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Troppo, troppa, troppe, troppi: Getting it right

Perhaps you're confused as to why you see the word "troppo" so many times in the sentences, paired with a feminine or a plural word.
Yet other times, you are expected to match the ending of the noun with the gender and plurality?
Here's why:

TROPPO means "too". It is an adverb, stating the excessive nature of something. Too hot. Too cold. Too spicy. Too tall. Too tired.

But it also means "too much" or "too many". Now it is an adjective. You need a noun after an adjective in order to make sense.
Too much butter. Too many people.

You can't 'count' an adverb. Eight too cold? Three too spicy? That's not right.
But as soon as you can "quantify" something-- 5 tablespoons of butter; 20 people too many-- even if you aren't actually assigning a number to it, then you know that you've got an adjective.

And one of the most useful rules in all of Italian is: If there is an adjective involved, then it had better match the gender and quantity of the noun that it is modifying.

Confusing things-- since grammar is never straightforward, in any language-- is how you identify an adverb or an adjective in your sentence.

An adjective only modifies a noun. Bad boy. Red truck. Big crowd.

An adverb, however, is a word that can modify a verb, an adjective, or even another adverb.
When you use an adverb to modify an adjective, you do still follow that rule above for the adjective, but the adverb remains constant.

In other words, when used as an adverb ("too", on its own) the adjective following it matches gender and quantity, but the adverb doesn't change.
In Italiano:

Sono troppo stanco (I am too tired)
Sono troppo stanca (I am too tired-- a female speaker)
Sono troppo stanchi (They are too tired)
Lei è troppo piccola (She is too short)

Now compare the meaning when "troppo" is used as an adjective, with a possible quantifiable useage, as with "too much" or "too many":

Ci sono troppe scarpe (There are too many shoes)
Ho troppo olio (I have too much oil)
C'è troppa gente (There are too many people-- "la gente" is singular in Italian)
Lui ha troppi libri (He has too many books)

I hope that this helps to clear up things for you, if only by a small amount for now. Trust me-- it eventually does get easier.
And, as a bonus fact:

Molto (very) and Molto, Molta, Molte, Molti (a lot, or many) works EXACTLY the same way (as do a few other common modifiers, such as tutto or poco).

Sono molto interessato (I am very interested)
Lei è molto furba (She is very smart)
Abbiamo molti giornali (We have a lot of newspapers)
Molte donne lavorono qui (Many women work here)

October 10, 2018


Sorted by top post


From an online website (italian.tolearnfree.com), here is a set of ten sentences. Fill in the missing word that makes sense (the base word to choose from is given in parentheses before the sentence):

  1. (molto) Ci sono ??? libri.

  2. (tanto) ??? gente parte.

  3. (troppo) Ho bevuto ??? ieri sera.

  4. (molto) Ci sono ??? errori in questo compito.

  5. (troppo) Le caramelle sono ??? dure, non le possiamo mangiare ora!

  6. (poco) Ci sono ??? ragazze che giocano al calcio.

  7. (molto) ??? castelli sono vecchi.

  8. (molto) Ho visto ??? gente piangere alla fine del film.

  9. (molto) Sono ??? stanchi dopo il lavoro.

  10. (tanto) Hai ??? problemi con i suoi amici!

1. molti (adjective)
2. Tanta (adjective; fem. sing.)
3. troppo (adjective)
4. molti (adjective)
5. troppo (adverb)
6. poche (adjective)- add the letter H to form a 'hard' C sound
7. Molti (adjective)
8. molta (adjective; fem. sing.)
9. molto (adverb)
10. tanti (adjective)

October 10, 2018


I also notice that when the word troppo means "too" (too hot, too dark) the verb essere is hanging around the sentence.
Sono troppo stanco
È troppo nuvoloso

While with too many, or too much, there's avere hiding in the mix.
Ho troppi biscotti
Abbiamo troppe macchine

Not that it works that way every time, but it is a pattern.

October 10, 2018


Yes, that's exactly how they work.
Together with molto and troppo I would also mention poco, which is the antonym of molto.
Used either before an adjective (e.g. molto belli, poco pratica, troppo giovane) or before a verb (loro lavorano molto, noi studiamo poco, io ho mangiato troppo) they are adverbs, and remain invariable.
When they are used before a noun (e.g. molti negozi, poche case, troppa polvere) they are adjectives, fully inflectable.

Beware of a few words that can be understood either as adjectives or as nouns.
Among the examples I mentioned, poco pratica (poco is invariable → pratica is an adjective) means "little (not much) practical".
But poca pratica (poca is inflected → pratica is a noun) means "little practice".

October 10, 2018


Thank you, Mabby. This is very helpful to me.

October 10, 2018


Well done. Looks like Civis has some competition and I welcome it. These forums will be ripe with useful information.

October 11, 2018


I would not call it 'competition', but rather describing the same rules from a different perspective, which can give the learner a better overall view of the topic. :-)

October 11, 2018


Comunque la chiami, grazie dell'impegno e della pazienza. Guardare una qualsiasi situazione da una diversa prospettiva, aiuta a riflettere e ad imparare in modo nuovo.

October 11, 2018



October 12, 2018



October 11, 2018


Chiamiamoci sinergia invece di concorrenza!

October 12, 2018


Thats good to know. I'm starting Italian.

October 13, 2018


"Lei è molto furba (She is very smart)" why isn't it "molta"?

April 3, 2019
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