When to use 'The'?

Hi, I've been working on Italian and I have noticed that they use the words for 'The' often but I haven't found any explanation for why or when to do it and when not to.

for example in English we would say: 'You drink water' but in Italian it would be: 'Tu bevi l'acqua' literally saying 'you drink THE water'

and then in some sentences ('La mosca beve acqua' was one I had to translate 5 minutes ago) they leave out the 'The' in front of water. Can anyone give a rule of thumb or a simple explanation as to when and when not to use 'The' in a sentence.

June 16, 2015


It seems to be personal preference.

However, a lot of the time, you will see "the" included with non-quantitive, or "uncountable" nouns. By that, I mean nouns that you don't normally pluralize.

For instance:

Different amounts of water isn't waters. Water is uncountable.

More than one grain of sugar, salt, or pepper isn't sugars, salts, or peppers.

So if you have a noun that doesn't have a different plural, they tend to use il, la, lo, or l' in front of it.

This happens mostly in the food section, and with most liquids (la birra, il caffe, l'acqua are "correct" more often than without the article), for whatever reason.

It isn't a hard and fast rule, though, because later on you'll see that "La pratica" is used simply as "practice" (and there are plenty of other examples like that one), and the seasons (l'estate or l'inverno, etc.) also use the article more often than not.

June 16, 2015

Thanks man! You helped me a lot.

June 17, 2015

That indeed is a pretty helpful explanation, thanks! If there's anyone that can add more information on this, please do :)

June 17, 2015

Duolingo has given me the sentence "Io bevo caffè." Would this be wrong?

February 27, 2017

No, nothing wrong with that.
I've also seen io bevo il caffè and even io bevo del caffè, which is technically "I drink some coffee" rather than "the" coffee.

February 28, 2017

Using the definite article in Italian and English has a lot of differences. These are the cases when it doesn't match:

  • Geographical places: L'Italia (Italy), la Normandia (Normandy)... (But, however, before cities and villages it is non-used, as in English)

  • Languages: l'Italiano (Italian), il Francese (French)

  • Abstract nouns: la felicita (the happiness), la musica (music)

  • Possesive adjectives: il mio pane (my bread)

  • Nouns related to collective (ideas): il calcio e la vita (football is the life)

You're not supposed to remember it all, 'cause there are even more differences. But you should just be aware that there are the differences. Just not to get confused. You're just the beggginers and on that level it shouldn't make some effort to focus on. By time you will be able to perfectly get accustomed yourself on articles.

June 17, 2015
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