Anyone who begins studying the Italian language will soon find out how difficult is to deal with the grammatical gender of nouns. The first obstacle to gender in Italian is that in most cases the gender assignment is totally arbitrary. For instance, nobody can really say why the word sedia (chair) is feminine while the word tavolo (table) is masculine.


Things get even more complicated when you consider that an Italian speaker has to also find an agreement between the noun and the article. Since the word sedia is feminine, the article la is required, while the article il is the proper one for the word tavolo.


That's it? No, not at all. Italian nouns can be classified into three categories. Nouns which end with -o are usually masculine, while the ones which end with -a are feminine (singular forms). However, as with every rule, this one also has its exceptions. There are some nouns which end with -a but are masculine (il problema, il clima, il panorama, etc.), as well as there are nouns which end with -o but are feminine (la foto, la radio, la moto, etc.). The third category of the so-called regular nouns consists of nouns which end with -e. Well, they can be both masculine and feminine.


This guide will help you better understand gender in Italian. Let's get started!


Abstract nouns


My experience with beginners has shown me how tricky it can be to remember whether a noun ending in -e Is masculine or feminine. Let's start with abstract nouns.








il bene

la canzone

il calore

la capitale

il capitale

la classe

il Carnevale

la colazione

il cereale


il cognome

la fame

il colore

la fine

il confine

la frase

il dolore

la gente





il fine

la legge

il fronte

la lezione

il genere

la mezzanotte

il gregge

la nazione

il male

la note

il mese


il Natale

la religione

il nome

la sete


la specializzazione


la specie

il plurale

la stagione

il singolare

la superficie

il soprannome


il terrore


il timore


il valore



A few considerations. Sometimes the same word can have a totally different meaning depending on whether it is masculine or feminine. For instance, il fine means goal/purpose, while la fine means end.



Another interesting aspect which deserves to be underlined is that we can often understand the gender of an abstract noun ending with -e  by observing its last letters. Those who paid attention while reading the table might have noticed that words which end with -ore (amore, colore, errore, etc.) are masculine while words which end with -ione (attenzione, religione, stagione, etc.) are feminine. Words which end with -ale are masculine.


Inanimate objects (nonliving things)


Now let's observe nouns which describe inanimate objects.





la base

il bicchiere

la botte

il bottone

la carne

il burrone

la cassaforte

il caffelatte

la chiave

il cannone

la classe

il carcere

la comune

il cartone

la fronte

il comune

la nave

il dente

la neve

il dolce

la patente

il fiore

la polvere

il fiume

la prigione

il forte

la radice

il giornale

la stampante

il lampione

la televisione

il lampone

la torre

il latte

la trave

il limone

la vernice

il maglione

la vite

il mare


il mattone


il marciapiede


il medaglione


il miele


il minestrone


il mobile




il paese


il pallone


il pane


il pantalone


il pepe


il pesce


il piede


il ponte


il rame


il ristorante


il salame


il sale


il sangue


il sapone


il sole


lo spumante


il tagliere


il televisore


il timone


il volante



It is easy to notice that masculine is more common than feminine for inanimate objects. Another thing it is possible to find out by reading the table is that words ending with -one (bottone, mattone, pallone, sapone, etc.) are masculine.


Animate nouns (living things) - Animals


Now it is time to observe animate nouns, animals first.




il bisonte


il bue

la lepre

il cane

la lince

il cinghiale

la serpe

il coyote

la tigre


la volpe

il leone


il maiale


il montone


il muflone


il pavone


il pesce


il piccione


il rinoceronte


lo scorpione


il serpente



Again, masculine nouns referring to animals are much more common than feminine ones (many end with -one).


Animate nouns (living things) - Human beings


To conclude, we must observe animate nouns referring to human beings.








il cameriere

la cantante

il cantante

la custode

il carabiniere

la direttrice

il cassiere


il consigliere

la giudice

il custode

la madre

il difensore

la moglie

il direttore

la nipote

il dottore

la parente


la scrittrice

il genitore

la senatrice

il giudice

la traditrice


la venditrice



il nipote




il padre


il padrone


il parente


il pasticciere


il pastore


il portiere


il presidente


il prete


il principe


il professore


il re


lo scrittore


il senatore


il signore


lo studente


il traditore


il venditore


il vigile



The gender agreement here is obviously determined by the biological sex. Anyhow, it is possible to notice that masculine nouns ending with -e are really used to refer to professions, but there is something more here than the table can tell us.


Words which end with -ante or -ente have the same form for both masculine and feminine: abitante, insegnante, parente, etc. Also custode, giudice and nipote have only one form for the two genders. Instead, masculine words ending with -tore really often end with -trice when they are feminine: direttore/direttrice, scrittore/scrittrice, traditore/traditrice, etc. There are exceptions, by the way: dottore/dottoressa, pastore/pastora.


Well, what have we learned?


  1. Gender in Italian grammar is totally arbitrary for abstract and inanimate nouns.
  2. Nouns can be classified into three categories (there are exceptions)
    1. nouns ending with -o (masculine/singular)
    2. nouns ending with -a (feminine/singular)
    3. nouns ending with -e (both masculine and feminine/singular).
  3. Nouns can have a completely different meaning depending on whether they are masculine or feminine (il capitale/la capitale, il fine/la fine).
  4. Nouns ending with -ore, -one or -ale are usually masculine.
  5. Nouns ending with -ione are usually feminine (especially abstract nouns).
  6. Nouns ending with -e are often used to refer to professions.




Image Sources

Hero image by Sam Howzit (CC BY 2.0), cropped and colors edited