What is the Passato Prossimo?

Passato Prossimo is the main past tense in Italian.

In English this would be the simple past and present perfect tenses.

Ho mangiato – I ate, I have eaten
Sono andato – I went, I have gone

When do I use the Passato Prossimo in Italian?

You have to use Passato Prossimo in Italian when talking about:

  •  events in the recent past
    Ieri sono andata a ballare.
    Yesterday I went dancing.
  •  an event that happened a long time ago, but that still have effects on the present
    Ho preso la laurea nel 1999.
    I graduated in 1999.
  •  an action that took place in a period of time that hasn’t ended
    Questa settimana ho bevuto solo cinque caffè.
    This week I drank only five coffees.
    (The week is still going on.)

Common expressions used with Passato Prossimo in Italian

There are some words, adverbs or expressions, that you can use when saying something in the passato prossimo in Italian. Here the most common ones:

ieri – yesterday
ieri mattina – yesterday morning
ieri pomeriggio – yesterday afternoon
ieri sera – last night
l’altro ieri – the day before yesterday
due giorni fa – two days ago
una settimana fa – one week ago
mercoledì¬ scorso – last Wednesday
un anno fa – one year ago
la settimana scorsa – last week
il mese scorso – last month
l’anno scorso – last year
un’ora fa – one hour ago
alcuni giorni fa – some days ago

How do I make the Passato Prossimo in Italian?

Passato Prossimo = Presente Avere/Essere + Participio Passato


Ho mangiato – I ate
Sono andato – I went

As you can see in the examples Passato Prossimo is a compound tense: in order to make the Passato Prossimo you will need to combine two elements:

  1. An auxiliary verb essere or avere in the present tense. 
  2. The past participle of the verb you want to turn into the past, in Italian Participio Passato.

When to use essere or avere with passato prossimo depends on the verb that we want to turn into the past tense, for example mangiare (to eat) requires avere (ho mangiato), while andare (to go) uses essere (sono andato). I will explain how to select the right verb in more detail later in this article.

Once you picked the right auxiliary (essere or avere) you will have to conjugate it in the present tense agreeing with the subject of the sentence. 

Let’s refresh the verbs essere (to be) and avere (to have) in the present tense of the indicative mood: 

Avere (to have):


(io) ho – I have

(tu) hai – you have

(lui, lei) ha – he, she has

(noi) abbiamo – we have

(voi) avete – you (pl.) have

(loro) hanno – they have

Essere (to be):


(io) sono – I am

(tu) sei – you are

(lui, lei) è – he, she is

(noi) siamo – we are

(voi) siete – you (pl.)are

(loro) sono – they are

Ok, the first step is done. Now you will need to make the past participle of the main verb.

How to make the past participle in Italian

The past participle, or participio passato,  is very easy to create. 



Mangiare / mangiato



Credere / creduto 



Dormire / dormito

  • Verbs ending in -are in the infinitive form (the not conjugated form) turn -are into -ato.
    mangiare / mangiato
    to eat /  eaten
  • Verbs ending in -ere in the infinitive form change -ere into -uto.
    credere / creduto
    to believe / believed
  • Verbs ending in -ire in the infinitive form replace -ire with -ito.
    dormire / dormito
    to sleep / slept

Ok, now that you have all the ingredients, you can combine the auxiliary (essere or avere) with the past participle to make the passato prossimo

hanno mangiato – they ate
ha creduto – he believed
avete dormito – you (pl.) slept

Passato Prossimo with essere

Pretty easy, right? However, if the verb requires the auxiliary essere there is a further step to take. The past participle would have to agree in gender (masculine, feminine) and number  (singular, plural) with the subject of the sentence, just like an Italian adjective does (bello, bella, belli, belle).

If the subject is masculine singular the past participle (andato) doesn’t change.
Paolo è andato in Italia. – Paolo went to Italy.

If the subject is feminine singular the past participle change the final -o into an -a (andata).
Maria è andata in Italia. – Maria went to Italy.

If the subject is masculine plural the past participle will end with an -i (andati).
Paolo e Marco sono andati in Italia. – Paolo e Marco  went to Italy.

If the subject is feminine plural the final letter of the past participle will be -e (andate).
Maria e Agata sono andate in Italia. – Maria e Agata went to Italy.

NOTE: The past participle never changes when using the auxiliary avere, unless there is a direct object pronoun before the verb.


Laura ha mangiato la torta. – Laura ate the cake.
Laura l’ha mangiata. – Laura ate it.

In the first example even if the subject is feminine you don’t have to change the past participle.

But if we use a direct object pronoun (l’) instead of la torta, like in the second example, the past participle would have to agree in gender and number with the object (la torta), which, in this case, is singular feminine.


Irregular Past Participles in Italian

In Italian, like in English, there are a lot of irregular past participles. This means that these past participles don’t follow the rule that we just saw to make the participio passato. In that case you can only memorize them and try to use them as much as you can until you will remember them. 

Here I listed the irregular past participles of the most common Italian verbs with examples:

Infinitive verb Past Participle  Example


to open




Ho aperto la porta.


I opened the door.



to drink




Ho bevuto troppo ieri.


I drank too much yesterday.



to ask




Ho chiesto il conto.


I asked for the bill.



to close




Ho chiuso la porta.


I closed the door.



to know; to meet for the first time 




Ho conosciuto Michele nel 1992.


I met Michele in 1992.



to run




Non ho corso ieri.


I didn’t run yesterday.



to grow




è cresciuto molto!


He grew a lot!



to cook; to bake




Ha cotto troppo i biscotti.


She overcooked the cookies.



to decide




Ho deciso di andare.


I decided to go.



to paint




Avete dipinto un quadro.


You (pl.) painted a picture.



to say




Hanno detto di sì!


They said yes!



to be




Sono stato in Italia.


I have been in Italy.



to do, to make




Ho fatto una torta!


I made a cake!



to read




Abbiamo letto un romanzo.


We read a novel.



to put




Non ho messo il sale.


I didn’t put the salt.



to die




Il cellulare è morto.


The phone died.



to be born




sono nata in Italia.


I was born in Italy.



to offer




Mi ha offerto un caffè.


He offered a coffee to me.



to lose, to miss




Ho perso il treno.


I lost the train.



to take




Ho preso il treno.


I took the train.



to laugh




Ho riso tantissimo!


I laughed a lot!



to remain, to stay




Sono rimasto a casa.


I remained home.



to answer




Non hai risposto!


You didn’t answer!



to break




Hai rotto un bicchiere?


Did you break a glass?



to choose




Non ho scelto ancora.


I didn’t choose yet.



to write




Ho scritto un romanzo.


I wrote a novel.



to happen




Cosa è successo?


What happened?



to see




Ho visto una farfalla.


I saw a butterfly.



to come 




è venuto a casa.


He came home.



to win 




Hanno vinto la partita.


They won the game.



to live




Ho vissuto in Italia.


I lived in Italy.


How to know if you have to use essere or avere?

That is a very good question and there is not a simple answer to it.  Below I tried to make it as clear as possible for you.


Participio passato with avere

Most Italian verbs use the auxiliary verb avere in the participio passato.

You can be sure to use avere with:

  • Transitive verbs: verbs that can have an object.
    For example the verb to eat (mangiare) or to meet (incontrare) are transitive both in English and Italian because they have an object that answers to the questions what? or who?. You can eat something or meet someone.


    Examples:Ho mangiato la pizza ieri.
    I ate pizza yesterday.

    Ho incontrato Michele la settimana scorsa.
    I met Michele last week.

    Ho comprato la borsa.
    I bought the bag.

    Ho guardato un bel film sabato sera.
    I watched a good movie last Saturday night.

  • Some intransitive verbs: verbs with no object.  It is not always clear when it is necessary to use essere or avere with intransitive verbs. The following are the most used intransitive verbs that require avere:
    ambire – to aspire, to aim
    approfittare di  – to take advantage of
    badare a – to look after
    bisticciare con – to bicker
    camminare – to walk
    cenare – to have dinner
    chiacchierare – to chat, to talk
    esitare – to hesitate
    litigare con – to fight, to argue
    mentire a – to lie to
    nuotare – to swim
    parlare – to talk, to speak
    pattinare – to skate
    reagire – to react
    ridere – to laugh
    rinunciare a – to renounce, to give up
    scherzare – to joke
    sciare – to ski
    smettere di – to stop, to quit
    telefonare – to call, to phone
    tossire – to cough
    viaggiare – to travel

When to use passato prossimo with essere

Essere is the auxiliary of the following intransitive verbs:

  • Most of verbs that indicate movement like:
    andare – to go
    arrivare – to arrive
    entrare – to enter, to come in
    partire – to leave
    tornare, ritornare – to come back
    uscire – to go out, to exit
    venire – to come
  • Stative verbs (verbs that indicate inactivity) like:
    stare – to stay, to be located
    restare – to stay
    rimanere – to remain
    esistere – to exist
    essere – to be
    vivere – to live
    sopravvivere – to survive
    succedere – to happen
  • Verbs indicating changes in the state of being, such as:
    cambiare – to change
    crescere – to grow
    diventare – to become
    migliorare – to improve, to get better
    morire – to die
    nascere – to be born
  • Reflexive verbs (verbs ending in -si in the infinitive form), like the following very common verbs:
    addormentarsi – to fall asleep
    alzarsi – to get up
    annoiarsi – to get bored
    arrabbiarsi – to get angry
    divertirsi – to have fun, to enjoy oneself
    farsi male – to get hurt, hurt oneself
    innamorarsi di – to fall in love with
    lamentarsi – to complain
    lavarsi – to wash oneself
    laurearsi – to graduate
    mettersi – to put clothes on
    muoversi – to move
    sedersi – to sit down
    sentirsi – to feel
    spogliarsi – to undress
    sposarsi –  to get married
    svegliarsi – to wake up
    trasferirsi – to move
    vestirsi – to get dressed

Quick overview of Passato Prossimo

Ausiliare Participio Passato  Verbi
Avere -are / -ato


-ere / -uto

-ire / -ito

transitive verbs


some intransitive verbs

Essere  -are / -ato/a/i/e


-ere / -uto/a/i/e

-ire / -ito/a/i/e

intransitive verbs,


motion verbs,

stative verbs,

changement verbs,

reflexive verbs


Now you can finally say in Italian what you did yesterday or sometime in the past!

Remember to change the final endings when using essere.

As we saw, the choice of the auxiliary is not always as clear for intransitive verbs. Certain verbs can even allow both essere and avere depending on the context, but I don’t want to scare you too much at this point! If you are interested in learning more on the topic check out this more detailed list: la scelta del verbo ausiliare.

If you want to check if the past participle is irregular or you want to be sure to use the right auxiliary I suggest to consult a verb conjugator online, such as .  With Reverso you can insert the infinitive form of the verb and then look for the conjugation of passato prossimo along with all the other Italian tenses.

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.

What is a question word?

The Italian question words are dove? quando? perché? chi? che cosa? quale / quali? come? quanto? and are called “pronomi interrogativi”. They are used to formulate Italian questions, which is one of the first things that you should learn. They are Pronouns when they replace the name and are followed by a verb or Adjectives when they accompany the name.


Che hai fatto ieri? (pronoun) – What did you do yesterday?
Che film hai visto ieri? (adjective) – What movie did you watch yesterday?

If you want to repeat Italian Vocabulary, here there are some useful books for you:

Italian Questions Chart:

Italian Question Word Translation Example
DOVE? Where? Dove sei?
Where are you
QUANDO? When? Quando sei libero?
When are you free?
PERCHÉ? Why? Because Perché non rispondi? Perché sono occupato
Why don’t you answer? Because I am busy.
CHI? Who? / Whom Chi sei tu?
Who are you?
CHE COSA? COSA? / CHE? What? Che cosa stai facendo?
What are you doing?
QUALE / QUALI? Which / what Quale preferisci?
Which one do you prefer?
COME? How? Come stai?
How are you?
QUANTO / QUANTI? QUANTA / QUANTE? How much / how many Quanto costa?
How much is this?

As you can see from the chart, some question words correspond to the English form, while others can have different translations.

But don’t be afraid, it is easier than it seems:

Let’s see the Italian question words in detail, starting from the easiest one!


Italian Question Words - Dove?

The Italian question word dove translates the question where?. 


Dove vivi?
Where do you live?

Dove stai andando?
Where are you going?

Dove sono i miei bagagli?
Where are my bags?

Dove sei?
Where are you?

Di dove sei?
Where are you from?

Da dove vieni?
Where are you from?

Per / in ogni dove (formal)
Everywhere (Italian idiomatic expression)

NOTE: If dove is followed by the verb to be in the third person singular (è), the final “e” in dove can drop (dov’è) for pronunciation reasons.


Dove è la stazione? / dov’è la stazione – where is the station?


Italian Question Words - Quando?

The Italian question word quando translates the question “when ?”


Quando parti?
When do you leave?

Quando tocca a me cantare?
When do I get to sing?

Da quando?
Since when?

Da quanto tempo studi l’italiano?
How long have you been studying Italian?

NOTE: with the third person singular “è” you can write “quand’è” instead of “quando è”.


Quando è / Quand’è il tuo compleanno? – when is your birthday?


Perché translates the question “why?”, but also the answer “because”. It refers to causes and purposes


Perché studi l’italiano? Perché è la lingua più bella del mondo!
Why do you study italian? Because it is the most beautiful language in the world!

Perché sei sempre in ritardo?!
Why are you always late?!

Other ways to say perché:

The Italian question word perché can also be replaced from other expressions, such as:

  • come mai?
  • per quale motivo?
  • per quale ragione?
  • ecco perché


Come mai non vuoi uscire?
Why don’t you want to go out?

Per quale motivo stai piangendo?
Why are you crying?

Per quale ragione odi Antonio? È un vero cretino, ecco perché!
Why/ for what reason do you hate Antonio? He is a real idiot, that’s why!

NOTE: The expression ecco perché is also very used to emphasize the reason or explanation just given, especially in response to a statement or question.


Italian Question Words - Chi?

Chi translates the question “who?” or “whom” with prepositions. It refers to people or animals and it is invariable.


Chi sei?
Who are you?

Chi stai aspettando?
Who are you waiting for?

Con chi vai al cinema stasera?
With whom do you go to the cinema tonight?

Per chi lavori?
Who do you work for?

A chi stai scrivendo questa lettera?
Who are you writing this letter to?

Che cosa? / Cosa? / Che?

The Italian question words che cosa?, cosa? and che? translate the question “what?”

Che cosa or cosa it is followed by a verb.


Che cosa fai?
What are you doing?

Che can be followed both by a noun (che: interrogative adjective) or a verb (che: interrogative pronoun)


Che lavoro fai?
What job do you do?

Che colore preferisci?
What color do you prefer?

Che fai?
What are you doing?

Che vuoi?
What do you want?

In the first two examples above che could be replaced by quale (see below). 
In the last two sentences che could be replaced by cosa or che cosa.

Can you understand where to replace che, che cosa  or just cosa in the following examples?

Non ricordo che cosa ho fatto ieri.
I don’t remember what I did yesterday.

Cosa vuoi?
What do you want?

Che mangi?
What are you eating?

Che ore sono?
What time is it?

Quale? / Quali?

Italian Question Words - Quale / Quali?

Quale translates the question “what?” or “which”. It refers to both people and things.
The plural form is quali. It indicates the identity or quality of the name to which it refers to.


Quale città italiana preferisci?
Which Italian city do you prefer?

Quale lingua stai studiando?
What language are you studying?

Di quali libri stai parlando?
What books are you talking about?

Qual è / Qual era?

When you use the Italian question word quale with the verb “to be” in the present tense or past tense (è or era), it will be qual without the final e.


Qual è la risposta esatta?
What is the correct answer?

Qual era il tuo gioco preferito da bambino?
What was your favorite child’s game?

Quale or che?

Note that quale and che are in many cases used as equivalent forms, in fact the previous examples can be expressed with che. It happens when che / quale is followed by a noun.


Che lingua stai studiando?
What language are you studying?

Di che libri stai parlando?
What language are you studying?

In fact, when they have the adjective function or in the indirect questions you can use che or quale. The use of che is perhaps more frequent in the direct questions. However it is not an error to use both, it is just a question of usage!


Che libro stai leggendo? (direct question)
What book are you reading?

Vorrei sapere quali sono i tuoi interessi (indirect question)
I Would like to know what are your interests.


Come translates the question “How?”. It refers to mode.


  • Come stai? / Come va? (informal) – How are you?
  • Come sta? (formal) – How are you?
  • Come ti trovi in Italia? – How are you in Italy?
  • Come ti chiami? – What’s your name?

Quanto? / Quanta?/ Quanti? / Quante?

These forms translate the question “How much? / How many?”. They refer to quantity and vary in number and gender when followed by a noun.

  • The singular form is quanto for the masculine and quanta for the feminine. These forms translate the English question ‘’how much’’.
  • The plural form is quanti for the masculine and quante for the feminine. These forms translate the English question ‘’how many’’.


Quanto costa quella pizza?
How much cost that pizza?

Quanta pazienza ci vuole?
How much patience does it take?

Quanto mi ami?
How much do you love me?

Quanti libri hai?
How many books do you have?

Quante volte vai al cinema?

How many times do you go to the cinema?

Quanti anni ha?
How old is he?

Idiomatic expressions with Italian question words.

Idiomatic expressions with Italian question words.

Da quando in qua? Quand’è che…?

These Italian idiomatic expressions can be used in different ways. They can be used as a simple question, but they can also express wonder or irony. You can ask these questions because you are surprised by a sudden change of habit on the person who you know very well (and this fact can impress you in a negative or positive way).


Quand’è che sei diventato così presuntuoso?
When did you turn into such an arrogant person? (negative impression)

Da quando in qua sei un appassionato di musica?
Since when you are passionate about music? (positive impression)

Another meaning of these idiomatic expressions can be to express irony or to urge someone to do something.


Quand’è che torni?
When are you coming home? (urge)

Allora quand’è che mi porti in Italia?
So, when are you taking me to Italy? (urge / irony)

Studi italiano? Da quando in qua?
Do you study Italian language? Since when? (surprise / irony)

Ma che…, Che…

These expressions can be used to express exclamations of joy or surprise, but also annoyance. They translate the English form what a….

Can you get the difference in meaning between the following sentences?

Ma che bella sorpresa! Grazie!
What a nice surprise! Thank you!

Che rumore! Puoi abbassare il volume?
What a noise! Can you turn down the volume?


Now that you know the Italian question words, you are ready to start a conversation in Italian asking questions to your Italian friends or native speakers in Italy! You can even try to use the idiomatic expressions to sound like a real Italian! What are you waiting for? Go out there and practice!

By: Federica Contento

Federica is an Italian linguist living in the beautiful city of Naples, Italy. She has a thousand talents and passions, including cinema, music, photography, drawing, programming and foreign languages!

What is a preposition?

A preposition, in Italian preposizione, is the part of the speech that connects words or sentences, specifying the relationship between them. Italian prepositions are nine: in, con, su, per, tra, fra, a, da, di. The prepositions in, a, su, a, di, da combine into one word if followed by a definite article. Usually Italians use prepositions with articles every time that the noun that follows it requires the definite article, but there can be exeptions.


Cucina con amore.
He cooks with love.

Con (with) is the preposition that connects the verb cucina (cooks) and the noun amore (love) establishing a relationship of mode between the two.

Before proceeding, I suggest you some books in order to repeat Italian Grammar:

Where to locate a preposition

Italian Prepositions - Where to locate a preposition

The preposition can be placed in front of:

1. a name


la cucina di Maria
Maria’s kitchen

2. a pronoun


Vado con lui.
I go with him .

3. a verb in the infinitive mode


Non vedo l’ora di mangiare.
I can’t wait to eat.

4. an adverb


A domani!
See you tomorrow!

Italian prepositions and articles chart

Italian prepositions are nine: in, con, su, per, tra, fra, a, da, di. The prepositions in, a, su, a, di, da when followed by a definite article, combine into one word.

Di becomes de and in changes into ne before to add the articles.

The l doubles for all the articles with the exception of il.

Here is a chart with the Italian prepositions and articles (articulated prepositions), in Italian preposizioni articolate:

  +il +lo +l’ +la +i +gli +le
di del dello dell’ della dei degli delle
a al allo all’ alla ai agli alle
da dal dallo dall’ dalla dai dagli dalle
in nel nello nell’ nella nei negli nelle
su sul sullo sull’ sulla sui sugli sulle

NOTE: Sometimes you can still find the combined version of the preposition con with the articles, such as col (con il) or coi (con i), especially in some common Italian expressions.


Col cavolo!
No way!
Literal: with the cabbage!

Ti faccio un regalo coi fiocchi.
I’ll make you a great present.
Literal: I’ll make you a present with the bows.

When to use Italian prepositions and articles?

When to use Italian prepositions and articles?

It is not always so obvious when to use prepositions and articles, but mainly Italians use prepositions with articles every time that the noun that follows it requires the definite article.

Check out this article “Italian Definite Articles Chart: An Easy Guide” to learn more about when and how to use the definite article.

Some examples with Italian prepositions and articles:

Vado alla spiaggia. (alla = a+la)
I go to the beach.

Cammino nel parco. (nel = in+il)
I walk at the park.

L’erba del vicino è sempre più verde. (del = di+il)
The grass of the neighbor is always greener.

Vado dal dottore. (dal = da+il)
I go to the doctor.

La penna è sulla scrivania. (sulla= su+la)
The pen is on the desk.

Meaning of Italian prepositions

Italian prepositions can assume different meanings depending on the context.

Here the most common meanings.

a at, to, in
in in, to, into
di of
da from
su on, over
con with
per for
tra/fra between

Let’s take a closer look to each of them.

The Preposition A

Italian prepositions - The preposition A
a at, to, in

The preposition a indicates:

1. Location

Followed by a noun it tells you where. It can translate the English prepositions at, to or in.


Sono a casa.
I am at home.

Vado al supermercato.
I go to the supermarket.

Vivo a Roma.
I live in Rome.

2. Times and holidays

It can introduce when or how often an action is taking place. It is used with months and public holidays. With the time prepositions and articles are used.


A che ora vai in palestra? – Alle 8:00.
What time do you go to the gym? – At 8:00.

Viaggio una volta al mese.
I travel once a month.

Vado in Italia a maggio.
I go to Italy in May.

A Natale pranzo con la mia famiglia.
At Christmas I have dinner with my family.

3. Flavors.

It can express how something is made or the flavor.


Mi piace il gelato al pistacchio.
I like pistachio ice cream.

Le tagliatelle all’uovo di mia nonna sono una bomba.
My grandmother’s egg tagliatelle are a bomb.

I miei sandali sono fatti a mano.
My sandals are handmade.

Amo gli spaghetti ai frutti di mare.
I love spaghetti with seafood.

Aim. Preceded by a verb and followed by an infinitive verb it expresses the purpose of an action.


Vado a fare la spesa.
I go grocery shopping.

Esco a fare una passeggiata.
I go out to take a stroll.

The Preposition In

Italian Preopositions - The Preposition In
in in, to, into

The preposition in expresses:

1. Position in space.

It is used to say that you are in a place or you are going to a place (usually a country, not a city).


Abito in campagna.
I live in the countryside.

Sono in Italia.
I am in Italy.

Vado in Italia tutti gli anni.
I go to Italy every year.

NOTE: Italians use prepositions and articles with names of countries at the plural form (ex. Stati Uniti).
Example: Sono negli Stati Uniti (negli=in+gli)

2. Time.

Usually followed by seasons or years. It can also introduce a length of time.


Sono nata nel 1994.
I was born in 1994.

In autunno cadono le foglie.
In Autumn the leaves fall.

L’ho letto in un giorno.
I read it in one day.

3. Ways of transport.

It is used with means of transportation to say how you travel.


Vado in macchina, tu vai in treno?
I go by car, do you go by train?

Preferisco viaggiare in aereo.
I prefer to travel by plane.

4. The language in which something is done.


Voglio guardare un film in italiano.
I want to watch a movie in Italian.

La Bibbia è scritta in latino.
The Bible is written in Latin.

Questo articolo è in inglese.
This article is in English.

The Preposition Di

 The Preposition Di
di of

The general meaning of the preposition di is of.

It is used in the following situations:

1. To express possession.


Il libro del professore.
The book of the professor.

La moglie di Marco.
Marco’s wife.

2. To say who made something.


Un dipinto di Caravaggio.
A painting by Caravaggio.

3. It means from after the verb essere (to be).


Sono di Napoli.
I am from Naples.

Siamo degli Stati Uniti.
We come from the United States.

4. It can say when if followed by days, seasons and parts of the day.


Esco di domenica.
I go out on Sundays.

D’estate fa caldo.
During the Summer it is hot.

Guardo la TV di sera.
I watch TV on evenings.

NOTE: You can also say la domenica or la sera with the definite article to express the meaning of every Sunday or every evening.

5. With seasons it is possible to use both the prepositions in and di.

Di can lose the final i when followed by a vowel.

It describes what something is full or made of.


Un piatto di vetro.
A plate made of glass.

Una casa di mattoni.
A house made of bricks.

Un bicchiere di vino.
A glass of wine.

Un piatto di spaghetti.
A plate of spaghetti.

6. It is used in comparisons and after superlatives.


Sara è più intelligente di te.
Sara is smarter than you.

Marco è meno curioso del fratello.
Marco is less curious than his brother.

Sei la più bella del mondo!
You are the most beautiful in the world!

7. With some verbs and expressions

There are some verbs and expressions that requires the use of the preposition di, such as parlare di (to talk about) or avere il bisogno di (to have the need of).


Ho bisogno di dormire.
I need to sleep.

Parliamo della tua squadra preferita.
Let’s talk about your favorite team.

When combined with articles (see the prepositions and articles chart) it can also have the meaning of some.


Voglio delle bruschette.
I want some bruschette.

Mangio delle caramelle.
I eat some candies.

The Preposition Da

The Preposition Da
da from

The preposition da indicates:

1. Provenience and origin.


Vengo dall’Italia.
I come from Italy.

Torno da Roma.
I come back from Rome.

2. Destination or location

When followed by a name of person or profession da indicates destination or location. Usually it is used with the verbs essere (to be) or andare (to go).


Vado da Maria.
I go to Maria’s house.

Andate dal parrucchiere?
Are you going to the hairdresser’s?

Sono dal dentista.
I am at the dentist’s.

3. Length of action.

Da can translate the English prepositions for or since. Da…a… means from…to…


Studio italiano da tre mesi.
I have been studying Italian for three months.

Vivo a Venezia dal 2009.
I have lived in Venice since 2009.

Lavoro dalle 8:00 alle 17:00.
I work from 8:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m.

4. Function.

It specifies the function of the noun that follows.


Non uso gli occhiali da sole.
I don’t use sunglasses.

Ho messo il latte in una tazza da tè.
I put the milk into a teacup.

5. By who an action was made.


La Divina Commedia è stata scritta da Dante Alighieri.
The Divine Comedy was written by Dante Alighieri.

Ho ricevuto una chiamata dal presidente.
I received a call from the president.

6. Purpose.

It can describe the destiny of something when followed by an infinitive verb.


Un libro da leggere.
A book to read.

Cerco un film da vedere.
I look for a movie to watch.

Voglio qualcosa di dolce da mangiare.
I want something sweet to eat.

The Preposition Su

The Preposition Su
su on, over

Su can translate:

1. On or over.


Il libro è sul tavolo.
The book is on the table.

Il quadro è sul camino.
The picture is over the fireplace.

Ho trovato un mio vecchio amico su Facebook.
I found an old friend of mine on Facebook.

2. About.

It can introduce the topic.


Questo articolo è sulle preposizioni italiane.
This article is about Italian prepositions.

3. Around, about.

With numbers it expresses an approximate amount.


Cerco un uomo sulla quarantina.
I look for a man around forty.

È alto sui 2 metri!
He’s about 2 meters tall!

The Preposition Con

The Preposition Con
con with

Con can indicate:

1. With who or with what


Voglio un cornetto con la crema.
I want a croissant with cream.

Vado al cinema con gli amici.
I go to the cinema with friends.

2. The means

How you can do something.


Scrivo con la matita.
I write with the pencil.

Vado con la macchina.
I go by car.

3. The way


Vengo a teatro con piacere.
I will come to the theatre with pleasure.

La guardò con disappunto.
He looked at her with annoyance.

The Preposition Per

The Preposition Per in Italian
per for

Meanings of the preposition per:

1. The beneficiary of an action


Ho comprato i fiori per te.
I bought flowers for you.

Mario ha preparato la cena per sua moglie.
Mario prepared dinner for his wife.

2. Destination


Devo comprare il biglietto per Napoli.
I have to buy the ticket to Naples.

3. Reason

It is used to say why an action is taking place.


Ho scritto questo articolo per spiegare le preposizioni.
I wrote this article to explain prepositions.

Lavoro tanto per guadagnare.
I work a lot to earn money.

4. Duration of action.


Ho vissuto in Italia per vent’anni.
I lived in Italy for twenty years.

Ripeti per 5 minuti.
Repeat for 5 minutes.

5. Ways of communication or transport for things (not people).


Parliamo per telefono.
We’ll talk by phone.

Ti invio un regalo per posta.
I send you a present by mail.

The Prepositions Tra/Fra

The Prepositions Tra/Fra
tra/fra between

Tra and fra are interchangeable.

The difference in use is related to how it sounds in a sentence.

It is more likely to use tra instead of fra if the word after starts with the letters fr- and vice versa it is better to use fra if the word after starts with tr-. It just sounds better.


Tra fratelli.
Between brothers.

Fra treni.
Between trains.

Uses of tra/fra:

1. Meaning in / between.


Tra la farmacia e l’ospedale.
In between the pharmacy and the hospital.

Mi siedo tra Francesca e Paolo.
I will seat between Francesca and Paolo.

2. Expressing in how much time something will happen.


Sono pronta tra 5 minuti!
I will be ready in 5 minutes!

Andrò in Italia tra due mesi.
I will go to Italy in two months.


As you can see different Italian Prepositions can express different meanings depending on the context.

Prepositions can give problems even at the higher levels, so don’t worry if you still get them wrong after months or years.

I would always suggest to see them in context and try to remember the whole sentence instead of the single preposition.

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.

What is a definite article?

The definite article, in Italian articolo determinativo, is the part of the speech that introduces and defines a noun.

While in English The is the only definite article, in Italian there are seven different forms to express the definite article.

That happens because the article needs to agree in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with the noun.

What article to use depends not only on the gender and number, but also on how the word that follows it starts.

italian definite articles chart

italian definite articles chart

Here is an Italian definite articles chart for you to review :

How to decide which definite article to use in Italian?

In order to decide which article to use we need to see if the word that follows it:

  1. Is masculine or feminine
  2. Is singular or plural
  3. Starts with a vowel, a consonant or a group of consonants.

The last point is related to pronunciation and musicality.

My suggestion would be to always learn the word with the corresponding article.


The Italian definite articles for masculine nouns are il, lo and l’.

Their corresponding plural forms are i for il and gli for lo and l’.


Italians use il with most masculine singular nouns starting with a consonant.


  • il ragazzo – the boy
  • il panino – the sandwich
  • il biscotto – the cookie


In Italian i is the definite article to use in front of masculine plural nouns starting with a consonant. I is the plural form of il.


  • i ragazzi – the boys
  • i panini – the sandwiches
  • i biscotti – the cookies


L’ is used for both masculine and feminine singular nouns starting with a vowel.

  • l’amico – the (male) friend
  • l’amica – the (female) friend
  • l’albero – the tree


Lo is used before masculine singular nouns starting with s+consonant, ps, pn, gn, z, x, y.


  • lo zaino – The backpack
  • lo studente – the student
  • lo gnomo – the dwarf
  • lo psicologo – the psychologist
  • lo yogurt – the yogurt
  • lo xilofono – the xylophone


Gli is used is front of masculine plural nouns starting with s+consonant, ps, pn, gn, z, x, y or a vowel. Gli is the plural form of lo and l’ (masculine).

  • gli zaini – the backpacks
  • gli studenti – the students
  • gli gnomi – the dwarfs
  • gli psicologi – the psychologists
  • gli yogurt – the yogurts
  • gli amici – the (male) friends


Choosing the definite article for the feminine is much easier.


Italians use la for feminine singular nouns starting with a consonant.


  • la ragazza – the girl
  • la studentessa – the (female) student
  • la psicologa – the (female) psychologist
  • la mela – the apple
  • la rana – the frog

NOTE: Italians drop the -a of the article if the word starts with a vowel:


  • l’amica – the (female) friend
  • l’amaca – the hammock
  • l’invasione – the invasion
  • l’estate – the summer


The plural feminine has only one form: le


  • le ragazze – the girls
  • le studentesse – the (female) students
  • le psicologhe – the (female) psychologists
  • le mele – the apples
  • le amiche – the (female) friends
  • le rane – the frogs
  • le amache – the hammocks
  • le invasioni – the invasions
  • le estati – the summers

NOTE: The definite article can be followed by an adjective as well. Remember that the form of the article depends on the first letters of the word that follows it.

  • L’amico – the friend
  • Il migliore amico – the best friend

In the second example we are using the definite article il because the word amico is masculine singular and because the word that comes right after it (migliore) starts with a consonant.

When to use the definite article?

The definitive article is used much more in Italian than in English.

It is used in the following situations:

  1. To indicate a person or a thing that is known by the people involved in the conversation.
    Il negozio al centro è carino.
    The shop in the town centre is cute.

    La ragazza è intelligente.
    The girl is smart.

  2. When talking about something that was introduced before.
    Voglio un libro. Il libro deve essere interessante.
    I want a book. The book has to be interesting.

    La domanda non è pertinente.
    The question is not relevant.

  3. In referring to people or things that are unique.
    Il papa vive a Roma.
    The pope lives in Rome.

    Il sole scotta oggi!
    The sun is hot today!

    Chi è il presidente della Repubblica Italiana?
    Who is the president of the Italian Republic?

  4. To indicate the whole group of species of beings or things.
    L’essere umano è evoluto.
    The human being is evolved (meaning every human being).

    Il delfino è un animale intelligente.
    The dolphin is a clever animal (meaning all dolphins).

    Le posate sono nel cassetto.
    Silverware is in the drawer.

  5. It is used with the days of the week or parts of the day to indicate a repeated activity.
    Mangio tanto la domenica.
    I eat a lot on Sundays.

    La sera guardo la TV prima di andare a letto.
    Every evening I watch TV before going to bed.

  6. Italians use it to say what time it is.
    Sono le 8:00.
    It’s 8:00.

    The article le in front of the time comes from le ore (the hours) which is feminine plural for l’ora (the hour).

    Sono le 8:00.
    It’s 8:00.

    È l’ (ora) 1:00.
    It’s 1:00.

  7. To say the dates and years.
    Oggi è il 5 luglio.
    Today is the 5th of July.

    Il 2019 è quasi finito.
    2019 is almost over.

  8. Before names of countries, regions, states, continents, big islands, mountains, rivers, seas.
    L’Italia è molto bella.
    Italy is beautiful.

    Le Dolomiti sono alte.
    The Dolomites are high.

    La Sicilia è un’isola affascinante.
    Sicily is a charming island.

    Il Mediterraneo si trova tra l’Europa, il Nord Africa e l’Asia Occidentale.
    The Mediterranean Sea is in between Europe, North Africa and West Asia.

    A Roma c’è il Tevere.
    In Rome there is the Tiber River.

    NOTE: The definite article is not used if the name of the country or region is preceded by the preposition in (which can mean in or to).

    Vado in Italia ogni anno.
    I go to Italy every year.

  9. With cardinal points (North, South, Est, West) and parts of a place.
    Il nord e il sud e il centro Italia.
    The North, the South and the Center of Italy.

    Quello è il Nord.
    That is the North.
  10. With the possessive adjectives (my, your, their…)
    Il mio orologio – My watch
    I tuoi cugini – Your cousins
    La loro casa – Their house

    NOTE: Italians don’t use the definite article with nouns referring to members of the family at the singular form.

    Mia madre – my mother
    Tuo cugino – your cousins

  11. With languages.
    L’italiano è una lingua bellissima.
    Italian is a very beautiful language.

    Imparare l’italiano è facile.
    Learning Italian is easy

    NOTE: Italians don’t put the article in front of the languages if a verb like parlare (to talk, to speak) or dire (to say) is used.

    Parlo italiano
    I speak Italian

    Dillo in italiano!
    Say it in Italian!

  12. With sports.
    Il calcio è sopravvalutato
    Soccer is overestimated

    Non mi piace il tennis
    I don’t like tennis

    NOTE: In Italian it isn’t used the definite article when saying that you are playing a sport.
    Gioco a calcio
    I play soccer.

Regional Use of the Definite Article

The definite article is not used with proper names of persons.


  • Lucia
  • Francesco
  • Antonio

However in some regions of Northern Italy it is common to hear the article before the name in informal situations.


  • La Lucia
  • Il Francesco
  • L’Antonio

Other uses of the Italian definite article

The definite article can be used in front of every other part of the speech (adjectives, adverbs, verbs, pronouns,..) and transform it into a noun.


  • il bene – the good
  • il sapere – the knowing
  • il loro e il voi – the they and the you


I understand this is a lot to remember, with time it will come natural, especially if you start learning the definite article along with all the new Italian words that you will add into your Italian vocabulary.

And if at the beginning you use the wrong definite article, or even if you forget it, don’t worry, as long as the noun is right, Italians will still be able to understand what you mean and eventually help you.