Italian Language/partitive article


QUESTION: Dear Lauren,

I hope that you had a very nice vacation.

My question is about the use of the partitive article.  I have heard in the past that the partitive article is mandatory in Italian sentences, where as the English words “some” or “any” are not mandatory.

I recently encountered the following sentences:
Le bambine hanno delle biciclette.
Un panino e del latte.

Would you please tell me if the following translations are correct:
Le bambine hanno delle biciclette.   =   The girls have some bikes.
Un panino e del latte.   =   A panini and some milk.

Can you please tell me if the partitive article is mandatory in these sentences.    If “yes”-  can you please explain why this is so.

I don’t understand why I could not say the following sentences without including the partitive article:

Le bambine hanno le biciclette.
The girls have their bikes.

Un panino e il latte
A panini and the milk.

Thank you,



ANSWER: Hi Rich,

Thank you very much. I had my in-laws over from Spain and we had a very nice time together :)

Anyay, to answer your questions, in Italian the partitive article is mandatory in particular situations when we wouldn't think to use it in English, particularly regarding 'some' or 'a few'/

Therefore, with the two sentences you have shown me, the correct translations would be:
- The girls have some bikes/a few bikes
- A panini and some milk

If you were to use this sentence without the partitive article, it would slightly alter the meaning of the sentence. So in the first one, by using 'le', the meaning would change to the more general 'the girls have bikes' - here we do not know if they have a lot or a few. With the second one, again the meaning alters slightly to 'the milk' meaning a specific reference to the milk. This would be acceptable in a scenario such as 'pass the milk' (e.g. it is there in front of you and is obvious) but if you are going out to buy milk, this is more general use and would require the partitive (devo comprare del latte).

Hope this helps,
Kind regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Lauren,  

Thank you, again, for your help.

By any chance, would you be able to recommend any particular books or articles that might help me learn when the partitive article is mandatory.  Thank you.



Hi Rich,

Although I was unable to think of any particular books off the top of my head that my help with the partitive article, I have come across this very useful article online which I think will be of some help to you:

There is also quite a helpfulk youtube video available too:

Hope this helps,
Kind regards,

Italian Language

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Lauren O' Hagan


Although not my mother tongue, I have spoken Italian fluently for more than 12 years so I am very confident to answer any questions about the Italian language. I am also competent in Roman Dialect if there are any questions relating to this.


MA Applied Linguistics First Class Honours in Modern Language Studies (Linguistics, Italian, Spanish) Received the top grade in the whole of UK for GCSE Italian, receiving a letter of congratulations from the Italian Consulate Completed my two-year A Level in 1 year with a grade A country. Carried out many translation jobs for a wide range of clients and topics including self-help, literature and exam papers. For personal reference, I have also translated Federico Moccia's Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo and 2 of Francesco Totti's book.

El Pensador, University of Bristol

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Awards and Honors
Letter of recognition from the Italian consulate MA Applied Linguistics BA Hons Modern Language Studies CELTA qualified C1 CILS C2 DELE

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