Italian demonstrative adjectives are used to indicate the position of a person or thing in space or time according to the speaker’s (or listener) point of view. In this article we will see how to use them and the main differences with English.
What Are Italian Demonstrative Adjectives
The Italian aggettivi dimostrativi are widely used and correspond to the English “this” and “that”, and their plural forms “these” and “those”. For example:
- Questo libro è molto interessante – This book is very interesting
- Quello zaino è nuovo – That backpack is new
As all adjectives in Italian, demonstrative adjectives must also agree in gender and number with the noun.
Questo and his variations (questa, questi, queste, quest’) are used to indicate someone or something that is close to the speaker. They are the equivalent of the English “this”.
Quello is the equivalent of the English that. It’s used for people or things far away from the speaker/listener.
|this/these||questo, quest’||questi||questa, quest’||queste|
|that/those||quello, quell’, quel||quegli/quei||quella, quell’||quelle|
Questo and Quello are the most used Italian demonstrative adjectives, but not the only ones. We will now see all of the options you have and how to use them correctly.
Italian Demonstrative Adjective Questo
Questo is used to indicate a person or a thing close to the speaker. We’ve seen that questo is translated in English with “this”. It must agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to and has five forms: questo, questa, questi, queste and quest’.
Questo is used before singular and masculine names, which usually (but not necessarily) end with the letter “o”. It can be shortened in quest’, before names beginning with a vowel.
- Questo cappello è nuovo? – Is this hat new?
- Mi piace molto questo film – I really like this movie
- Quest’anno andrò finalmente in Italia – This year I will finally go to Italy
If you’re unsure about the gender of the noun, and therefore whether you need to use “questo” or not, think about the definite article you would put in front of the noun.
If the definite article of the noun is “il” or “lo”, questo is the right demonstrative article to use before it.
Il libro –> Questo libro
The book – This book
Lo pneumatico –> Questo pneumatico
The tyre –> This tyre
Questa is used before feminine, singular nouns which are close to the speaker/listener. It can be shortened in quest’, when the name it refers to begins with a vowel.
- Questa penna è tua? – Is this pen yours?
- Questa è mia sorella – This is my sisters
- Quest’arancia non è molto dolce – This orange isn’t very sweet
Questi is the plural form of questo. It is therefore used before plural, masculine nouns. It is translated in English with “these”
- Questi fiori sono freschi – These flowers are fresh
- Questi occhiali da sole sono costosi –These sunglasses are expensive
At this point, you won’t be surprised to hear that queste is used before plural, feminine nouns. It is also translated in English with “these”.
- Queste ragazze sono le mie cugine –These girls are my cousins
- Queste automobili sono di seconda mano –These cars are second-hand
The singular forms questo and questa also have a contracted form: quest’. Quest’ is used in front of words starting with a vowel.
- Quest’anno andremo alle Hawaii – This year we’ll go to Hawaii
- Quest’aula è vuota – This classroom is empty
When a word starts with a vowel you can use both the contracted form quest’ or questo/questa.
- Mi piace questa idea / Mi piace quest’idea – I like this idea
- Questo amore / quest’amore – This love
The only exceptions are the words ultimo and ultima, which mean “last”. With these two words you must use quest’.
- Quest’ultimo / Quest’ultima – The latter
These two expressions are used to refer to the last element of a couple or group mentioned before in the speech. For instance:
- Luca, Francesca e Paolo sono venuti alla festa. Quest’ultimo è andato a casa alle 22.
Luca, Francesca and Paolo came to the party. The latter went back home at 10pm.
The contracted form is never allowed with the plural adjectives, both feminine and masculine. You will use questi and queste even if the following noun starts with a vowel.
- Queste arance sono molto dolci – These oranges are very sweet
- Chi sono questi ragazzi? – Who are these boys?
Quick Overview On The Demonstrative Adjective Questo
|MASCULINE||FEMININE||MASCULINE / FEMININE|
with nouns starting with vowels
Italian Demonstrative Adjective Quello
Let’s now see the demonstrative adjective quello. It is the equivalent of the English “that” and is used to express that someone or something is far away from the point of view of the speaker.
- Quello studente seduto in ultima fila è il migliore della classe
That student sitting in the last row is the top of the class
Quello has several different forms. Let’s have a look at the chart below.
|quello, quel, quell’||quella, quell’|
That’s quite a lot, right? No need to worry, we will cover each case one by one. When to use which demonstrative adjective depends on the initial of the following noun.
Quello And Quegli
Quello and also its plural form quegli are used before masculine nouns beginning with: s + consonant, z, gn, ps, pn, x, i or y + another vowel.
- Quello specchio / Quegli specchi – That mirror / Those mirrors
- Quello zaino / Quegli zaini – That backpack / those backpack
- Quello psicologo / Quegli psicologi – That psychologist / Those psychologist
- Quello xilofono / Quegli xilofoni – That xylophone / Those xylophones
The use of the demonstrative adjective quell’ (with apostrophe) is quite easy to remember, as it precedes all singular nouns, both masculine and feminine, beginning with a vowel.
- Quell’amico / Quell’amica – That friend
- Quell’orologio – That watch
- Quell’arancia – That orange
Quel And Quei
The demonstratives quel and its plural form quei are used before masculine nouns beginning with consonant, except in the cases where we must use quello and quegli (that are used before s + consonant, z, gn, ps, pn, x, i or y + another vowel).
- Quel bambino / Quei bambini – That child / those children
- Quel cane / Quei cani – That dog / Those dogs
- Quel muro / Quei muri – That wall / Those walls
Quella And Quelle
The demonstratives quella and quelle are used before all feminine nouns beginning with a consonant.
For feminine nouns beginning with a vowel, we’ve already seen that we use quell’.
- Quella penna / Quelle penne – That pen / Those pens
- Quella casa / Quelle case – That house / Those houses
The feminine plural form quelle remains unchanged, no matter what the initial of the noun is.
- Quelle case sono nuove – Those houses are new
- Quelle arance sono italiane – Those oranges are from Italy
How To Choose Between Quei And Quegli
If at this point you feel overwhelmed by all the different demonstrative adjectives it is totally normal: Italian has a complex and articulated grammar that requires lots of practice (and patience).
A common mistake many people make when it comes to demonstrative adjectives is to confuse the use of quei and quegli. Both are used before nouns starting with different consonants.
- Quegli zaini – Those backpacks
- Quei libri – Those books
If you can’t remember which consonant requires which adjective, there is a simple method for not getting it wrong. Just isolate the following word for a moment and check which definite article it requires, whether “lo” or “il“. With “lo” (or with its shortened form l’) the form “quegli” must be used. With “il” it is necessary to write or say “quei“
|lo strumento||quello strumento||quegli strumenti|
|il bambino||quel bambino||quei bambini|
|il libro||quel libro||quei libri|
It’s not that difficult, you just need to remember the combination “Quegli-Lo” and “Quei-Il“. Also, keep in mind that quei is never used before a plural noun starting with a vowel.
Quick Overview On The Demonstrative Adjective Quello
(noun starts with s + consonant, z, gn, ps, pn, x, i or y + another vowel)
(noun starts with a consonant, except the cases mentioned above)
(noun starts with a vowel)
(noun starts with a consonant)
(noun starts with a vowel)
Italian Demonstrative Adjectives Codesto, Stesso, Medesimo, Tale
There are four more demonstrative adjectives in Italian: codesto, stesso, medesimo and tale.
Codesto is used for things or people which are far away from the speaker, but close to the listener. However, it is not used anymore in spoken language, and you will hardly hear it. In most cases, Italian speakers will use quello instead of codesto.
- Passami codesto giornale – Give me that newspaper
- È interessante, codesto libro che stai leggendo? – Is it interesting, that book that you’re reading?
The term is in disuse and used almost exclusively in Tuscany (a region in central Italy) and in commercial and bureaucratic language.
- Il sottoscritto chiede a codesta amministrazione la seguente autorizzazione
I hereby request the following authorization from this administration
Codesto also must be adapted to the gender and number of the following noun. It therefore has four forms: codesto, codesta, codesti, codeste.
Stesso And Medesimo
Stesso and medesimo mean “same” and are used to indicate identity:
- Prenderemo lo stesso treno – We will take the same train
- Abbiamo prenotato il medesimo albergo – We booked the same hotel
They also agree in gender and number with the noun they precede
- Se fossi stato in te, avrei fatto la medesima scelta
If I were you, I would have done the same choice
- Io e mia sorella abbiamo comprato la stessa maglietta
My sister and I have bought the same T-shirt
Stesso can be used to emphasize the name it refers to:
- Io stesso sono rimasto sorpreso delle sue parole.
I myself (even I) was surprised to hear his words
- L’allenatore stesso (l’allenatore in persona) si è congratulato con la squadra
The coach himself congratulated the team
Tale means “such” or “such a” and can be used as an aggettivo dimostrativo.
- Non ho mai detto tali parole – I’ve never said such words
It is often used to highlight that something is particularly important or big.
- Tali errori sono imperdonabili – Such (big) mistakes are hard to forgive
- Un tale comportamento è inaccettabile – Such behavior is unacceptable
Tale only has two forms: tale (before singular, masculine or feminine nouns) and tali (before plural, masculine or feminine nouns). The indefinite article (un, una, etc) often precedes it.
- Un tale successo va festeggiato! – Such a success has to be celebrated!
Finally, tale can also be used instead of questo or quello, when the person or thing it refers to has been already mentioned in your sentence:
- Il Colosseo è il luogo più famoso di Roma: una tale opera richiese otto anni di lavori
The Colosseo is the most famous place in Rome. Such a monument required 8 years to be built
Position Of The Demonstrative Adjectives
Before going, there are still a few things to keep in mind about how to use demonstrative adjectives. When there is a demonstrative adjective in the sentence, qualifying adjectives are placed after the noun they refer to:
- Voglio comprare quel cappotto verde – I want to buy that green coat
- Quella penna nuova è di Sara – That new pen is Sara’s
If the sentence contains a demonstrative adjective and a possessive adjective, the latter is placed between the demonstrative and the noun.
- Questo tuo libro è molto noioso – That book of yours is very boring
- Quella tua idea mi è sembrata molto interessante – That idea of yours sounded quite interesting to me
Italian Demonstrative Adjectives – Summary Table
Demonstrative adjectives can be of two types: those indicating closeness and those expressing remoteness. Italian gives you quite a few options; let’s put everything together to review all the aggettivi dimostrativi:
|this/these||questo, quest’||questi||questa, quest’||queste|
|that/those||quello, quel, quell’||quegli, quei||quella, quell’||quelle|
The use of different demonstrative adjectives requires a lot of practice. If you use the wrong aggettivo dimostrativo, Italian people will still be able to understand you, but it’s important to master them to speak Italian properly.
If you’re looking for a way to put all this knowledge into practice, we suggest that when learning new nouns, you also try to identify the right demonstrative adjective that should be used with it.
This way, you’ll be able to memorize and use the correct combination in no time.