Italian Prepositions

Prepositions are short words used to complement an adjective, adverb, noun, or pronoun. The basic Italian prepositions are di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra/fra. Di, a, da, in, su, and per can be simple, when they are used alone, without article; or articulated, when they are tense with the article, forming a whole word. The other prepositions don't have a tense form, even when matched with the article. In the past the preposition "con" had tense forms, which are no more in use except for the col form.

Italian Prepositions in and a : forms and examples

The Italian preposition in usually means in. It is used to indicate:

  • direction (to) when linked to countries, regions, continents, big islands, bank, mountain, library or church

Vai in Francia?

Are you going to France?

  • periods of the year, like seasons, months, years (in, during)

In estate

in Summer

  • means of transporting

Vado in treno

I go by train

The Italian preposition a means at. It is used to indicate:

  • direction (to) when linked to cities or little islands

Tornate a Parigi?

Do you come back to Paris?

  • destination (to)

Ho scritto una lettera a Maria

I wrote a letter to Maria

  • time (at)

Alle 7

At 7.00 a.m

  • to give a substantive an adverbial or adjectival meaning

Il maglione a righe

The striped pullover

  • before the infinitive

Andiamo a ballare

We go to dance

In front of the definitive articles, in and a take the following forms:


IN:

nel (in + il)

nello (in + lo)

nell' (in + l')

nella (in + lin)

nei (in + i)

negli (in + gli)

nelle (in + le)

A:

al (a + il)

allo (a + lo)

all' (a + l')

alla (a + la)

ai (a + i)

agli (a + gli)

alle (a + le)

The Italian prepositions di and da : forms and examples

(Luigi guarda in + la bottiglia) Luigi guarda nella bottiglia

Luigi looks in the bottle

(Io vado a + il cinema) io vado al cinema

I am going to the cinema

The preposition di usually means of. It is also used to indicate:


  • direction (from) when following essere

Io sono di Milano

I am from Milan

  • time with words indicating parts of the day or days of the week

Di notte

At night

  • materials

La maglietta di cotone

The cotton shirt

  • arguments (about) with verbs as parlare (to talk), trattare (to treat), discutere (to discuss)

Giorgio discute sempre di politica

Giorgio always discusses politics

    The preposition da means from, since, or by. It is also used to indicate:
  • direction (to) when linked to people or worker

Vado dal macellaio

I go to the butcher

ma vado in macelleria

but I go to the butchery

  • the aim of an object:

Occhiali da sole

Sunglasses

In front of definitive articles, di and da take the following forms:


DI:

del (di + il)

dello (di + lo)

dell' (di + l')

della (di + la)

dei (di + i)

degli (di + gli)

delle (di + le)

DA:

dal (da + il)

dallo (da + lo)

dall' (da + l')

dalla (da + la)

dai (da + i)

dagli (da + gli)

dalle (da + le)

(Io sono il figlio di + il signor Rossi) Io sono il figlio del signor Rossi

I am Mr. Rossi’s son

(Io vengo da + la campagna) Io vengo dalla campagna

I am coming from the country

The prepositions con, per and tra/fra : forms and examples

The preposition con means with.

Esco con Paola

I go out with Paola

Pago con la carta di credito

I pay with the credit card

The preposition per means for

Questo regalo è per te

This present is for you

La camera è per due notti

The room is for two nights

It can also indicate direction linked to the verb partire (to leave) or with means of transportation.

Parto per Roma

I leave for Rome

Il bus per Milano

The bus for Milan

The preposition tra/fra means between (place) or within/in (time).

La banca è tra la scuola e il bar

The bank is between the school and the bar

Mi sposo tra due anni

I get married in two years

There are no differences between tra and fra; it is just a stylistic choice depending on the speaker.

The Italian preposition su

The preposition su means on or about

La bottiglia è sul tavolo

The bottle is on the table

Il libro su Macchiavelli è molto interessante

The book about Macchiavelli is very interesting

As we said before, the preposition di can also mean about. Take care about the context:

Il libro di Macchiavelli è sulla politica

Macchiavelli’s book is about politics

Il libro di Macchiavelli parla di politica

Macchiavelli’s book talks about politics

In front of definitive articles, su takes the following forms:

sul (su + il)

sullo (su + lo)

sull' (su + l')

sulla (su + la)

sui (su + i)

sugli (su + gli)

sulle (su + le)

(Il rifugio si trova su + la montagna) Il rifugio si trova sulla montagna

The shelter is on the mountain

Italian preposition summary

  • The main Italian prepositions are di, a, da, in, con, su, per, and tra/fra
  • The prepositions di, a, da, in, su can be simple (not tense) or articulated (tense with the corresponding article). Per, tra/fra have just the simple form, while con can only become col.
  • Tra and fra have exactly the same meaning; it is just a stylistic choice for the speaker/writer.
  • Usually Italian articles can be translated in English as follows:

di

of

a

at, to

da

from, by

in

in

con

with

su

on, about

per

for

tra/fra

between

For more on Italian grammar check out these lessons! A presto!
Maria Di Lorenzi
Rocket Italian

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