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irregular italian nouns 3: nouns that change gender in the plural

Continuing our odyssey through the weird realm of irregular Italian nouns we come to those that change gender in the plural. Here is a list of the more common ones.

il carcere (prison) - le carceri
il paio (pair) - le paia
il riso (laughter) - le risa
l'uovo (egg) - le uova
il centinaio (hundred) - le centinaia
il migliaio (thousand) - le migliaia
il miglio (mile) - le miglia

The noun eco (echo) can be masculine or feminine in the singular, but is always masculine in the plural:

l'eco stupendo / stupenda - gli echi stupendi

Now for a really tricky set. These nouns change gender in the plural unless you're using them figuratively, in which case they remain masculine! For simplicity I'm going to leave out the figurative uses. Just remember, whenever you see a masculine plural form of these nouns, it's figurative.

il braccio (arm) - le braccia
il cervello (brain) - le cervella
il ciglio (eyelash) - le ciglia
il corno (horn of animal) - le corna
il dito (finger) - le dita
il labbro (lip) - le labbra
il membro (member, as in body part) - le membra
l'osso (bone) - le ossa
il lenzuolo (bed sheet) - le lenzuola
il budello (bowel) - le budella
il fondamento (foundation of house) - le fondamenta
il muro (wall) - i muri (of a house) / le mura (of a city)

And these nouns have both masculine and feminine plurals which can be used interchangeably.

il ginocchio (knee) - i ginocchi / le ginocchia
il grido (shout) - i gridi / le grida
l'orecchio (ear) - gli orecchi / le orecchie
l'urlo (shout) - gli urli / le urla

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Reader Comments (1)

Some of these words derive from the Latin Second Declension - neuter nouns ending in 'um'.
Their plural forms dropped the 'um' and added 'a'.
E.g., Ovum -> Ova
Thus modern-day 'Uovo' becomes 'Uova' in the plural.
January 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRonAlb

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