plural form.
Very few of them are masculine:

i Paesi Bassi = the Netherlands
gli Stati Uniti d'America = the United States of America
gli Emirati Arabi Uniti = the United Arab Emirates

The feminine plural names belong to countries that stretch over a group of islands (i.e. an archipelago), and therefore contain the feminine word Isole (islands).
The word Isole usually remains unspoken, unless the name is used for official purposes, or when the name alone might not be understood:

le Isole Bahamas → le Bahamas = the Bahamas
le Isole Filippine → le Filippine = the Philippines
le Isole Fiji → le Fiji = Fiji
le Isole Mauritius → le Mauritius = Mauritius
le Isole Seychelles → le Seychelles = Seychelles
le Isole Comore → le Comore = Comoros

but

le Isole Pitcairn = the Pitcairn Islands
le Isole Salomone = the Solomon Islands
le Isole Vergini Britanniche = the British Virgin Islands

The names of a few small states (and a couple of not-so-small ones too) do not take an article:

Andorra (feminine✱)
Cuba (feminine✱)
Israele (masculine) = Israel
Malta (feminine✱)
San Marino (masculine)
Hong Kong (usually feminine✱)
Panama (usually masculine)
Singapore (usually feminine✱)
Taiwan (masculine or feminine✱)

✱ - dealt with as if they were cities (→ feminine, no article, regardless of the name ending).

But there are also a few small states whose names regularly take the definite article:

il Lussemburgo = Luxemburg
il Liechtenstein
il Bhutan
il Brunei
la Città del Vaticano or, in short, il Vaticano = the Vatican City


Going to countries (or regions, provinces, states), with all names that take the definite article, the preposition in is used, in simple form:

andare in Germania = to go to Germany
andare in Australia = to go to Australia
andare in Belgio = to go to Belgium
andare in Uruguay = to go to Uruguay
andare in Yemen = to go to Uruguay
andare in Canada = to go to Canada

and

andare in Europa = to go to Europe
andare in Asia = to go to Asia
andare in Lombardia = to go to Lombardy
andare in Scozia = to go to Scotland

One notable exception is Regno Unito, which is not perceived as a proper name, but as a common one (regno), thus it keeps the article after the preposition (in + il → nel):

andare nel Regno Unito = to go to the United Kingdom

With masculine plural names, in is followed by the article, because all of them are perceived as common names:

andare nei Paesi Bassi = to go to the Netherlands
andare negli Stati Uniti d'America = to go to the United States of America

For countries with feminine plural names (i.e. islands), the preposition used is a + le → alle:

andare alle Filippine = to go to the Philippines
andare alle Bahamas = to go to the Bahamas
andare alle Seychelles = to go to Seychelles

But also the use of in + le → nelle would not sound wrong, yet less common.

Instead, going to countries whose name does not take an article, the simple preposition a is used:

andare ad Andorra = to go to Andorra
andare a Cuba = to go to Cuba
andare a San Marino = to go to San Marino

Two exceptions are:

Israele, which is dealt with as a major country (→ in), despite it takes no article:

andare in Israele = to go to Israel

Città del Vaticano, which is perceived as a common name (città), and therefore takes a + la → alla:

andare alla Città del Vaticano = to go to the Vatican City

but:

andare in Vaticano = to go to the Vatican


Staying in countries (or regions, provinces, states), the same prepositions as for going to these places are used:

essere in Germania = to be in Germany
essere in Australia = to be in Australia
essere in Europa = to be in Europa
essere in Lombardia = to be in Lombardy

essere nel Regno Unito = to be in the United Kingdom

essere nei Paesi Bassi = to be in the Netherlands
essere negli Stati Uniti = to be in the United States

essere alle Bahamas = to be in the Bahamas
essere alle Fiji = to be in Fiji

essere ad Andorra = to be in Andorra
essere a Cuba = to be in Cuba
essere a / ad Hong Kong = to be in Hong Kong

Two exceptions are:

essere nelle Filippine more common than alle Filippine

essere nella Citta del Vaticano more common than alla Citta del Vaticano


Coming from countries (or regions, provinces, states), always the preposition da is used.
With names that take an article, the relevant articulated preposition is used. With those that do not take an article, the simple preposition is used:

venire dalla Germania = to come from Germany
venire dall'Australia = to come from Australia
venire dal Belgio = to come from Belgium
venire dal Canada = to come from Canada
venire dallo Yemen = to come from Yemen
venire dall'Europa = to come from Europe
venire dall'Asia = to come from Asia

venire dal Regno Unito = to come from the United Kingdom

venire dai Paesi Bassi = to come from the Netherlands
venire dagli Stati Uniti = to come from the United States

venire dalle Bahamas = to come from the Bahamas
venire dalle Filippine = to come from the Philippines
venire dalle Fiji = to come from Fiji

venire da Andorra = to come from Andorra
venire da Cuba = to come from Cuba
venire da Hong Kong = to come from Hong Kong
venire da San Marino = to come from San Marino

venire dalla Città del Vaticano = to come from the Vatican City
venire dal Vaticano = to come from the Vatican.

August 17, 2017

11 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vesna2691

It is absolutely impossible to thank you enough for your incredible willingness to help. Your posts are the source of information that would take hours, if not days of research. I study them religiously. Not much stays in the brain, though. : ) Thanks again.

August 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CivisRomanus

Thank you for letting me know. :-)

August 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MABBY

A fantastic post!

The topic can be further deepened, by including the names of the citizenry of the country.

For instance, "Sono canadese." (I am Canadian)
But, "Sei americana" or "Sei americano" (You are American; feminine/ masculine indicated)

Duolingo includes some collective nouns in their "Places" unit:

Sono cinese. Sono portoghese. Lei è spagnola/ Lui è spagnolo.

To me, the interesting one is Germany.
L'uomo tedesco abita in germania. (The German man lives in Germany)

August 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CivisRomanus

Thank you for the suggestion! I'll do so.

August 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CivisRomanus

This additional part is about geographical adjectives (thanks again to Mabby for suggesting it).

They can be used for indicating belonging (e.g. the Italian flag, the French coast), citizenship (e.g. the German tourists, the Britons), and in most cases also the name of the local language.

These adjectives are obtained by adding a suffix to the geographical name, which is often similar to the English one, but in many cases it differs.
Two main differences, which apply to all geographical adjectives, are:

  • they are never capitalized, as they are in English, unless they refer to a people, or to a civilization (always in plural form, e.g. the Egyptians);

  • when names are formed by two separate words (e.g. New Zealand, South Korea, North Africa), the relevant Italian adjective usually merges them into one word, or (less often) uses only the second word.

The rules of general adjectives apply, i.e. the ones that end with -o (first class adjectives) can take four different inflections for masculine singular (-o), feminine singular (-a), masculine plural (-i), feminine plural (-e), while the ones that end with -e (second class adjectives) take only two inflections, one for singular (-e, either masculine or feminine), and one for plural (-i, either masculine or feminine).

There are no specific rules as to 'what name takes what suffix'. These adjectives are loosely based of phonetics, but there are many exceptions, and a prediction would be unreliable in most cases, so it is always advisable to look them up in a dictionary.
Curiously, some suffixes seem to relate by geography (i.e. countries of the same part of the world) more than by phonetics.


  • .........-ano is a common suffix, and usually corresponds to the English '-an'; it is used with most names that end with -ia, or provide an easy phonetic link to -ano:

Italia → italiano = Italian
Australia → australiano = Australian
Siria → siriano = Syrian
India → indiano = Indian
Indonesia → indonesiano = Indonesian
Pakistan → pakistano sometimes spelt pachistano = Pakistani
America → americano = American
Centroamerica or America Centrale → centroamericano = Central American
Nordamerica → nordamericano = North American
Sudamerica → sudamericano = South American
America Latina → latinoamericano = Latin American
Bolivia → boliviano = Bolivian
Colombia → colombiano = Colombian
Giamaica → giamaicano = Jamaican
Haiti → haitiano = Haitian
Messico → messicano = Mexican
Paraguay → paraguayano more often spelt paraguaiano = Paraguayan
Uruguay → uruguayano more often spelt uruguaiano = Uruguayan
Venezuela → venezuelano = Venezuelan
Corea → coreano = Korean
Corea del Nord / del Sud → nordcoreano / sudcoreano = North Korean / South Korean
Africa → africano = African
Nigeria → nigeriano = Nigerian
Tanzania → tanzaniano = Tanzanian
Sudafrica → sudafricano = South African

For some countries with a different ending, the final part of the name slightly changes before taking the suffix, in order to better combine phonetically with it:

Giordania → giordano = Jordanian
Israele → israeliano = Israeli
Iran → iraniano = Irani
Brasile → brasiliano = Brazilian
Egitto → egiziano✱ = Egyptian
Perù → peruviano = Peruvian
Kuwait → kuwaitiano = Kuwaiti

Notably, Vaticano represents a unique case, as the word is both a noun and an adjective.

✱ Another adjective relating to Egypt is egizio, which describes a relationship with ancient Egyptian culture, tradition, etc.
So a native from Egypt is un egiziano (not un egizio), products coming from Egypt are prodotti egiziani, but ancient Egyptians as a people would be gli antichi Egizi, hieroglyphic writing would be la scrittura egizia, and so on.


  • .........-ino is a similar, less common suffix, which in English corresponds to '-ian': Algeria → algerino = Algerian
    Tunisia → tunisino = Tunisian

In the case of Marocco, the final part of the name slightly changes before taking the suffix:

Marocco → marocchino = Moroccan


  • .........-eno is a less common suffix, which in English corresponds to '-ean' or '-ian':

Armenia → armeno = Armenian
Cile → cileno = Chilean
Slovenia → sloveno = Slovenian

A couple of names slightly change before the suffix:

Romania → rumeno = Romanian
Iraq → iracheno = Iraqi


  • .........-egno is a variant of the latter suffix, taken by a couple of Latin American countries, which mimics the Spanish suffix '-eño':

Ecuador → ecuadoregno = Ecuadorean
El Salvador → salvadoregno = Salvadorean


  • .........-ese is the other main suffix for geographic names, which corresponds to English '-ese', but in many cases the two languages mismatch, and the equivalent English suffix is '-sh' (or others):

Irlanda → irlandese = Irish
Irlanda del Nord → nordirlandese = Northern Irish
Galles → gallese = Welsh
Islanda → islandese = Icelandic
Olanda → olandese = Hollander
Malta → maltese = Maltese
Lussemburgo → lussemburghese = Luxemburgish
San Marino → sanmarinese or sammarinese = Sanmarinese
Canada → canadese = Canadian
Libano → libanese = Lebanese
Cina → cinese = Chinese
Taiwan → taiwanese = Taiwanese
Giappone → giapponese = Japanese
Uganda → ugandese = Ugandan

In several cases the name slightly changes before taking the suffix:

Francia → francese = French
Norvegia → norvegese = Norwegian
Svezia → svedese = Swedish
Scozia → scozzese = Scottish
Finlandia → finlandese = Finnish
Malesia → malese = Malaysian, Malay
Thailandia → thailandese or tailandese = Thai

More consistent changes:

Inghilterra → inglese = English
Danimarca → danese = Danish
Portogallo → portoghese = Portuguese

Notably:

Nuova Zelanda → neozelandese = New Zealander (note the use of the prefix neo- for 'new')
Sri Lanka → srilankese = Sri Lankan, although also singalese or cingalese ('Sinhalese') is used


  • .........-ense is an uncommon variant of the previous suffix, applied to American countries:

Bahamas → bahamense = Bahamian
Costa Rica → costaricense = Costa Rican
Nicaragua → nicaraguense = Nicaraguan
Panama → panamense = Panamanian
Stati Uniti → statunitense = of / from the United States


  • .........-o is a common suffix, taken by some names that end with -ia or with -ina:

Grecia → greco = Greek
Svizzera → svizzero = Swiss
Lituania → lituano = Lithuanian
Repubblica Ceca or Cechia → ceco = Czech
Russia → russo = Russian
Serbia → serbo = Serbian
Slovacchia → slovacco = Slovak
Slovenia → sloveno = Slovenian
Ucraina → ucraino = Ukrainian
Croazia → croato = Croatian (note the change of 'z' with 't')
Mongolia → mongolo = Mongolian (the stress shifts back by one syllable, i.e. móngolo)
Somalia → somalo = Somalian (the stress shifts back by one syllable, i.e. sómalo)
Turchia → turco = Turkish (the stress shifts back by one syllable, i.e. tùrco)
Filippine → filippino = Filipino
Argentina → argentino = Argentinian

Some names of Central Asian countries ending with -stan drop this part before the -o:

Tagikistan → tagiko or tagico = Tajik
Uzbekistan → uzbeko or uzbeco or usbeco = Uzbek
Kirghizistan → kirghiso or, less often kirghizo = Kyrgyz / Kirghiz
Afghanistan → afgano = Afghan


  • .........-ita is a rare suffix, taken by no more than three country names:

Vietnam→ vietnamita = Vietnamese
Yemen → yemenita = Yemeni

With Arabia Saudita only the second part of the name is used:

Arabia Saudita → saudita = Saudi (Arabian)


  • .........-iota is a similar, rare suffix, taken by a couple of country names, without a common ending:

Cipro → cipriota = Cypriot
Kenya → keniota = Kenyan


  • .........-one is a suffix taken by names that end with -onia; it usually causes the stress of the word to shift back by one syllable (not to be confused with an augmentative suffix):

Estonia → estone = Estonian
Lettonia → lettone = Latvian
Lapponia → lappone = Laplander
Sassonia → sassone = Saxon
Vallonia → vallone = Walloon (the stress remains on the penultimate syllable, i.e. vallóne)

Also Bretagna takes this suffix:

Bretagna → bretone = Breton


  • .........-olo is a rare suffix, taken by some names that end with -gna. Among countries, Spagna is the only one:

Spagna → spagnolo = Spanish
Romagna → romagnolo = of / from Romagna region


  • .........-ico is an uncommon suffix:

Caucaso → caucasico = Caucasian (the stress shifts forward by one syllable, i.e. caucàsico)
Libia → libico = Lybian
Oceania → oceanico = Oceanian
Asia → asiatico = Asian (note the additional t)

Notably, with Gran Bretagna only the second part of the name is used, with some change (from Latin Britannia ):

Gran Bretagna → britannico = British


Adjectives with a unique suffix, or irregularly formed, are:

Belgio → belga = Belgian (belga masc./fem. singular, belgi masc. plural, belghe fem. plural)
Europa → europeo = European
Fiandre (plural) → fiammingo = Flemish
Germania → tedesco = German (but germanico may be preferred, speaking of national culture)
Guatemala → guatemalteco = Guatemalan
Lazio → laziale = of / from Latium region
Paesi Bassi → neerlandese also spelt nederlandese = Dutch (most people would use olandese)
Polonia → polacco = Polish


The position of stress on these adjectives is as follows:

.........-ano → penultimate syllable (e.g. italiàno)
.........-ino → penultimate syllable (e.g. algerìno)
.........-eno → penultimate syllable (e.g. cilèno), always with an open e
.........-egno → penultimate syllable (e.g. ecuadorègno), always with an open e
.........-ese → penultimate syllable (e.g. irlandése), always with a close e
.........-ense → penultimate syllable (e.g. statunitènse), always with an open e
.........-o → usually the same position as in the name; in few cases it is shifted back by one syllable
.........-ita → penultimate syllable (e.g. vietnamìta)
.........-iota → penultimate syllable (e.g. cipriòta), always with an open o
.........-one → usually one syllable earlier than the name (e.g. brètone); if stressed, e is always open
.........-ico → antepenultimate syllable (e.g. britànnico).

August 18, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kangourex

Wahou ! Put it in your main message or create another topic. Because in a commentary less people will think about to read it !

August 18, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CivisRomanus

I edited the title of the topic, mentioning the adjectives.

August 18, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lynnich

Great information. Thank you!!

August 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kangourex

Grazie :)

August 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Krisbaudi

That's great, thank you very much! :-)

August 19, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FrostyCollects

Thank you for this very helpful post! How about the preposition di? I have a couple Italian grammar eBooks but they are not quite comprehensive and a bit inconsistent with each other. Any guidance would be most appreciated.

August 25, 2019
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