Is the "Ay" Marker in Tagalog the Same as the English Verb "To be"?

One of the most common markers in the Tagalog language is ay. It may appear as if ay  is the equivalent of the English verb "to be", because, for example, the literal translation of a phrase like ako ay Pilipino is "I am  Filipino". However, in reality, far from being a verb, let alone the verb "to be", which doesn't really exist in Tagalog, the function of ay is simply to invert the order of a phrase, and in the example above ako ay Pilipino is merely the inverted form of Pilipino ako. In other words, because in Tagalog there is no such thing as the verb "to be", such phrases as "I am Italian", "she is beautiful" or "Mario is a doctor" in Tagalog have no verb and are literally rendered as "Italian I" ("Italiano ako"), "beautiful she" ("maganda siya") and "doctor Mario" ("doktor si Mario"). The "ay" marker simply switches the order of such phr

Gender and Number in Italian - Italian for Foreigners Part 2



I am Italian and my wife is Filipina. 

My wife has been living and working in Italy for 25 years or so but, although she speaks Italian very fluently, she still finds it very difficult to write in Italian, even writing a text message without making any mistakes can be a problem for her.

And most Filipino migrants in Italy whom I know have the same problem.

There are two main things that foreigners who try to learn Italian struggle with, especially if they come from an English-speaking country:

One is the fact that articles, adjectives, prepositions and even verbs, sometimes, have to agree with the gender (masculine or feminine) and the number (singular or plural) of nouns.

And the other thing is the high degree of inflection of Italian verbs and the fact that irregular verbs (and there are many) have very unpredictable patterns.

GENDER AND NUMBER OF THE WORDS YOU USE WITH AN ITALIAN NOUN HAVE TO AGREE WITH THE GENDER AND THE NUMBER OF THE NOUN

English-speaking people use the same article, the same preposition and the same adjective regardless of whether a noun is masculine, feminine, singular or plural.

Here are some examples:


ARTICLES

The boy/the girl

The boys/the girls

A boy/a girl


ADJECTIVES

Good boy/good girl

Good boys/good girls


PREPOSITIONS

to him/to her, on him/on her....

To them (regardless of whether they are ladies or gentlemen), on them.....


And that's not how it works in Italian.

In Italian you have to first determine if a noun is masculine, feminine, singular or plural, then you have to choose the article, the preposition, the adjective and, sometimes, even the verb that matches the gender and the number of the noun.

But, first of all, how do you know if an Italian noun is masculine, feminine, singular or plural? And which articles, prepositions, adjectives and so on do you need to use?

A very general rule of thumb is that masculine nouns end in a "o" vowel, while feminine ones end in an "a". But this is just a generalisation because there is a lot of other endings or suffixes for nouns in Italian.

 

The easiest thing you can do to discern if a noun is masculine or feminine is to look it up in a dictionary, as the dictionary will definitely tell you if a noun is masculine or feminine.

 

But, to make a long story short, here are some criteria to tell masculine and feminine apart in Italian:

 

Words ending in -o and words ending in -a

 

Again, the best thing to do is look up the word in a dictionary but, by and large words like:

Gatto (cat)

Uomo (man)

Tavolo (table)

etc.

are masculine, while such words as:

Gatta (female cat)

Donna (woman)

Tavola (yes, here in Italy we've got "male" and "female" tables!)

are feminine.


But don't be overly tricked by "o" or "a" because there are a lot of exceptions to this rule:

For example both a man or a female can study to become a dentista (dentist) and the only way to discern if the speaker is talking about a man or a woman is by looking at the article being used and so "la dentista" or "una dentista" is a female and "il dentista" or "un dentista" is a man.


And both a man or a woman can study to become an "avvocato" or lawyer (even though you could use the feminine noun "avvocatessa")



Nouns ending in -e can be feminine in some cases and masculine in others:

Stazione (station) is feminine

Fiore (flower) is masculine


Nouns ending in a consonant are often of foreign origin and they are always masculine like computer, bar, film, transistor etc.


Articles, pronouns, adjectives and prepositions that go with masculine or feminine nouns


So, what kind of definite or indefinite articles, pronouns, prepositions, adjectives, or even verbs in some cases, are you going to use?


I have already kind of touched on this in my first post but now let's get a little more specific and let's for now focus on the singular number.


Masculine definite articles:

In English the definite article is "the" and that's for both masculine and feminine nouns.

In Italian we've got

Il

Lo

L' (before a vowel)

for masculine nouns


Examples:

Il gatto

L'uomo

Lo svago (entertainment)


and we've got:

La

L' (before a vowel)

for feminine nouns


La donna

La gatta

L'arancia

.....


The indefinite articles (a, an) in the singular are:

Un gatto

Un uomo

Uno svago  (a form of entertainment)


Una donna

Una gatta

Un'avvocatessa or un'avvocato (un with the apostrophe is always placed before a feminine noun)


Personal Pronouns as subject (there are other kinds of pronouns but it's better to focus on one thing at a time):


Io (both masculine and feminine). Examples: io sono un'uomo, io sono una donna

Tu ("""""""""")

Lui/egli (only masculine)

Lei/essa/ella (only feminine)

Noi (masculine and feminine)

Voi (""""""""")

Loro ("""""")/essi (masculine)/esse (feminine)


Prepositions can also be masculine or feminine:

Di (of)

A (to)

Da (from)

In (in)

Con (with)

Su (on, above, up...)

Per (for)

Tra/fra (in between)

The above mentioned basic prepositions can be turned into the so-called "preposizioni articolate" (preposition + article) which can, in some cases, be either masculine or feminine:


For example you could either be coming from "la stazione" (the station=feminine noun), in which case you would have to say "dalla (da+la) stazione or from "il lavoro " (work=masculine), in which case you are coming "dal (da+il) lavoro".


Adjectives

Masculine nouns require feminine adjectives and viceversa.

So a uomo can only be bello (beautiful) not bella

Again, you can Google to find a list of the most common adjectives in Italian and a dictionary will tell you if an adjective is masculine or feminine.


Masculine and feminine verbs


There are circumstances in which the verb itself can be masculine or feminine:

For example "Mario has gone....somewhere" is "Mario è  andato", while "Maria has gone...." is "Maria è andata".

How to form the plural of a noun in Italian 

In short, in order to form the plural of a noun in Italian, you've got to change the ending vowel. The problem is which vowel are you going to use?

Just as a very simplified way of explaining masculine and feminine in Italian is to say that nouns ending in -o are generally masculine and those ending in -a are generally feminine, an easy way to explain singular and plural in Italian is to say that:

 

The plural of nouns ending in -o is obtained by changing the -o into -i (cane/cani, gatto/gatti, telefono/telefoni etc)

 

The plural of nouns ending in -a (the feminine ones) requires turning the -a into -e (gatta/gatte, sedia/sedie, donna/donne)

 

But, sure enough, things are trickier than that.

 

An -a noun is not always masculine: an "artista" can be a man or a woman, an "astronauta" can be a man or a woman etc.

 

So, if an -a noun is masculine its plural is -i (artisti, astronauti etc)

 

If it's feminine the plural is -e (artiste, astronaute etc)

 

There are actually exceptions to the rule but to keep things simple I am going to skip those.

 

Nouns ending in -e (which can be masculine or feminine) turn into nouns ending in -i in the plural number (fiore/fiori, nave/navi etc)

 

Some nouns have the same ending both in the singular and in the plural like 'analisi' (analysis or blood test) or 'crisi' (crisis)

 

Other plurals are irregular and the entire suffix is different, there is not just a change in consonant:

 

For example the word "uomo" meaning man is "uomini" in the plural number

 

Dio/dei (God/gods)


Tempio/templi (temple/temples)


etc.

 

As for the articles, the prepositions and every other word that goes with a plural noun, this is what happens:

Masculine definite articles:

In English the definite article is "the" and that's for both masculine and feminine nouns and that's also both for singular and plural.


In Italian we've got

Il

Lo

L' (before a vowel)

for masculine nouns in the singular


Examples:

Il gatto

L'uomo

Lo svago (entertainment)


And we've got:

I

Gli

for the plural

I gatti

Gli uomini




and we've got:

La

L' (before a vowel)

for feminine nouns in the singular


La donna

La gatta

L'arancia

.....

and we've also got:

Le

for the plural

Le donne

Le gatte

Le arance



Personal Pronouns as subject (there are other kinds of pronouns but it's better to focus on one thing at a time):


Singular

Io (both masculine and feminine). Examples: io sono un'uomo, io sono una donna

Tu ("""""""""")

Lui/egli (only masculine)

Lei/essa/ella (only feminine)

Plural

Noi (masculine and feminine), example: noi siamo uomini, noi siamo avvocati.....

Voi (""""""""")

Loro ("""""")/essi (masculine)/esse (feminine)


Prepositions can also be masculine or feminine, singular and plural

But this only applies when you combine a 'simple preposition' with an article


Simple prepositions:

Di (of)

A (to)

Da (from)

In (in)

Con (with)

Su (on, above, up...)

Per (for)

Tra/fra (in between)


The above mentioned basic prepositions can be turned into the so-called "preposizioni articolate" (preposition + article) which can, in some cases, be either masculine or feminine, as well as singular or plural


For example you could either be coming from "la stazione" (the station=feminine noun), in which case you would have to say "dalla (da+la) stazione or from "il lavoro " (work=masculine), in which case you are coming "dal (da+il) lavoro".

You could be standing on a masculine thing like a bus and say "sul bus" or you could be standing on a feminine thing like a boat and say "sulla barca"


Those "preposizioni articolate" have a plural counterpart and the plural of the examples above is:

"dalle stazioni"

"dai lavori" (if you have multiple employers like Filipinos)

"sui bus"

"sulle barche"


Adjectives

Masculine nouns require feminine adjectives and viceversa.

So a uomo can only be bello (beautiful) not bella

Plural adjectives  require a change in consonant, so bello becomes belli and bella becomes belle


Plural verbs


A verb itself can be masculine or feminine, as well as singular or plural.


For example "Mario has gone....somewhere" is "Mario è  andato", while "Maria has gone...." is "Maria è andata". But if Mario and Maria are not alone those expressions become: "Mario & company sono andati" and "Maria & company sono andate"


It's a lot of stuff I know, and we only have talked about nouns.

But this is part of the stuff that just cannot be skipped if you aim at learning Italian decently.









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