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 a tense form, which is no more in use.

Prepositions in and a: forms and examples

The 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
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Vai in Francia?
Are you going to France?
  • periods of the year, like seasons, months, years (in, during)
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In estate
in Summer
  • means of transporting
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Vado in treno
I go by train

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

  • direction (to) when linked to cities or little islands
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Tornate a Parigi?
Do you come back to Paris?
  • destination (to)
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Ho scritto una lettera a Maria
I wrote a letter to Maria
  • time (at)
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Alle 7
At 7.00 a.m
  • to give a substantive an adverbial or adjectival meaning
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Il maglione a righe
The striped pullover
  • before the infinitive
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Andiamo a ballare
We go to dance

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


IN:

il
lo
l’
la
i
gli
le
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nel
nello
nell’
nella
nei
negli
nelle

A:

il
lo
l’
la
i
gli
le
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al
allo
all’
alla
ai
agli
alle

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

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Luigi guarda in + la bottiglia = Luigi guarda nella bottiglia
Luigi looks in the bottle
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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
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Io sono di Milano
I am from Milan
  • time with words indicating parts of the day or days of the week
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Di notte
At night
  • materials
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La maglietta di cotone
The cotton shirt
  • arguments (about) with verbs as parlare (to talk), trattare (to treat), discutere (to discuss)
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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
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Vado dal macellaio
I go to the butcher
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ma Vado in macelleria
I go to the butchery
  • the aim of an object:
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Occhiali da sole
Sunglasses

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


DI:

DA:

il
lo
l’
la
i
gli
le
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del
dello
dell’
della
dei
delle
delle
il
lo
l’
la
i
gli
le
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dal
dallo
dall’
dalla
dai
dagli
dale
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Io sono il figlio di + il signor Rossi = Io sono il figlio del signor Rossi
I am Mr.Rossi’s son.
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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.

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Esco con Paola
I go out with Paola
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Pago con la carta di credito
I pay with the credit card

The preposition per means for

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Questo regalo è per te
This present is for you
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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.

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Parto per Roma
I leave for Rome
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Il bus per Milano
The bus for Milan

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

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La banca è tra la scuola e il bar
The bank is between the school and the bar
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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 preposition su means on or about

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La bottiglia è sul tavolo
The bottle is on the table
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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:

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

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Il libro di Macchiavelli è sulla politica
Macchiavelli’s book is about Politics
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Il libro di Macchiavelli parla di politica
Macchiavelli’s book talks about Politics.
il
lo
l’
la
i
gli
le
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sul
sullo
sull’
sulla
sui
sugli
sulle
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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). Con, per, tra/fra have just the simple form.
  • 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:
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di
of
Download
a
at, to
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da
from, by
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in
in
Download
con
with
Download
su
on, about
Download
per
for
Download
tra/fra
between

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