When to use con and al



For the word 'with' in Italian, how to know when to use 'con' and when to use 'al'?  I look at the statements in the lessons using con or al but can't figure out when I should be using con and when I should use al. Thanks!
Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Hi patrickandlaurie,

Al and con are very different, as different as "to the" and "with" in English, but you're correct: sometimes - in a particular case - they can both translate with.

This particular case is food. I've posted an answer on this in a previous topic that you can find here: https://members.rocketlanguages.com/members/forum/italian-feedback-and-comments/al-in-association-with-food

This use of al to mean with is the only that comes to my mind now. In all the other cases, al translates "to the" (it's the contraction of a + il, one of the possible masculine definite articles), and con translates "with".

Vado al cinema con mia sorella. I go to the cinema with my sister.
Cenare al ristorante. To eat dinner at the restaurant.

Al can also translate in in sentences like:
Al mattino bevo un bicchiere di latte. In the morning I drink a glass of milk.

What are the particular sentences that you find confusing? I'll help you out! :)



Hello Lucia,

Yes, this use of 'with' occurs in the food section in module 1.

'Con' as 'with':
Un caffè con latte e zucchero, per favore.
A cup of coffee with milk and sugar, please

'al' as 'with':
Un tè al latteper favore.
A cup of tea with milk, please

Purpose of 'al' in this statement?
Un panino al prosciutto e formaggio.
A ham and cheese sandwich
Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

Lucia - Rocket Languages Tutor

In the food area, al is indeed a synonym of con.
For example, in the cases you mentioned, you could as well say:

Un panino con prosciutto e formaggio.
Un tè col latte. Un tè col limone. (con + il)
But: un caffè al latte sounds somewhat uncommon (not wrong - just less used).

Here's another example:
Una pizza con la mozzarella.
Una pizza alla mozzarella.
This one sounds strange. Al commonly introduces a special ingredient inside a dish, almost like a variant of it, but mozzarella isn't a special pizza ingredient at all as it's almost always present on a pizza.

Sometimes you can use both with no change in meaning whatsoever. Some other times, one variant may sound uncommon, as in the case above, or have a slight difference in meaning, as in:
Pane al burro: the butter is mixed with the dough.
Pane con/col burro: the butter is spread over a piece of bread.

It's not a strict rule however, because you could also say pane col burro to mean al burro in a bakery shop and be understood fine (you will be given a delicious bread, not bread and butter!).

This is a tricky side of Italian, but with practice come mastery and spontaneity in language!


Very helpful...thank you!

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