In the movie Chi m'ha visto being currently offered on Yabla, a curious adjective has cropped up in a newspaper headline: musicista precario. It's used to describe Martino, the guitarist, and it happens that he was quite upset when he read it.
Musicista precario a me?
An occasional musician? Me?
Caption 35, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 12Play Caption
Guitarist. A temp.
Caption 2, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 13Play Caption
Let's delve into this adjective for a moment. The English cognate for precario is "precarious," but it has a specific meaning to Italians in the modern-day world.
Primarily, precario is used to describe someone who doesn't have tenure, doesn't have a permanent job. For instance, many public school teachers in Italy find themselves in the position of being precario, and the word is also often used as a noun: un precario. Someone in this position can also be described as un supplente, a substitute teacher, even though they have been teaching in the same school for years. At the end of the school year, un supplente is let go, and has no guarantee of being re-hired for another year. These "substitute" teachers don't get paid during the summer months, but they have to be ready to start work (or not) from one day to the next, come September — definitely a precarious work situation!
Precario may also be used to describe a temporary worker or temporary job.
Poi però... con questa crisi ho perso l'ultimo lavoro precario
Then, however... with this crisis, I lost my last temporary job
Caption 25, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 8Play Caption
In Martino's case, the headline implies that he doesn't have a steady band he plays with on a regular basis. He has no guaranteed work and plays concerts only occasionally. In fact, he is just about unemployed.
Precario can also mean the same as "precarious" in other situations, such as walking a tightrope.
While we are on the subject of precariousness, there is another curious word that means much the same thing (but not in the context of job security): in bilico. Essere in bilico is "to teeter," "to be in a precarious equilibrium." It's also used to mean "undecided."
Ero in bilico tra l'essere vittima, essere giudice
I was teetering between being a victim and being a judge
Caption 50, Måneskin Torna a casaPlay Caption
Ma sotto questa tua corazza lo so C'è una ragazza che sta lì in bilico
But underneath this armor of yours I know There's a girl who is there on the verge of falling
Captions 24-25, Max Gazzè Ti Sembra NormalePlay Caption
Il talento è un dono enorme. Il talento è... è un dovere morale coltivarlo.
Talent is an enormous gift. Talent is... it's a moral duty to cultivate it.
Captions 75-76, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 12Play Caption
Piazza del Popolo è una piazza molto importante di Roma,
Piazza del Popolo is a very important square of Rome,
Caption 1, Anna presenta Piazza del PopoloPlay Caption
...e che invece adesso è una delle parti più eleganti, più signorili della capitale, dove ci sono le case più belle
...and which now though, is one of the most elegant, most exclusive parts of the capital, where there are the most beautiful houses
Captions 4-5, Anna presenta il ghetto ebraico e piazza matteiPlay Caption
In italiano abbiamo due tipi di aggettivi: noi li chiamiamo aggettivi positivi e aggettivi neutri.
In Italian, we have two kinds of adjectives. We call them positive adjectives and neutral adjectives.Play Caption
An example of a positive adjective is caro (expensive).
An example of a neutral adjective is grande (big).
È un tipico teatro diciamo shakespeariano, con il palco rotondo al centro
It's a typical, let's say, Shakespearean theatre, with a round stage in the center
Caption 18, Anna presenta Villa Borghese - Part 2Play Caption
La spiaggia è molto pulita.
The beach is very clean,
Caption 19, In giro per l'Italia Pisa e dintorni - Part 3Play Caption
Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.
We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.
Caption 17, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2Play Caption
Si aggiustano le scarpe rotte, se ne creano nuove su misura.
They repair broken shoes; they custom make new ones.
Caption 5, Marika spiega Il nome dei negozi - Part 1Play Caption
Use the dictionary if you're not sure how to form the plural of a noun.
Write to us if you have questions!
Stay tuned for the next part of this lesson about adjectives, when will discuss aggettivi neutri (neutral adjectives), or those adjectives that end in "e" and do not change according to gender: they only change according to singular and plural. Thus, they have only 2 possible endings.
Let’s talk about adverbs. While adjectives describe nouns, adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Many adverbs are closely connected to adjectives, especially those that answer the question, come (how). In fact, there are a good number of adverbs that can be easily formed if we are familiar with the adjectives. And just remember, while adjectives can have different endings according to number and gender, adverbs stay the same!
Let's look at how to use adjectives to form Italian adverbs with the suffix -mente. Using -mente is similar to using "-ly" in English, in cases such as "nice — nicely," "loud —loudly," and forceful — forcefully."
Of course, there are many exceptions, but here are some common and useful Italian adverbs that will be easy to remember since they are formed by adding -mente to the root form of the adjective.
In order to build Italian adverbs with -mente, you just have to follow this very simple formula:
Feminine form of the adjective + mente
For example, if we want to form an adverb with the adjective ultimo (last), we just need to take the feminine form of that adjective (ultima) and add the suffix -mente, like this:
ultima (last) + mente = ultimamente (lastly, lately).
chiaro (clear) + mente = chiaramente (clearly)
L'ho detto chiaramente ai suoi collaboratori, prima di prendere qualsiasi iniziativa,
I told your colleagues very clearly: before taking any initiative at all,Play Caption
Let’s look at some more examples:
Vero (true) + mente = veramente (truly, really)
Le dimensioni sono veramente compatte. -Sì, sì.
The dimensions are really compact. -Yes, yes.Play Caption
Onesto (honest): onesta + mente = onestamente (honestly)
Giacomo, onestamente non ci aspettavamo questa cosa.
Giacomo, honestly, we didn't expect this thing.
Caption 53, Questione di Karma Rai Cinema - Part 10Play Caption
More adverbs like these:
Lento (slow) + mente = lentamente (slowly)
Stupido (stupid) + mente = stupidamente (stupidly)
Ironico (ironic) + mente = ironicamente (ironically)
Serio (serious) + mente = seriamente (seriously)
Raro (rare) + mente = raramente (rarely)
You might have noticed that all these adjectives ended in o. This means they have both a masculine and feminine ending, and apart from lento, they also happen to be similar to their English equivalents. Some adjectives, however, end in e, and therefore have the same ending in both the masculine and feminine. When this is the case, the adverb will simply add -mente to the adjective without changing it.
Let's take the adjective semplice (simple).
Semplice (simple) + mente = semplicemente (simply)
If, on the other hand, the adjective ends in -le or -re, we drop the final vowel e before adding the suffix -mente:
Here are some very common and essential adverbs in this category.
Speciale (special) - e: special + mente = specialmente (especially)
Gentile (kind) -e: gentil + mente = gentilmente (kindly)
Normale (normal) -e: normal + mente = normalmente (normally)
Can you turn these common and useful Italian adjectives into adverbs, keeping in mind the 3 ways we talked about in this lesson?
rapido (fast, rapid)
You'll find the solutions here.
Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to send your questions and topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the adverbs easily formed from adjectives.
probabile (probable) probabilmente (probably)
La vittima è, molto probabilmente, un barbone.
The victim is, most probably, a homeless man.Play Caption
tranquillo (calm, without worries) tranquillamente (calmly, easily)
felice (happy) felicemente (happily)
fortunato (lucky) fortunatamente (luckily, fortunately)
sicuro (sure) sicuramente (surely, of course)
musicale (musical) musicalmente (musically)
forte (strong) fortemente (strongly)
rapido (fast, rapid) rapidamente (rapidly)
veloce (fast) velocemente (rapidly)
cortese (courteous) cortesemente (politely, corteously)
coraggioso (courageous) coraggiosamente (courageously)
scientifico (scientific) scientificamente (scientifically)
possibile (possible) possibilmente (possibly)
comodo (comfortable, convenient) comodamente (comfortably, conveniently)
maggiore (greater) maggiormente (to a greater degree)
Queste erano le cose che maggiormente si ricordavano.
These were the things people remembered most.Play Caption
ulteriore (additional) ulteriormente (further)
Be', non voglio disturbarLa ulteriormente.
Well, I don't want to disturb you any further.
Caption 9, Trailer ufficiale Benvenuti al sudPlay Caption
How did you do? If you had trouble, let us know at email@example.com
This week, Daniela concludes her lessons on the comparative and the superlative. Let's take a moment and review the series because, coming from English, we might want to put the lessons together in a different way.
As we have seen, the comparative and superlative work a bit differently than in English. In English we have two ways of the comparative and superlative of an adjective: by changing the adjective itself (as in "big," "bigger," "biggest") or by adding "more" or "less" before the adjective, as with the adjective "beautiful." But in Italian, comparatives and superlatives are formed using più (more) or meno (less) plus the adjective. Attenzione! The adjective buono is an exception to this. Learn more here.
In the first lesson, Daniela explains the comparativo di maggioranza (majority), which corresponds to “more” plus the adjective in English. If it's meno (less), we call it comparativo di minoranza (minority).
Even though we don't use these terms in English, they are fairly self-explanatory. In English, after the comparative adjective, we use the conjunction "than" before the second part of the comparison: This book is bigger than that one.
But in Italian, there are two different conjunctions we use when comparing things: di (than, of) or che (than). This is a big deal and somewhat tricky. Daniela starts explaining it in the first video and continues explaining here and here.
Daniela then explains all about comparing things that are equal: comparativo di uguaglianza. We discuss this further here. This is tricky in any language, and Italian is no exception. Daniela begins talking about it here and continues here, here and here.
So if you are interested in getting the scoop on how to say "the best of all," then go straight to this week's lesson, where Daniela shows us how this — the regular old superlative — works in Italian. It called the superlativo relativo, since this superlative is relative to a group of elements. As she explains...
"È l'amico più generoso di tutti". Sto paragonando la qualità dell'essere generoso del mio amico all'essere generoso di tutti.
"He is the most generous friend of all." I am comparing the quality of being generous of my friend, to the generosity of all.
Caption 24, Corso di italiano con Daniela: Superlativo relativo
The superlativo relativo corresponds, roughly, to the superlative in English, in respect to the comparative, as when we add "-est" to an adjective: nice, nicer, nicest.
In Italian, we still use the modifiers più (more) and meno (less) but with the addition of the definite article before it, it becomes "the most" or "the least."
Let's take the adjective bello whose English equivalent "beautiful" needs "more" or "less" to make it comparative.
Margherita è bella (Margaret is beautiful). [positivo]
Margherita è più bella di Barbara (she is more beautiful than Barbara). [comparativo di maggioranza]
Margherita è la piu bella di tutte le quattro sorelle. She is the most beautiful of all four sisters. [superlativo relativo di maggioranza]
Margherita è intelligente (Margherita is intelligent). [positivo]
Margherita è meno intelligente di Barbara (Margherita is less intelligent than Barbara). [comparativo di minoranza]
Elisabetta è la meno intelligente di tutte le sorelle (Elisabetta is the least intelligent of all the sisters). [superlativo comparativo di minoranza]
We hope this helps you make sense of the comparative and superlative in Italian.
We've talked recently about comparatives of equality, and so it makes sense to talk about yet another kind of comparative. We're not really comparing two or more items, but rather giving one item a very high vote.
In English we use words or prefixes such as "super," "very," "extra," "maximum," "mega."
There is a super easy way to make adjectives into absolute superlatives in Italian.
Daniela explains how this works:
There are certain adjectives we use quite frequently in this form to express an absolute superlative.
One is bello (beautiful, nice):
Another is piccolo (small):
Still another is nuovo (new):
There are lots of others, and you will, little by little, start noticing them as you listen to spoken Italian, where they occur most frequently.
Here's a head start.
In our last lesson, there was mention of the Italian comparative adjective migliore (better). This brought up an excellent question on the part of one of our readers. What's the difference between migliore and meglio? They both mean "better." When should we use meglio instead of migliore?
It's a great question, because the answer is not so simple. On a very basic level, migliore is an adjective and is the comparative of buono (good). It is also, with the addition of an article, the superlative of buono (good), as in the following example.
La moto è il mezzo migliore per superare il traffico.
The motorbike is the best means of transportation for getting past the traffic.
Caption 27, Adriano - GiornataPlay Caption
Migliore stays the same in both the masculine and the feminine.
Io voglio solo una vita migliore di questa.
I just want a better life than this.
Caption 70, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 5Play Caption
La mia migliore amica.
My best [girl]friend.Play Caption
But in the plural it's always migliori, for both the masculine and the feminine.
Ed è uno dei vini migliori della Basilicata, è chiamato Aglianico.
And it's one of the best wines of Basilicata, it's called Aglianico.
Caption 2, Milena - al supermercatoPlay Caption
No, veramente le cose migliori le abbiamo fatte insieme, no?
No, actually the best things are the ones we've done together, right?Play Caption
Migliore and its plural form migliori can also be nouns, just like in English.
Sei il/la migliore!
You're the best!
Migliore is either an adjective or a noun — never an adverb.
Meglio, on the other hand, is basically an adverb, so it makes sense for it to be the comparative of bene (well). Meglio often means in modo migliore (in a better way).
Facciamo un esempio così capite meglio.
We'll provide an example, that way you'll understand better.Play Caption
But meglio has a gray area, too, and is much more flexible than migliore. Unlike migliore, which is either an adjective or a noun, meglio, in addition to being an adverb, is often also used colloquially as an adjective or in some contexts as a noun. It's also used in a huge number of expressions.
Note that the verb migliorare exists, too, to mean "to improve," to "get better."
Se posso migliorare, perché non farlo?
If I can improve, why not do so?Play Caption
Il mio italiano è molto migliorato.
My Italian has gotten much better.
We'll focus on meglio next week, but in the meantime, why not compare things with migliorein your home or workplace?
Think about food, movies, books, the time of day/year for doing something.
In questo bar, fanno il miglior caffè della città.
In this bar, they make the best coffee in the city.
Il mio italiano scritto è migliore di qualche anno fa.
My written Italian is better than a few years ago.
Non ero la migliore della classe quando andavo a scuola.
I wasn't the best in the class when I went to school.
Qual è la stagione migliore per visitare la Sicilia?
What's the best month for visiting Sicily?
We have recently come to the end of the disturbing but fascinating documentary about Italian Fascism and the Italian language. We hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two about Italian history.
One important concept put forth in this final segment is that language is an equalizer, allowing us to express ourselves and understand others.
Uguale è chi sa esprimersi e intendere l'espressione altrui.
An equal is one who is able to express himself and understand how others express themselves.
Caption 9, Me Ne Frego - Il Fascismo e la lingua italiana: Part 15 of 15
There’s a curious little word in that caption: altrui. It’s an odd word, not following the usual rules for adjectives. In earlier times, the three famous fourteenth-century Florentine "authors" of the Italian language (Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio) also used it as a pronoun to mean “others.” It was used with various prepositions: di (of), a (to), or con (with).
More commonly, altrui is used as a possessive adjective to mean “of others” or “belonging to others/someone else.” So we might say the preposition is built-in. And once you're in the know, it's also easy to use because it doesn’t change according to number or gender. To translate altrui into English, we would most likely use the possessive form with an apostrophe.
In the first episode of Commissario Manara, Toscani is looking at his new boss with a bit of envy. His wife calls him on it.
Toscani, non essere invidioso del posto altrui.
Toscani, don't be jealous of someone else’s job.
Caption 39, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 8 of 14
The meaning of altrui is also fairly easy to guess. In Italian, you can think of the noun or adjective altro-altra-altri (other/others) or think of “altruism” or “altruistic” and you’ll get it! Just remember you don’t need a preposition.
Check out these examples of sentences with altrui.
A user wrote in with a question about these two words. Is there a difference? Yes, there is:chiaro is an adjective, and chiaramente is an adverb. But that’s the simple answer.
Language is in constant flux, and chiaro has various meanings, just as “clear” in English does. And this adjective has come to take on the job of an adverb in certain contexts, as Marika mentions in her lesson on adverbs.
Non fare troppi giri di parole, parla chiaro.
Don't beat around the bush. Speak plainly.
Caption 29, Marika spiega: Gli avverbi di modo
As a matter of fact, dictionaries list chiaro as both an adjective and adverb, but as an adverb, it's used only in certain circumstances, with certain verbs.
What’s the difference between parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente?
Well, sometimes there isn’t much difference.
Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaro.
Moreover, the report from my colleague in Milano is clear.
Caption 30, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3 of 14
In the example above, the speaker could have used the adverbial form to mean the same thing.
Del resto la relazione del mio collega di Milano parla chiaramente.
Parlare chiaro has become an idiomatic expression — un modo di dire. It gets the message across very clearly. It implies not using flowery language, wasting words, or trying to be too polite. But parlare chiaramente can have more to do with enunciation, articulation, ormaking oneself understood. So, sometimes parlare chiaro and parlare chiaramente can coincide, but not necessarily.
Apart from this modo di dire, the adjective and adverb forms are used a bit differently in grammatical terms.
Since chiaro is an adjective, it normally describes or modifies a noun. To be correct, then, we often use è (it is).
È chiaro che non lo deve sapere nessuno perché il marito è gelosissimo.
It's clear that no one should know, because her husband is very jealous.
Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 5 - Il Raggio Verde - Part 12 of 14
Chiaro may be used by itself with a question mark to ask, “Is that clear?”
E non sono tenuto a spiegarti niente, chiaro?
And I'm not obliged to explain anything to you, is that clear?
Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17
The adverb chiaramente, on the other hand, can stand alone before or after another clause or can be inserted just about anywhere in a sentence.
Natoli ha chiaramente bisogno di glutine, eh.
Natoli clearly needs gluten, huh.
Caption 33, La Tempesta: film - Part 5 of 26
Using chiaro, Paolo could have said:
È chiaro che Natoli ha bisogno di glutine.
It’s clear that Natoli needs gluten.
But chiaro has a special in-between meaning when it’s used in place of an adverb with verbs such as parlare (to speak) and vedere (to see).
Finché non ci ho visto chiaro la tengo io.
Until I've seen things clearly I'm keeping it.
Caption 44, Il Commissario Manara 1: Ep. 3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 10 of 17
Although we have translated it with an adverb, we could also say:
Until I get a clear picture of things, I’m keeping it.
Look for sentences with either chiaro or chiaramente and try switching them, making the necessary changes. Doing a search on the video tab will give you plenty of examples.
This week, Marika talks about adverbs. But she also talks about adjectives used as adverbs in idiomatic expressions. If we think about it, this happens in English, too, as we shall see.
One adjective she uses is sodo. It is very similar to solido, and indeed, they are pretty equivalent and have the same Latin origin: “solidus.”
Solido is a true cognate, and means “solid.”
Il composto è stato a riposare in frigo. Adesso è più solido e così possiamo preparare le palline.
The dough has been resting in the fridge. Now it's stiffer and that way we can prepare the little balls.
Caption 29, Dolcetti vegan: al cocco e cioccolato
Sodo is just a bit different, and used primarily in different contexts. One of the most common uses for sodo is when talking about how long an egg is cooked. If it’s hard-boiled, it’s sodo. We can well visualize the shell coming off the egg, and its being solid enough to hold in your hand: sodo.
While we’re on the subject of eggs, here are some different ways of cooking eggs in Italian: Let’s remember that the noun uovo has an irregular plural. Un uovo (an egg), due uova (two eggs), delle uova (some eggs).
uova strapazzate (literally, “over-worked eggs,” scrambled eggs)
uovo affogato (literally, “drowned egg”) or in camicia (literally, “in its jacket,” poached egg)
uovo alla coque (literally, “egg in its shell," soft-boiled egg, often eaten in its shell in an egg cup)
uovo sodo (hard-boiled egg)
uovo al tegame, uovo al tegamino (fried egg)
all'occhio di bue (literally, “like an ox’s eye,” sunny-side up)
We also use sodo when referring to working hard. This is similar to English, where we have the adjective “hard” functioning like an adverb, modifying, or describing the verb lavorare(to work).
Bisogna lavorare sodo per ottenere dei buoni risultati.
You have to work hard to obtain good results.
Caption 31, Marika spiega: Gli avverbi di modo
Sodo can also be used a bit like nocciolo (the kernel, the point, the heart of the matter). In this case, the adjective sodo is used as a noun, to mean something like “the serious stuff.” Seethis lesson about nocciolo.
Arriviamo al sodo (let’s get down to brass tacks, let’s get to the point).
Va subito al sodo. Non gira intorno (he gets right to the point. He doesn’t beat around the bush).
In a previous lesson, and in Daniela's video lesson, we talked about aggettivi positivi, meaning those adjectives that end in o and change their endings according to gender and number. An example of this kind of adjective is grosso (big).
Mio padre è un uomo grosso (my father is a big man).
La casa di mia zia è grossa (my aunt's house is big).
Questi due alberi sono grossi (these two trees are big).
Quelle melanzane sono grosse (those eggplants are big).
If you've gotten the hang of positive adjectives, you might instinctively put an e ending on the adjective when you're talking about a feminine noun in the plural.
Quelle donne sono belle (those women are beautiful).
The other kind of adjective, called an aggettivo neutro, ends in e. In the singular, it stays the same, ending in e regardless of whether the noun it modifies is masculine or feminine.
E... mi ha reso una donna forte, una donna indipendente, autonoma
And... she made me a strong woman, an independent woman, free,
Caption 69, Essere... madrePlay Caption
If we put this sentence in the masculine the adjective stays the same:
Mi ha reso un uomo forte...
She made me a strong man...
But what about the plural? The adjective forte (strong) already ends in e, so what do we do? The answer is that in the plural, regardless of whether it's masculine or feminine, the e changes to an i.
This is easy in a way—only two different endings to think about instead of four—but it's not always so easy to remember, and may come less naturally. In the following example, maniera (way, manner) is a feminine noun. The plural article le helps us discover that. We form the plural of the noun by changing the a to e, and since the singular adjective ends in e, we change it to i in the plural. So far so good.
Però, oh, con voi ci vogliono le maniere forti, sennò non capite.
But, oh, with you strong measures are needed, otherwise you don't get it.Play Caption
Attenzione però (and here's where the adjectives misbehave), because a feminine noun may also end in e. In this case, the plural of the noun ends in i, and a neutral adjective will also end in i. If you don't happen to know the gender of corrente (current) in the following example, the plural noun and plural adjective may lead you to believe that it's masculine.
L'incontro tra i due mari produce infatti forti correnti.
The meeting of the two seas produces, in fact, strong currents.
Caption 31, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 2Play Caption
Fortunately, in the next example, the speaker uses the article!
In questo tratto di mare numerosi infatti erano gli affondamenti nel passato, a causa delle forti correnti che si scontrano con violenza.
In this stretch of sea, there were numerous shipwrecks in the past, because of the strong currents that collide violently.
Captions 35-36, Linea Blu Sicilia - Part 5Play Caption
Here, we've learned from the feminine plural ending of delle (of the), that corrente is a feminine noun, but who knew?
One more reason to learn the article along with the noun!
See these Yabla videos for more about nouns: their genders and their plurals.
In Italian, gender and number affect not only a noun and its article, but also the adjective describing the noun. We looked at some special cases in a previous lesson, which Daniela also discusses in her lesson series. But let's get back to general adjective behavior.
Adjectives fall into two categories: positivi (positive) and neutri (neutral). In simplistic terms, it's a way of dividing them according to their endings: o or e.
In this video lesson, Daniela starts out with the most common kind of adjective. She calls it an aggettivo positivo (positive adjective). It’s the kind of adjective that in its basic form (masculine singular), ends in o. Many of us are already familiar with this type: bello (beautiful, nice), piccolo (small), grasso (fat), magro (thin), alto (high, tall), buono (good), and so on. This kind of adjective matches up with its nouns in all four kinds of endings: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, and feminine plural.
Allora, quando parlo di aggettivo positivo vuol dire che un aggettivo positivo è quello che ha tutte e quattro le finali.
So, when I talk about positive adjectives, it means that a positive adjective is one that has all four endings.Play Caption
These adjectives are easy to deal with because they are entirely predictable: the masculine singular ends in o. The masculine plural ends in i, the feminine singular ends in a, and the feminine plural ends in e, just like many of the nouns they describe:
Il vestito è bello (the dress is beautiful).
I vestiti sono belli (the dresses are beautiful).
La gonna è bella (the skirt is nice).
Le gonne sono belle (the skirts are nice).
It’s important to know the gender of the nouns you are describing. The good news is that much of the time the gender is easily determined by looking at the ending of a noun, as Daniela explains in this video lesson.
Even if the noun is absent but implied, as when you tell someone they look nice, the rule still applies!
If you’re talking to a man:
Sei bello (you're handsome).
If you’re talking to a woman:
Sei bella (you're beautiful).
If you're talking to two men:
Siete belli (you're [both] handsome).
If you're talking to two women:
Siete belle (you're [both] beautiful).
If you're talking to a man and a woman:*
Siete belli (you're [both] beautiful).
*Masculine reigns, even though it seems unfair.
It's easy to know the gender when referring to people. But don't forget that not only people have gender, but every kind of noun.
Il tavolo è alto (the table is high).
I materassi sono duri (the mattresses are hard).
La sedia è comoda (the chair is comfortable).
Le finestre sono aperte (the windows are open).
You can see why, when learning a new noun, it’s a good idea to learn the article along with it. "Positive" adjectives are the easiest ones to use, so they're a good place to start for understanding noun-adjective agreement.
After viewing a Yabla video, check out the Vocabulary Review. You’ll recognize the nouns, because most of them will have articles attached to them, whether singular or plural. Check out the adjectives, too. Can you pick out the positive ones? Hint: they'll end in o, because they're given in the masculine singular. While you're at it, why not go through the other endings (masculine plural, feminine singular, and plural) for each positive adjective you find?
Stay on the lookout for a lesson on aggettivi neutri, coming soon on Yabla. They're the adjectives that end in e, and they aren't quite as well-behaved as the aggettivi positivi.
Just in case you're getting discouraged:
Learning to speak correctly is important, but remember, communication is the real key. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble getting it all straight. For people coming from languages where gender is nonexistent, it’s a huge challenge to get genders right all the time, not to mention grasping how adjectives work. Don’t let your doubts stop you from using your new language skills.