Italian Language/use of "basso"

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Question
Dear Maria,

I hope that you will not mind a few more questions about the use of the adjective “basso”.  

In the past, I have learned that the adjective “basso” can mean “short” or “low” depending on context, and that “basso” does not change meaning on whether it is placed before or after the noun (as does the adjective “alto”)

But, I am still wondering on how one can know whether to place “basso” before the noun or after the noun.

For example, I understand that as per context -  “La donna bassa porta un abito grigio” means “The short woman wears a grey suit”.  

But, how can I know that "bassa” must be placed after the noun “donna”?

Is it possible to also place “bassa” before the noun and say  -  “La bassa donna porta un abito grigio”.

Is this just the speaker’s choice?


Thank you for your help.  As always, it is very much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

it is correct to say  that the adjective “basso” can mean “short” or “low” depending on context, and that “basso” does not change meaning on whether it is placed before or after the noun (as does the adjective “alto”), since we can use “basso” either before the noun or after the noun, while in English “low” and ”short” are used before the noun, just like the other adjectives .

As for how one can know whether to place “basso” before the noun or after the noun, it can depend on the noun to which it refers as well as on prominence you want to give to this adjective in a sentence.

For example, you must say: “La donna bassa porta un abito grigio”, but not  “La bassa donna porta un abito grigio” because the noun “donna” cannot have the adjective “basso”  before it, as does the noun “uomo” so that we cannot say:”Il basso uomo”, but must say “L’uomo basso”.

Similarly we say: “C’era una casa bassa nella radura”, “La ragazza portava tacchi bassi”, “Egli viveva nella parte bassa della città”, “Il suo morale basso influenzava il suo comportamento”, “Teneva la testa bassa”, “Guardai i suoi occhi bassi e capii che era pentito”, where the adjective must be placed after the noun.

On the other hand we can say “Ha un basso livello di istruzione” as well as  “Ha un livello di istruzione molto basso”, and “La sua bassa statura lo angustia” as well as “La sua statura bassa lo angustia” in accordance with prominence we want to give to the adjective.

To sum up,however, it is impossible to list the nouns that, like “uomo” “donna”, casa”, etc, want the adjective “basso” to be placed after them.

It is in fact a good knowledge and fluency of the language that can make you able to use this adjective correctly.

Best regards,

Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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