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Italian Language/classification of "nord" "sud" "est" and "ovest"


Dear Maria,

My question is about the classification of the words “nord”, “sud”, “est”, and “ovest”.

I have conflicting information about these words.  My Collins dictionary states that “nord”, “sud”, “est”, and “ovest” are classified as both nouns and adjectives.  My Garzanti dictionary states that “nord”, “sud”, “est”, and “ovest” are classified as nouns, but that these nouns can be used like adjectives. I have also learned in the past that Italian nouns cannot be used like adjectives, and also that “nord”, “sud”, “est”, and “ovest” are only nouns.

So, I am confused.  

Can you please tell me the correct way to classify “nord”, “sud”, “est”, and “ovest” ?

Are these words nouns that can be used as adjectives?  Or, are these words actually adjectives?  Is it possible to say “direzione sud” ?   If “yes”, is “sud” a noun being used like an adjective, or is “sud” actually an adjective?

When one states “Nord Italia”, can you please tell me if I am correct in thinking that “Nord Italia” is a “compound form" (2 nouns used together to refer to one thing).    Or, is “nord” either a noun being used as an adjective or actually an adjective?

I very much appreciate your help with these questions.  



Dear Rich,

the cardinal points  “Nord”, “Sud”, “Est” and “Ovest”   are classified as nouns (see e.g. “Andare a Nord”, “E’ un vento che soffia da Nord”, “Abito nel Nord dell’Italia”, “I ghiacci del Nord e il sole del Sud”, “Devi andare ad Ovest”, “La brezza soffia da Est”, “Voglio fare un viaggio nel Sud dell’Italia”, “Amo l’Europa del Nord”. etc.).

These nouns can however be used as attributives  (valore attributivo) in e.g.  “Il Polo Nord”, “Latitudine Nord”, “Capo Nord”, “Il Polo Sud”, “Longitudine Est”, “Latitudine Sud”, “Longitudine Ovest”, “direzione Sud”, “direzione Nord”, “direzione Est”, “direzione Ovest”, where “Nord”, “Sud”, “Est”, “Ovest” are not adjectives, but nouns used in attributive position after another noun.

On the other hand the words “Nord” and  “Sud” (but not “Est” and “Ovest”) are used as adjectives in geographic expressions such as “nordamericano”/”nord-americano”, “sudamericano”/”sud-americano”, “nordafricano/”nord-africano””, “sudafricano”/”sud-africano”, “nordeuropeo”/”nord-europeo”.

Finally, when one states “Nord Italia”, you are correct in thinking that “Nord Italia” is a “compound form" (2 nouns used together to refer to one thing).   

To conclude,  the cardinal points  “Nord”, “Sud”, “Est” and “Ovest”  are classified as nouns, apart from some  geographic adjectives  such as  “nordamericano”/”nord-americano”, “sudamericano”/”sud-americano”, “nordafricano/”nord-africano””, “sudafricano”/”sud-africano”, “nordeuropeo”/”nord-europeo”.

Kind regards,


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

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