The Position of Qualifying Adjectives in Italian

Qualifying Adjectives express a specific characteristic of the noun they refer to, for example shape, colour, dimension etc. For example, “beautiful“, “yellow“, “big“, “dark“, “rectangular” are all included in this group.

As you probably noticed, in Italian the position of Qualifying Adjectives can change depending on whether they are put in front or after the noun: the most common and neutral position is after the noun they refer to, whilst if they are before the noun that reveals a more personal and subjective point of view. The meaning of the adjective may change quite a lot!

Let’s see the difference.

Italian English
La nostra nuova casa è pronta. Our new built house is ready.
Domani traslocheremo a casa nuova. Tomorrow we are moving in our new home.
Quella è una grande banca. That is a great bank.
Ieri abbiamo fatto lezione in una classe grande. Yesterday we had lesson in a big classroom.
Ho smesso di fumare diverse volte. I quit smoking many times.
Stasera vorrei provare una ricetta diversa. Tonight I would like to try a different recipe.

 

Also, some Qualifying Adjectives can have a descriptive or restrictive function: in the first case they just describe the noun, in the second they restrict the meaning of the noun.

Here you have some examples to better understand this difference.

Italian English
1 La vecchia casa era circondata dagli alberi. The old house was surrounded by trees.
2 I tubi vecchi si sono rotti. The old pipes broke.
3 La povera ragazza è scappata appena ha sentito il cane che abbaiava. The poor girl ran away as she heard the dog barking.
4 I ragazzi poveri hanno ricevuto aiuto dallo Stato. The poor boys received the government help.
5 Marta è una giovane donna di circa trent’anni. Marta is a your woman in her thirties.
6 Ieri ho conosciuto la sorella giovane di Marco. Yesterday I met Marco’s young sister.

 

As you can see, the restrictive function defines and limits the noun: for example, in n.2, the meaning is that only the old pipes broke, not the new ones. Similarly, in n.4, only poor boys received that help, not the wealthy boys. In n.6, the sentence suggests that Marco has at least another sister, older than the one mentioned.

Does the position of adjectives change in your language? How?


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