One of our subscribers has asked about the difference between il fine and la fine.
It’s an excellent question, and one many of us surely wonder about from time to time.
Both il fine and la fine refer to “the end,” more or less.
Italian has its origins in Latin. Finis is both masculine and feminine in Latin, depending on the meaning. These meanings have, for the most part, been carried over into Italian.
When referring to periods, ranges, and intervals of time, the masculine is used. A good example of this is il fine settimana. Here we’re not talking about “the end of the week,” by which we often mean Friday or Saturday, a specific moment in time, but rather “the weekend,” a period that lasts from, say, Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. That’s why Italian uses the masculine il fine settimana. It’s an interval of time. Of course, oggi come oggi (today, literally “today as today”), “weekend” has been adopted into Italian and lots of people just say buon weekend rather than buon fine settimana.
Questo è proprio un lungo weekend. Un fine settimana lunghissimo.
This is really a long weekend. A very long weekend.Play Caption
One useful expression that uses the masculine form of fine is andare a buon fine (literally: to go to a good ending, to be successful).
Bene, la prenotazione è andata a buon fine.
Good, the reservation was successful.
Caption 24, Marika spiega - Fare lo spellingPlay Caption
Another popular expression with the masculine form of fine is il lieto fine (the happy ending) when talking about stories. Note that the English translation, in this case, is “ending,” not “end.” When we are talking about the final phase of something, we generally use the masculine.
In genere, questi film romantici hanno un lieto fine.
In general, these romantic films have a happy ending.
Il fine can also correspond to the goal or the purpose. In this case, we use the masculine.
Al fine di permettere un'accelerazione del processo di compostaggio, si cercherà di ridurre il materiale di grosse dimensioni da collocare nella compostiera.
In order to enable the speeding up of the process of composting, one will try to break down the larger pieces of material to place in the composter.Play Caption
In English, we also use this sense of fine meaning “goal” sometimes: “to what end?” meaning “for what purpose?” or, “the end justifies the means.”
When referring to the end or conclusion of something, or the moment in which something ends, then the feminine is used. With the exception of the above-mentioned cases, most of the time, fine is feminine: la fine. You’ll find a great many examples if you do a Yabla search.
Le fettine così sottili com'è successo a me, faranno un po' una brutta fine.
The really thin little slices, like what happened to me, will come to a bad end.
Captions 42-43, Marika spiega - La Parmigiana di melanzane - Part 2Play Caption
In the Yabla search you will also see fine with no article at all. This is used when two nouns stand next to each other to express one idea, but are not attached, rather like fine settimana. In fact, many compound but detached words imitate “weekend” or fine settimana and are masculine, even when their actual meaning may also be interpreted as referring to completion, such as:
Fine corso (the end of a course, end of the line, as for a bus or train)
Fine anno (the last part of the year)
Fine stagione (end of season)
A fine pranzo and alla fine del pranzo are both correct. They mean almost the same thing (at the end of the midday meal), but fine pranzo, for all intents and purposes, is a compound word (or concept) whereas alla fine del pranzo uses prepositions and articles. They’re set up differently.
This detail can be handy, especially when you’re not sure whether to use la or il.
Quando ti devo pagare? -Fine mese.
When do I have to pay you? -End of month.
No need to say alla fine del mese (at the end of the month).
There is more to say about fine, especially since it has some ambiguities both as an adjective and as a preposition, so stay tuned!