Italian Prepositions

In the previous lessons we learned about the passive form, as well as the impersonal forms, comparatives and superlatives, adverbs, pronouns, adjectives, nouns and articles. Now we move on to prepositions, which are are words used to provide context with regards to space or time, or to introduce a complement.

Preposizioni Semplici | (Simple Prepositions)

Prepositions are words used to link nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words within a sentence. In some cases their use can be very confusing in Italian. Except for some logical uses, prepositions are often used in an idiomatic way. Certain verbs, words and expressions require the use of specific prepositions. In our opinion the only way to learn the idiomatic uses of prepositions is by practicing the language, reading Italian texts, checking the dictionary (a complete good dictionary always tells you which prepositions are used with specific verbs or words) or asking Italian friends or teachers for explanations. The main prepositions in Italian are: di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra. In the next sections we will try to show the main uses for each preposition.


The preposition “di” (of, made of, about, by, from) can be used in many different situations:
  • To indicate abundance:
    • Il giardino è pieno di zanzare – (The garden is full of mosquitos)
  • To indicate age:
    • La mia professoressa è una donna di 38 anni – (My professor is a woman 38 years old)
  • To clarify content:
    • Un piatto di pasta – (A dish of pasta)
  • To express deprivation:
    • Marte è un pianeta inospitale, è privo di ossigeno – (Mars is an inhospitable planet, it lacks oxygen)
  • To indicate fault:
    • Siamo in ritardo, è tutta colpa di Marco – (We’re late, it’s all Marco’s fault)
  • To clarify the material:
    • Una maglietta di cotone – (A cotton t-shirt)
  • To express origin from a city [with verb of state]:
    • Io sono di Bologna – (I am from Bologna)
  • To indicate possession:
    • Il cane di Erica – (Erica’s dog)
  • To indicate quality:
    • Quella squadra ha giocatori di ottima qualità – (That team has high quality players)
  • To express a reason:
    • Ho passato l’esame di guida, sono pieno di gioia! – (I passed the driving test, I’m full of joy!)
  • To express context:
    • Messi è un campione di calcio – (Messi is a soccer champion)
  • To clarify a time:
    • Mangio sempre tardi di sera, soprattutto nel weekend – (I always eat late in the evenings, especially on weekends)
  • Topic: I miei amici parlano sempre di videogiochi – (My friends always talk about video games)
  • Way/Mode: Non posso aspettare, vado di fretta – (I can’t wait, I’m in a hurry)


The preposition “a” (to, in, at) can be used in the following situations:
  • To indicate the destination with a city [complement both of movement and state]:
    • Oggi sono a Roma – (Today I’m in Rome)
  • To indicate the names of small islands:
    • Ho una casa a Capri – (I have a house in Capri)
  • To indicate the addressee:
    • Ho prestato il libro a Federica – (I lent the book to Federica)
  • Fixed Expressions:
    • Ho troppi vestiti a casa – (I have too many clothes at home)
    • Vado a lavoro a piedi – (I go to work by foot)
    • L’albergo è vicino a un parco – (The hotel is near a park)
Whenever the preposition “a” is in front of a word that begins with the vowel –a, it changes into -ad. While, in front of other vowels, it can either change or not, both forms are considered correct:
  • Andiamo ad Alessandria – (We’re going to Alessandria)
  • Vado a Ischia / ad Ischia – (I’m going to Ischia)
On top of the cases mentioned above, some verbs require the preposition “a” in front of the infinitive form.
  • Voglio imparare a parlare italiano – (I want to learn to speak Italian)
  • Mi aiuti a finire i compiti? – (Can you help me finish the homework?)
  • Non riesco a dormire con tutta questa luce – (I can’t sleep with all this light)
  • Ti sei abituato a fare gli esercizi da solo? – (Did you get used to doing the exercises by yourself?)
  • Sbrigati a vestirti, siamo in ritardo! – (Hurry up getting dressed, we are late!)
Lastly, the preposition “a” is used with verbs that indicate the beginning or the continuation of an action:
  • Ho cominciato a vedere il film – (I started watching the movie)
  • Continua a nevicare da stamattina – (It keeps snowing since this morning)
  • Ho iniziato a pulire due ore fa – (I started cleaning two hours ago)
  • Mi metto a fare i compiti appena torno a casa – (I’ll start doing the homework once I get home)


The preposition “da” (from, to, at, by) is often used when discussing movement, but it is also used in a few different instances.
  • To indicate origin with verb of movement:
    • Erica viene da Modena – (Erica comes from Modena)
  • Movement towards a person or state in a place with someone:
    • Vado a mangiare da nonna – (I’m going to eat at grandma’s)
    • Sei da Matteo? – (Are you at Matteo’s [place]?)
  • Moving away from a place or separation:
    • Francesca abita lontano da suo fratello – (Francesca lives far from her brother)
    • Giuseppe è divorziato da sua moglie – (Giuseppe is divorced from his wife)
  • To indicate origin with temporal meaning (it continues in the present):
    • Vivo a Milano da 4 settimane – (I live in Milan since 4 weeks ago)
  • To specify the use of an object:
    • Scarpe da neve – (Snow shoes)
    • Guanti da lavoro – (Work gloves)
    • Occhiali da vista – (Reading glasses)
  • Indeterminate construction (qualcuno/qualcosa/nessuno/niente…+ da + infinitive verb form):
    • Voglio qualcosa da mangiare – (I want something to eat)
    • Non c’è niente da ridere – (There’s nothing to laugh [about])


The preposition “in” (in, into, by, on) is normally used in sentences to answer the question “where?” and this is true for both movement or place, especially when placed in front of:
  • Continents, States, Regions, big Islands:
    • La Germania è in Europa – (Germany is in Europe)
    • Melissa va in Florida – (Melissa goes to Florida)
    • Torino è in Piemonte – (Turin is in Piedmont)
    • Vado in vacanza in America – (I’m going to America on holiday)
  • When using street names:
    • Abito in Piazza del Popolo 18
    • La pizzeria si trova in via Garibaldi
  • When talking about means of transportation:
    • Vado a lavoro in bicicletta – (I go to work by bike)
    • Torno a casa in treno – (I come home by train)
  • When talking about shop names or places ending in “-ia:
    • Devo andare in farmacia – (I need to go to the pharmacy)
    • Andiamo direttamente in gelateria – (We’re going straight to the gelato shop)


This preposition is mainly used to indicate relation and union (mostly translates to with).
  • To indicate union or company:
    • Luca vive con Mauro – (Luca lives with Mauro)
    • Prendo le mie medicine con i pasti – (I take my medicines with meals)
  • To specify the way or how to perform something:
    • Devo leggere con calma – (I need to read calmly)
    • Dobbiamo proseguire con prudenza – (We must continue with care)
  • To give specific information, as of time or manner:
    • Arrivo con l’autobus delle 9.30 – (I arrive with the 9.30am bus)
    • Devi accedere al computer con la password – (You have to access the computer with the password)
  • To specify the qualitiesthe characteristics of a person, animal or object:
    • Monica è la ragazza con i capelli biondi – (Monica is the girl with the blonde hair)
    • Il mio cane è quello con il collare rosso – (My dog is the one with the red collar)
  • To specify the cause or reason of something:
    • Con questa pioggia non possiamo giocare – (We can’t play with this rain)
    • Non riesco a concentrarmi con questo rumore – (I can’t concentrate with this noise)
  • To indicate the time or period:
    • Con la primavera sbocciano i fiori – (With spring the flowers bloom)
  • To indicate a specific area of interest or topic:
    • Come va con il nuovo lavoro? – (How’s it going with the new job?)


The preposition “su” (on, upon) is mostly used to give indication of the position of someone/something or to refer to a specific subject/topic.
  • To indicate a position:
    • State in a place: Su quella scrivania c’è un quaderno – (On that desk there is a notebook)
    • Movement to a higher place: Mi arrampico su una montagna – (I climb on a mountain)
  • To indicate the subject or topic:
    • Sto guardando un film su Leonardo Da Vinci – (I’m watching a movie on Leonardo Da Vinci)
  • To indicate the distribution of something:
    • Una persona su dieci non sa leggere – (One out of ten doesn’t know how to read)


The preposition “per” (for, in order to, through) mainly expresses the way/mode through which an action is carried out, as well as introduce a large number of complements.
  • To express movement in/through a place:
    • Siamo passati per Bologna – (We went through Bologna)
    • Ho girato per tutto il negozio – (I went around the whole store)
  • To express movement to a destination:
    • Ieri sono partito per Sydney – (Yesterday I left for Sydney)
    • Il treno per Milano parte alle 10:00 – (The train for Milan leaves at 10am)
  • To indicate the way through which an action is carried out:
    • Puoi mandarmi le foto per email? – (Can you send the pictures via email?)
    • Ti ho inviato una pacco per posta – (I sent you a package by mail)
  • To indicate the reason or cause:
    • Vado a Verona ogni mese per lavoro – (I go to Verona every month for work)
    • Lucia sta sudando per il caldo! – (Lucia is sweating from the heat!)
  • To indicate the aim or purpose:
    • Lavoro tanto per mettere da parte dei soldi – (I work a lot to put some money aside)
    • Stasera vado a letto presto per riposarmi bene – (Tonight I go to bed early to rest well)
  • To introduce a sentence [followed by an infinitive verb]:
    • Studio per imparare – (I study to learn)
    • Vado in palestra per allenarmi domani –  (I’m going to the gym to work out tomorrow)
  • To express the duration of an action:
    • Domani cucino per tutta la mattina – (Tomorrow I’ll cook for the entire morning)
    • Siamo andati al mare per le vacanze – (We went to the beach for the holidays)
  • To indicate the person or object referred to by the action:
    • Questo regalo è per voi – (This gift is for you all)
    • Domani preparo il pranzo per tutti quanti – (Tomorrow I’ll prepare lunch for everyone)
  • To indicate an upcoming action [used with the verb “stare“]:
    • L’aereo sta per atterrare – (The plane is about to land)
    • Attento ai piatti, stanno per cadere! – (Watch out for the plates, they’re about to fall!)
  • To indicate a substitution or replacement:
    • Scambio sempre Marta per Lucia – (I always mix up Marta with Lucia)
    • Ho frainteso una cosa per l’altra – (I misunderstood one thing for the other)
  • Other fixed expression:
    • Per me queste lasagne sono deliziose! – (To me these lasagnas are delicious!)
    • Potete fare più piano, per favore? – (Can you more quiet, please?)

Tra & Fra

The prepositions “tra” and “fra” (among, between, in, within) are synonyms and can be used interchangeably to express various complements and situations.
  • To indicate something in between two things or places:
    • Tra la strada e il parco c’è un ristorante – (Between the street and the park there’s a restaurant)
    • La mia macchina è fra il camion e la moto – (My car is between the truck and the motorbike)
  • To indicate movement through/between places:
    • Marco fa avanti ed indietro tra Napoli e Roma – (Marco goes back and forth between Naples and Rome)
    • Il bosco era così fitto che non potevo passare fra gli alberi – (The woods were so thick that I could not go through the trees)
  • To indicate distance time/space:
    • Fra due ore arriviamo a Torino – (In two hours we arrive in Turin)
    • Tra pochi metri arriveremo alla scuola elementare –  (In a few meters we will arrive at the elementary school)
  • To indicate a fixed period time in the near future:
    • Fra tre giorni è il mio compleanno – (In three days it’s my birthday)
    • Il concerto inizia tra poche ore – (The concert will start in a few hours)
  • To indicate a relationship among objects/persons:
    • I tuoi figli vanno molto d’accordo tra di loro – (Your kids get along very well together)
    • C’è molta tensione fra la polizia e i protestanti – (There’s a lot of tension between the police and the protestors)
  • To indicate the group an element is part of:
    • Quell’albero è il più alto tra tutti gli altri – (That tree is the tallest among all others)
    • Il calcio è il più praticato fra gli sport in Italia – (Soccer is the most played among sports in Italy)
  • To indicate an estimate or an approximation:
    1. Quella macchina avrà fra i 15 e i 20 anni – (That car is between 15 and 20 years old)
    2. Avrò finito tra uno o due minuti – (I will be done in one or two minutes)
  • Other fixed expressions:
    • Vado a trovare la nonna, tra l’altro le devo portare i biscotti (I’m going to visit grandma, moreover I need to bring her the cookies)
    • Apparecchiate il tavolo che tra poco è pronto – (Set the table that it will be ready soon)
    • Sono quasi le 17:00, fra non molto vado a casa – (It’s almost 5pm, in a little bit I’ll go home)

Le Preposizioni Articolate | (Combined Prepositions)

The simple prepositions di, a, da, in, su can also be combined with the definite articles il, lo, l’, la, i, gli, le to form combined prepositions.

For Example:
  • Andiamo al [a+il] parco domani – (Let’s go to the park tomorrow)
  • I tuoi vestiti sono sul [su+il] letto –  (Your clothes are on the bed)
  • Negli [in+gli] Stati Uniti si parla inglese – (English is spoken in the United States)

Note the the prepositions con, per, tra and fra never combine with any article.

  • Domani vado con i miei genitore al mare – (Tomorrow I’m going to the beach with my parents)
  • Questi inviti sono per i nostri amici – (These invites are for our friends)
  • Tra tutte le pizzerie, proprio questa dovevi scegliere! – (Out of all the pizzarias, you had to pick this one!)

Normally the combined prepositions are used when referring to a specific noun or the plural form.

Before a specific noun:

  • Specific: Mio fratello è nell’autobus 158 – (My brother is on the bus 158)
  • Generic: Mio fratello è in autobus – (My brother is on the bus)

With the plural form

  • Plural: Vivo negli Stati Uniti – (I live in the United States)
  • Singular: Vivo in America – (I live in America)

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