The boys

These are my boys. BrothersI have two cats. They are brothers.

{French} le chat/les chats: J’ai deux chats. Ils sont frères.

{Italian} il gatto/i gatti: Ho due gatti. (Loro) sono fratelli.

{Spanish} el gato/los gatos: Tengo dos gatos. Son hermanos.

The other day in class, my students could not get over the fact that Americans refer to their pets as he or she, while I think it is entirely strange to refer to my pet as it!

Pronouns can be a tricky thing, especially in the Romance languages when nouns themselves have genders (independent of the animal’s gender). Take a look at this example from French.

We can tell a lot about a language just by analyzing the simple sentences above:

  • In French, Italian, and Spanish, the word cat is masculine (le/il/el).
  • In French, like English, it is not possible to drop the subject pronoun (Je/Ils).
  • In Italian and Spanish, the subject pronoun is not necessary because it is implied in the verb conjugation.

Some things that I think are interesting: 

  • It’s easy to remember fratello/fratelli, the Italian word for brother/brothers, because it is similar to the English word fraternity.
  • The ch in the French word chat is pronounced sh. When we say sh and g, they are pronounced very close in the mouth, which implies chat/gato/gatto are more similar than the written word would suggest.
  • Masculine words in Italian and Spanish tend to end in o, while in French the final t in chat is silent.

I love how French, Spanish, and Italian are different enough to be three separate beautiful languages, yet similar enough that if you know one, it’s easy to learn another.

My inner linguist hasn’t had this much fun since grad school!



Hi, I'm Kelly!

I invite you to join me as I document becoming a dual U.S.-Italian citizen, my travels in Italy to discover the best of regional food & wine, and my progress learning Italian, mostly through cooking & wine tasting!

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