Italian Prepositions: The Basics

italian greetingsLearning Italian prepositions is essential to learning to communicate in Italian because we use these words in every day conversation. The more you practice Italian, the closer you will get to mastering the Italian language!

But first, we need to know what the role of prepositions is in the structure of Italian grammar.

Italian prepositions function just like prepositions do in English – prepositions link nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition. First, we will go over examples of commonly used Italian prepositions, and then we will go over how to use them in sentences. Let’s get started!

Italian Prepositions

The following is a list of commonly used Italian simple prepositions (Preposizioni Semplici). It is important to know these words when learning to communicate in Italian.

Italian Simple Prepositions

The basic Italian prepositions are di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra/fra.

Di, a, da, in, su, and percan be simple, when they are used alone, without an article; or articulated, when they are tense with the article, forming a whole word. The other prepositions do not have a tense form, even when matched with the article.

First, let us review the common prepositions listed above, and take a look at how to use them in a sentence or phrase.

Italian              English         Example

di                     of                      La casa di Robert. (Robert’s house.)

a                      at/to/in          Noi andremo a Roma. (We are going to Rome.)

da                    from/by          Sono ritornato da Roma. (I am back from Rome.)

in                     in/into            Loro sono in America. (They are in

con                  with                 Lui va con loro. (He goes with them.)

per                   for                    Io cucino per lei. (I cook for her.)

tra                    between/among     La penna è tra due libri.

(The pen is between two books.)

fra                    between/among     La ragazza si trova fra due ragazzi.

(The girl is between two boys.)

While the examples above are very similar to the way we would use the same prepositions in English, it is important to acknowledge that in Italian, prepositions are also often used differently than we use the same words in English. Let’s take a look!

Italian                          English

Vado a Roma.                I am going to Rome.

Vado in Italia.               I am going to Italy.

Vado da Roberto.         I am going to Robert’s place.

Penso di capire.            I think I understand.

There are a number of rules which govern how to use these prepositions listed above in different circumstances. For the moment, familiarize yourself with the examples above and take note of the different ways Italian prepositions are used in commonly used, ever day statements.

As you continue to learn Italian, you will become more familiar with these different rules and get a firmer grasp of Italian grammar. Gaining insight about how to approach learning a foreign language can make the process easier, as well.

Definite Articles

One way in which Italian prepositions differ from the way we use prepositions in English is how they are used with definite articles.

In English, the definite article usually just follows the preposition, such as in the phrases “on the table” or “in the box.” In Italian, when the preposition is followed by a definite article, the two words are usually combined to create the preposizione articolata. Examples of this include “sul tavolo” or “nella scatola.”

Let’s take a look at how to combine commonly used simple Italian prepositions with a definite article to form the preposizione articolata:

Il               Lo/L’                  La/L’                  I           Gli            Le

di              del            dello/dell’         della/dell’        dei       degli       delle

a                al             allo/all’              alla/all’            ai         agli         alle

da             dal            dallo/dall’        dalla/dall’        dai       dagli       dale

in             nel             nello/nell’        nella/nell’       nei       negli       nelle

su            sul              sullo/sull’         sulla/sull’       sui        sugli      sulle

con          col             collo/coll’        colla/coll’         coi       cogli       colle

When using the preposizione articolata, we apply the same rules of gender and number agreement as the article that they were derived from. For example, if you want to say on il tavolo (masculine, singular), you would say sul tavolo (masculine, singular). It would be incorrect to say sulla tavolo (which is feminine and therefore does not agree in gender with the nous, tavolo), or sugli tavolo (which does not agree because it is plural).

If this seems difficult at first, don’t worry, it does get easier with practice! Learning to speak Italian while doing an activity you enjoy, such as cooking, can make learning the language easier and more fun! Learning a foreign language with an activity associated with it is a way to practice speaking the language, familiarize yourself with more words and build your vocabulary, and learn more about another aspect of the culture. Take a look!

No matter what you want to talk about in Italian, you will need to know your pronouns, so let’s continue!

Time and Place Pronouns

Following is a list of Italian pronouns that indicate time and place. Try and memorize these pronouns, as they will prove most helpful to know when learning to speak, read, and write the Italian language.

English                     Italian

Above                         sopra

After                           dopo

Against                     contro

Around                      intorno a

As                               come

At                                a

Before                       prima

Below                       sotto

Beneath                    al di sotto

Beside                       accanto a

But                             ma

By                               da

During                      durante

In                               in

Inside                       dentro

Near                          vicino

Under                       sotto

Up                              su

With                          con

Without                   senza

Two Word Prepositions

Here are commonly used Italian prepositions that are two words long in English:

English                        Italian

According to             secondo

Because of                  a causa di

Near to                       vicino a

Prior to                       prima di

Three Word Prepositions

Following are commonly used Italian prepositions that are three words long in English:

English                        Italian

As far as                      fino a

As well as                   come pure

In addition to            oltre

In front of                   di fronte a

Demonstrative Pronouns

Following is a list of Italian demonstrative pronouns, called preposizioni dimostrative. Demonstrative pronouns are also essential to know in order to communicate in Italian, so try to memorize this list.

How to Learn and Memorize the Vocabulary of Any Language

English                        Italian

This                             questa

That                             quello/quella

These                           questi/queste

Those                           quelli/quelle

Incorporating a language learning method may prove helpful when trying to memorize Italian words and build your Italian vocabulary. Give it a try!

Preposition Pointers

Let’s cover some important points concerning the Italian prepositions di and a.

The preposition di expresses possession as well as place of origin:

Di chi è questa rivista?—È di Lucia.
Whose magazine is this?—It’s Lucia’s.

Di dov’è James?—È di Miami.
Where is James from?— He’s from Miami.

Remember: The English to and in are translated by the Italian preposition a when used with the name of a city or a small island.

Vado a Venezia. (I am going to Venice.)
Abitano a Venezia. (They live in Venice.)
Vanno a Capri. (They are going to Capri.)
Abitano a Capri. (They live in Capri.)

Practice, practice, practice!

It is important to practice speaking, reading, and writing Italian prepositions and using them in phrases and sentences, in order to build your understanding of Italian, and your confidence! The more comfortable you feel communicating in Italian, the faster and easier it will be to continue to learn the language and become fluent in it in no time.

Learning about other aspects of Italian and the culture, such as gaining a better understanding of the art and history of the country, can prove helpful to better understanding the language, and is also enriching. Take a look and get started with learning Italian today!