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.
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Where to locate a preposition
The preposition can be placed in front of:
1. a name
la cucina di Maria
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
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:
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.
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?
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|
Let’s take a closer look to each of them.
The Preposition A
|a||at, to, in|
The preposition a indicates:
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.
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
|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)
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 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.
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 indicates:
1. Provenience and origin.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Devo comprare il biglietto per Napoli.
I have to buy the ticket to Naples.
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
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.
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.