Apostrophe in Italian: How To Use It

The apostrophe is a unique feature of the Italian language. When used properly, it will help you write Italian like a native. This comprehensive guide explains when to use the Italian apostrophe (l’apostrofo) and when not to.

Definite articles (gli articoli determinativi)

We use the apostrophe in front of singular nouns (both masculine and feminine) starting with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or the constant “h”.

We never use the apostrophe before plural names, even though they start with a vowel.

  • L’amico
  • L’erba
  • L’isola
  • L’orso
  • L’uomo
  • L’hotel
  • Gli amici
  • Le erbe
  • Le isole
  • Gli orsi
  • Gli uomini
  • Gli hotel

Indefinite articles (gli articoli indeterminativi)

  • Un’amica
  • Un’esperienza
  • Un’emozione

We never use the apostrophe when “un” precedes a masculine noun

We use the apostrophe with the indefinite articles (articoli indeterminativi) only when “un” precedes a feminine noun.

  • Un uomo
  • Un albero 
  • Un uccello 

Pronouns

We use the apostrophe when the direct pronounslo” and “la” proceed a verb starting with a vowel or the constant “h”. 

We never uses the apostrophe with plural pronouns.

For example,

  • L’uso – I use it 
  • L’ho visto – I saw him
  • Li uso – I use them
  • Li ho visti – I saw them

We never use the apostrophe with indirect pronouns.

  • Gli ho detto – I told him
  • Le ho detto – I told her 

Interrogatives

The interrogative words such as Come?, Quando?, Cosa? Dove? Drop the last vowel when they are followed by the various forms of the verbs essere and avere

  • Dov’è? – Where’s it?
  • Dov’era? – Where was it?
  • Quand’è? – When is it?
  • Com’è? – How’s it?
  • Cos’hai? – What do you have?

The interrogative phrase Qual è? doesn’t use the apostrophe. 

Quello and bello

Quello and bello drop the “o” and become “quell” and “bell” when they precede singular nouns starting with a vowel.

  • Quell’albero
  • Quell’uomo 
  • Bell’albero
  • Bell’uomo

The words buon (from buono) and nessun (from nessuno) don’t use the apostrophe though. 

Imperatives 

The shortened versions of some imperative forms use the apostrophe, such as

  • Va’ – go!
  • Di’ – tell!
  • Da’ – give!
  • Sta’ – stay

The apostrophe is not used when they are combined with pronouns.

For example,

  • Dimmi – tell me
  • Dammi – give me 

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

Learn Italian
the smart way!

Sign up and receive the best exercises that have already helped my private clients to finally speak italiano + weekly doses of Italian!

Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

7 Romance Short Stories for Italian Language Learners