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Time expressions - part III - The months and the seasons of the year.

Other parts:
part I - The parts of the day
part II - The days of the week
part IV - Years and centuries
part V - Duration forms - prepositions
part VI - Duration forms - constructions
part VII - Duration forms - more constructions

The Italian names of the twelve months are:

gennaio = January
febbraio = February
marzo = March
aprile = April
maggio = May
giugno = June
luglio = July
agosto = August
settembre = September
ottobre = October
novembre = November
dicembre = December

All of them are masculine nouns (the article is seldom used), and have no plural form, as in English. So for instance, one should use periphrastic expressions such "the months of May from 1950 to 1970" (rather than "the Mays from 1950 to 1970").
The names are rather similar to the English ones, in which their Latin origin lingers even more than in Italian.
Their etymology is connected to Roman gods and historical personages. Gennaio comes from Janus, the patron god of doorways and gates, and of the beginning of all events, including that of the new year; but in times earlier than the 2nd century BC the Roman year started with March, dedicated to Mars (the god of war).
Luglio (Latin Iulius = July) remembers Julius Caesar, who in 45 BC reformed the Roman calendar (the month was previously called quintilis, i.e. the fifth month of the year, counting from March), while agosto (Latin augustus = August, originally called sextilis) was dedicated to the first emperor, Octavian, whose imperial title was Augustus. The four months from settembre through dicembre maintained the original reference to numerals (counting from March): september (septem = 7), october (octo = 8), november (novem = 9) and december (decem = 10).
These names are never capitalized, unlike in English.

Time phrases are formed by using the simple preposition a; remember that it turns into ad before words that begin with the same vowel (before other vowels the change is optional, and preferably avoided):

a gennaio = in January
a Maggio = in May
ad Agosto = in August
a Ottobre (less common: ad Ottobre) = in October.

  • Le Olimpiadi si terranno a luglio. = The Olympic Games will be held in July.

The preposition in can be used instead of a; this sounds more polished / formal:

  • Le Olimpiadi si terranno in luglio. = The Olympic Games will be held in July.

Sometimes the longer expression nel mese di is used instead of a:

  • Le Olimpiadi si terranno nel mese di luglio. = The Olympic Games will be held in the month of July.

When a habitual action is expressed, months never take a definite article (unlike the days of the week do, e.g. il lunedì); a habitual action can be clearly understood only by other elements of the sentence, or by the context:

  • Ad agosto (noi) andiamo in vacanza. = In August (next August) we'll be going on a holiday.

but this can also be understood as:

  • Ad agosto (noi) andiamo in vacanza. = In August (every August) we go on a holiday.

Other parts of the sentence can help to make this clearer:

  • Ad agosto (noi) andiamo sempre in vacanza. = In August we always go on a holiday.

  • Qualche volta ad agosto (noi) andiamo in vacanza. = Sometimes in August we go on a holiday.

Month names take a definite article only when they refer to a given year, or a given event:

  • Il febbraio del 1980. = The February of 1980.

  • L'ottobre del 1965. = The October of 1965.

  • Il settembre in cui (noi) siamo andati a Berlino. = The October in which (→ when) we went to Berlin.

When a month takes the definite article, time phrases require the preposition in, rather than a. The article affects the preposition, which becomes articulated:

  • Nel febbraio del 1980. = In (the month of) February 1980.

  • Nell'ottobre del 1965. = In (the month of) October 1965.

However, some speakers use the simple preposition a all the same:

  • A febbraio del 1980.

  • A ottobre del 1965.

Other prepositions are affected by the article, as well:

  • Dall'aprile del 2005 al dicembre del 2006. = From April 2005 to December 2006.

Also an indefinite article can be used, as in English:

  • Un agosto caldissimo. = A very hot August.

  • Un mese di marzo pieno di impegni. = A month of March full of engagements.

The adjectives scorso and prossimo are used in the same way as with the days of the week, and allow the same two patterns:

lo scorso marzo  or  marzo scorso = last March

il prossimo agosto  or  agosto prossimo = next August

The first pattern can also be used as a time phrase, while the second pattern requires the preposition a for this purpose:

  • Lo scorso marzo (noi) siamo andati a Firenze. = Last March we went to Florence.

  • A marzo scorso (noi) siamo andati a Firenze. = (same as above)

  • Il campionato comincerà il prossimo settembre. = The championship will start next September.

  • Il campionato comincerà a settembre prossimo. = (same as above)


The Italian names of the four seasons are:

la primavera = (the) spring / springtime
l'estate = (the) summer
l'autunno = (the) autumn / fall
l'inverno = (the) winter

The first two are feminine in gender, the second two are masculine. They have regular plurals:

le primavere
le estati
gli autunni
gli inverni

A definite article is commonly used when the seasons are the subject or the direct object of the sentence:

  • L'estate comincia alla fine di giugno. = (The) summer starts at the end of June.

  • I fiori annunciano la primavera. = Flowers announce springtime.

  • Non mi piace l'autunno. = I don't like autumn.

For time phrases, the simple preposition in is commonly used, and the article is dropped.

  • In inverno = In winter.

  • In primavera = In spring.

Whether an action is habitual or not can be often understood by the meaning of the sentence:

  • In autunno pioverà molto spesso. = In autumn (next autumn) it will rain very often.

  • In autunno piove spesso. = In autumn (any autumn) it often rains. (a habitual action)

  • In primavera è cominciato il corso di francese. = In spring (last spring) the French course started.

However, when the present tense is used, there are cases in which the meaning may be understood in two ways:

  • In primavera (noi) andiamo a Parigi. = In spring we'll be going to Paris.

can also be understood as:

  • In primavera (noi) andiamo a Parigi. = In spring we (usually) go to Paris.

Despite the context can often disambiguate the meaning, a better choice of the tense (e.g. the future tense) can clear any doubt.

With estate and inverno (but not with primavera and autunno) also the preposition di can be used, instead of in.
Di always forms an elision before these two seasons:

  • In estate il tempo è bello. = In summer the weather is fine.

  • D'estate il tempo è bello. = (same as above)

  • In inverno qualche volta nevica. = in winter it sometimes snows.

  • D'inverno qualche volta nevica. = (same as above)

The seasons take a definite article when they refer to a given year:

  • L'autunno del 2005. = The autumn of 2005.

  • La primavera del 1960. = The spring of 1960.

This affects prepositions, which become articulated:

  • Nell'autunno del 2005. = In the autumn of 2005.

  • Dalla primavera del 1960 all'inverno del 1965 . = From the spring of 1960 to the winter of 1965.

Four adjectives refer to each season:

primavera → primaverile
estate → estivo
autunno → autunnale
inverno → invernale

  • Le vacanze estive. = The summer holidays.

  • La moda invernale. = (The) winter fashion.

  • I colori autunnali. = The autumn colours.

May 1, 2019



Amazingly thorough explanation, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I can't possibly have any further questions on the subject, other than: When's the book coming out? :D

(edit: removed proof-reading notes)

May 1, 2019


Thank you!!
I often change the sample sentences several times before posting ...and so I end up mixing tenses and constructions.
I'll edit the text straight away


Another three wonderful posts to help us. Thank you again.


I was starting to feel good about my Italian. Well, not any more. Now I feel like I spent three rounds in the cage with the ultimate fighter. :-D Thank you.


Civis Romanus is the ultimate language gladiator (and emperor).


I feared you would get bored on Labour Day, so I thought "this should keep Vesna busy". :-D


I was confused by this statement since Labor (note how we dispense with that extra "u") Day in the US is in September.


Italians and many other Europeans celebrate Labor Day on May 1.


Maria, congratulations on your 1000 day streak! :-)


Grazie. Mi è piaciuto ogni giorno.


Civis I was "busy" avoiding your post all day. (Mi sento colpevole) :-D


Grazie mille, CivisRomanus!


Hic sunt leones!

Mi arrendo!
Codesto...e lo si serba per tempi migliori. ;-)
Grazie e buon 1° Maggio!


Indove tu li vedi 'odesti leoni?? Te tu mi pigli pe'l ( Y ), ovvìa! :-D :-D

Buon 1° maggio anche a te! :-*


E te tu hai ragione!... A guardar meglio "... sunt DRACONES".


CivisRomanus. Another gelato al pistacchio! I await Civislingo and have my book tokens ready!


I'm working on it. Too many people are asking for it, so this may be the right time. :-)


.....and a holiday in Rome to get them signed!


Grazie mille Civis, buon primo maggio!


Grazie, anche a te buon primo maggio! :-)



Can "Il settembre in cui (noi) siamo andati a Berlino." also be

" Il settembre a cui siamo andati a Berlino"

Since we are referring to "Siamo andati a Berlino a settembre"


Good question, your observation is correct.
Despite Siamo andati a Berlino a settembre, a cui always means "to whom", so it could never be used for a time phrase.
When a time expression links a relative (subordinate) clause (e.g. in cui siamo andati a Berlino) to a noun (il settembre) or to a whole main clause (il settembre in cui siamo andati a Berlino è stato un mese freddo) , only in cui can be used, regardless of the preposition or article used for the plain time phrase. This rule applies to any time period, i.e. days, parts of the day, months, years:

  • Sono andato al corso lunedì. (no article, no preposition)
    Il lunedì in cui sono andato al corso.

  • Una mattina sono andato in banca.
    La mattina in cui sono andato in banca.

  • Siamo andati a Roma ad aprile.
    L'aprile in cui siamo andati a Roma.

  • Maria è nata nel 1977.
    L'anno in cui è nata Maria è il 1977.

For short time periods (e.g. days, parts of the day) also quando ("when") can be used with the same purpose as in cui:

  • Il lunedì quando sono andato al corso.

  • La mattina quando sono andato in banca.

Quando for months or years is sometimes heard in the spoken language, but it is more often used for shorter time periods.
When a relative clause is introduced by quando it is labelled as proposizione relativa impropria ("improper or surrogate relative clause").

In informal Italian you also hear speakers simply use che:

  • Il lunedì che sono andato al corso.

  • La mattina che sono andato in banca.

  • L'aprile che siamo andati a Roma

  • L'anno che è nata Maria è il 1977.

This is very common in conversation and widely accepted, yet not fully grammatical.

Thanks for asking this question, which broadens the tutorial.


Grazie mille, Civis Romanus, for this and all the other of your posts. Your help is truly priceless.

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