Italian prepositions: the complete guide

As we learn Italian, we encounter vocabulary words from a variety of grammatical categories. Previously we have covered Italian adverbs and conjunctions, and in this article we focus on Italian prepositions.

A preposition is a part of speech that links different elements in a sentence, establishes connections between them, and shows how they are related. Italian prepositions can be followed by a noun, a pronoun, or an infinitive verb.

Unfortunately, most of the time there isn’t an exact correspondence between Italian and English prepositions.

Here are the prepositions you’ll encounter most in Italian:

Table: The most common Italian prepositions
Italian preposition translation
con with
di of, about, from, by, than
a at, to, in, on
da from, by, as, since, for
in in, at, by
su on, above, over, about, out of
tra / fra between, among, within, in
per for, to, in order to, because

As you may have already guessed from the above table, Italian prepositions can have different meanings depending on the context. I’ll take you through each of these teeny tiny words one by one. Ready? Let’s begin!

The Italian Preposition “Con”

“Con” corresponds pretty neatly to the English preposition “with,” and is used to talk about being with someone. Let me give you an example:

« Ieri pomeriggio ho fatto i compiti con Ilaria  »
(“Yesterday afternoon I did my homework with Ilaria”)

The Italian Preposition “Di”

Depending on the context, the Italian preposition “di” corresponds to one of the following English prepositions: “of”, “about”, “from”, “by”, and “than”.

In Italian, “di” is a preposition which is used to:

The Italian preposition “di” is also used in comparisons. Let me give you an example to get an idea of how it works:

« Lorenzo parla inglese molto meglio di me  »
(“Lorenzo speaks English much better than I do”)

Remark: The Italian preposition “di” is similar to the French preposition “de”. In fact, they have the same etymology as they both originate from the Latin preposition “dē”.
(related article: Similarities between Latin and Italian)

The Italian Preposition “A”

You can translate the tiny word “a” into English as “at”, “to”, “in,” or “on.” It is used to:

Not so bad, right?

The Italian Preposition “Da”

Depending on the context, the Italian preposition “da” corresponds to one of the following English prepositions: “from”, “by”, “as”, “since”, and “for”.

In Italian, “da” is a preposition which is used to:

Easy, right?

The Italian Preposition “In”

You can translate “in” into English as “in,” “at,” and “by.” It is used to talk about:

Nice, huh?

The Italian Preposition “Su”

You can translate the tiny word “su” into English as “on,” “above,” “over,” “about,” and “out of.” It can refer to:

The Italian Preposition “Tra/fra”

The Italian prepositions “tra” and “fra” have the same meaning, and you can translate them into English as “between,” “among,” “within,” and “in.” “Tra” and “fra” are used to refer to:

The Italian Preposition “Per”

You can translate the Italian preposition “per” into English as “for,” “to,” “in order to,” and “because.” It’s used to talk about:

The preposition “per” is also used with verbs of movement, like for example “partire,” which means “to leave,” and “passare,” which means “to go through.” Let’s look at an example:

« Quando partite per Firenze?  »
(“When are you leaving for Florence?”)

Italian articulated prepositions

Let’s now move on to articulated prepositions, or compound prepositions. Articulated prepositions are formed any time a noun following the Italian prepositions “di,” “a,” “da,” “in,” “su” and “con” requires a definite article.

Basically, when the preposition you are using is followed by a definite article, it combines with it to make one word.

Articulated prepositions can be used before names of countries, regions, rivers, lakes, and mountains, but not before cities and people’s names.

Articulated prepositions formed with “Di”

Table: Italian articulated prepositions with "di"
Italian preposition translation
di + il = del of, about, from, by, than
di + lo = dello of, about, from, by, than
di + la = della of, about, from, by, than
di + l’ = dell’ of, about, from, by, than
di + i = dei of, about, from, by, than
di + gli = degli of, about, from, by, than
di + le = delle of, about, from, by, than

Articulated prepositions formed with “A”

Table: Italian articulated prepositions with "a"
Italian preposition translation
a + il = al at, to, in, on
a + lo = allo at, to, in, on
a + la = alla at, to, in, on
a + l’ = all’ at, to, in, on
a + i = ai at, to, in, on
a + gli = agli at, to, in, on
a + le = alle at, to, in, on

Articulated prepositions formed with “Da”

Table: Italian articulated prepositions with "da"
Italian preposition translation
da + il = dal from, by, as, since, for
da +lo = dallo from, by, as, since, for
da + la = dalla from, by, as, since, for
da + l’ = dall’ from, by, as, since, for
da + i = dai from, by, as, since, for
da + gli = dagli from, by, as, since, for
da + le = dalle from, by, as, since, for

Articulated prepositions formed with “In”

Table: Italian articulated prepositions with "in"
Italian preposition translation
in + il = nel in, at, by
in + lo = nello in, at, by
in + la = nella in, at, by
in + l’ = nell’ in, at, by
in + i = nei in, at, by
in + gli = negli in, at, by
in + le = nelle in, at, by

Articulated prepositions formed with “Su”

Table: Italian articulated prepositions with "su"
Italian preposition translation
su + il = sul on, above, over, about, out of
su + lo = sullo on, above, over, about, out of
su + la = sulla on, above, over, about, out of
su + l’ = sull’ on, above, over, about, out of
su + i = sui on, above, over, about, out of
su + gli = sugli on, above, over, about, out of
su + le = sulle on, above, over, about, out of

Articulated prepositions formed with “Con”

The Italian preposition “con” combines with the definite article when followed by “il” and “i”. Have a look at the following examples.

Italian preposition translation
con + il = col with
con + i = coi with

If the Italian preposition “con” is followed by “lo,” “l’,” “la,” “gli,” or “le,” the two words remain separate. Let me give you some examples to get an idea of how it works.

Italian preposition translation
con + lo = con lo with
con + l’= con l’ with
con + la = con la with
con + gli = con gli with
con + le = con le with

Per and tra/fra

The Italian prepositions “per,” “tra” and “fra” are invariable, and don’t change form when followed by a definite article.

Conclusion

How was it? I hope this guide has given you a solid foundation for using Italian prepositions in writing and face-to-face conversation. There’s a lot to take in here, I know. Try and find a good balance between memorization, study, and real-world practice, and you’ll master the Italian prepositions in no time!

Buono studio!