An amazing guide to Italian prepositions: How to use them all


Valentina Fornelli

No matter how refined and beautiful a piece of cloth is, if you lack a needle and thread to sew it, it won’t make much sense. But if you sew many pieces of cloth, creating sleeves, pants, pockets, etc, and put them together, you have something that certainly makes sense: a nice suit.

Words are cloth, needle and thread are prepositions and the tailor…well, it’s grammar.

Maybe we won’t win the gold medal for world’s best metaphor - we definitely won’t - but the point is that prepositions are what connects the single elements of a sentence and assign them a function, therefore are very very very important. Moreover, and this is especially true for prepositions in Italian, they are cute! Look at them! Those tiny little words curling up in the middle of sentences like kittens, don’t you want to cuddle them?

Ok, back to serious stuff. Keep on reading to know everything you need about Italian simple and articulated prepositions, plus a complete Italian prepositions chart. Don’t forget to bookmark!

What are prepositions in grammar?

Prepositions are an invariable group of words that, once placed before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase, clarify its function by offering a sense of direction, time, possession and others.

Mario went to Rome.

Sara and Antonio’s wedding will be in March.

This gift is for you.

Ready to embrace it all and build your grammar confidence? Andiamo!

Man learning Italian prepositions.

The main Italian prepositions

Italian prepositions are divided into three groups:

  1. Italian simple prepositions (called preposizioni proprie): they are very short and in most cases can merge with an article to generate an articulated form.
  2. Italian articulated prepositions (called preposizioni articolate): formed by a simple preposition + an article.
  3. Preposizioni improprie: they include more than one syllable and can’t merge with an article.

We’ll see the preposizioni improprie later, for now let’s focus on Italian simple prepositions and their direct descendants, Italian articulated prepositions.

Italian simple prepositions are: di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra. Want some help to remember them? Here’s a song!


"Di” (pronunciation “dee”, IPA dˈi) has literally 30 different functions. But before checking out the most important ones, let’s see how it behaves when combined with articles.

+ ildeldeh-ldˈel
+ lodellodeh-llohdˈello
+ ladelladeh-llahdˈella
+ l’dell’deh-ll’dˈɛl’
+ ideideh-eedˈe͡ɪ
+ glideglideh-lleedˈeʎɪ
+ ledelledeh-llehdˈelle

When to use “di”

Di can be used to specify to whom or of whom, cause, origin, topic, agent, substance, quality, measure, motion to, from and through a place, and many others. If it sounds complicated, it’s because it is. But no worry, with the help of some examples you’ll learn!

UseExample sentenceTranslation
To whom or of whomQuesta bicicletta è di DanielaThis bike is Daniela’s
CauseFaccio i salti di gioiaI’m jumping for joy
AgentLa strada è bagnata di pioggiaThe road is wet from rain
SubstanceUn tavolo di legnoA wood table
TopicParliamo di lavoroLet’s talk about work
AbundanceL’Italia è ricca di siti archeologiciItaly is rich in archeological sites
DeprivationIl deserto è povero di acquaThe desert is poor in water
QualityMarta è una ragazza di grande intelligenzaMarta is a very smart girl
MeasureHo pescato un pesce di due chiliI’ve catched a fish weighing two chilos
Motion fromSiamo partiti dall'hotel alle 14We left the hotel at 2 pm
Motion toVado dall’altra parteI’m going the other way
Motion throughPer arrivare qui sono passato dal centroTo get here I’ve passed through the city center
TimeD’inverno, le Alpi sono innevateIn winter, the Alps are covered in snow
Noun clauseSono felice di essere quiI’m happy to be here


The shortest preposition of all is used to form adverbial expressions, or to express motion to, Place, time, term, purpose and others. When the following word starts with a vowel, it might become ad.

+ ilalah-lˈal
+ loalloah-llohˈallo
+ laallaah-llahˈalla
+ l’all’ah-ll’ˈall’
+ iaiah-eeˈaj
+ gliagliah-lleeˈaʎɪ
+ lealleah-llehˈalle

When to use “a”

Now let’s see some examples of use for the preposition “a”, including its articulated forms.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
TimePartiremo all’albaWe’ll leave at dawn
Motion toCi siamo trasferiti a GenovaWe’ve moved to Genoa
PlaceSono a casaI’m home
TermHo dato il libro a ChiaraI’ve given the book to Chiara
PurposeMatteo è uscito a fare delle commissioniMatteo is out running some errands
Adverbial expressionAd oggi, non so ancora cosa sia successoTo this day I still don’t know what happened


Da is another preposition that may be used with a wide variety of purposes. But first, let’s see how it behaves when merging with an article.

+ ildaldah-ldˈal
+ lodallodah-llohdˈallo
+ ladalladah-llahdˈalla
+ l’dall’dah-ll’dˈall’
+ idaidah-eedˈaj
+ glidaglidah-lleedˈaʎɪ
+ ledalledah-llehdˈalle

When to use “da”

Da can be used in a wide range of contexts: motion from, to and through, origin, agent, cause, time, quality, purpose, price, manner, etc.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
Motion fromParto domani dall’ItaliaI’m leaving Italy tomorrow
Motion toBarbara è andata da sua ziaBarbara went at her aunt’s
Motion throughIl divano non passa dalla portaThe couch can’t get through the door
OriginDa dove vieni? Io da NapoliWhere are you from? I’m from Naples
AgentLa città è stata fondata dai RomaniThe city was founded by the Romans
CauseTremo dalla rabbiaI’m so angry I’m shaking
TimeVivo qui da due anniI’ve been living here for two years
QualityDomenico è una persona dal cuore generosoDomenico is a person with a generous heart
PurposeHai preso gli occhiali da sole?Did you bring the sunglasses?
PriceDavide ha comprato un’auto da 50.000 euroDavide has bought a 50.000 euros car
MannerScusami, mi sono comportato da idiotaI’m sorry, I acted like an idiot
Consecutive propositionSono stanco da morireI’m so tired I could die


A little trickier to form articulated prepositions, in is used to express place, motion to, motion through, time, substance, limitation, mean, manner, measure, purpose and others.

+ ilnelneh-lnˈɛl
+ lonelloneh-llohnˈɛllo
+ lanellaneh-llahnˈɛlla
+ l’nell’neh-ll’nˈɛll’
+ ineineh-eenˈɛj
+ glineglineh-lleenˈɛʎɪ
+ lenelleneh-llehnˈɛlle

When to use “in”

From place to time, let’s explore some examples of using "in" as a preposition.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
PlaceMi trovo in GiapponeI’m in Japan
Motion toDomani torniamo negli Stati UnitiTomorrow we are going back to the Places
Motion throughUn aereo passò nel cieloA plane passed through the sky
TimeFinirò il progetto in un meseI’ll finish the project in one month
SubstanceAmo i pavimenti in parquetI love parquet floors
LimitationGiulia è brava in matematicaGiulia is good at math
MannerSpero che tutto si risolva nel migliore dei modiI hope everything will be resolved in the best possible way
MeasureIn casa siamo in seiWe are six in the house
PurposeMario è intervenuto in mia difesaMarco intervened in my defense


Con is very close to the English “with” and, therefore much easier to learn. The articulated forms, here below, are not as common as with the other prepositions, and in most cases, you can simply use con + article without merging the two.

+ ilcolcolkˈɔl
+ locollocoll-ohkˈɔllo
+ lacollacoll-ahkˈɔlla
+ l’coll’coll’kˈɔll’
+ icoicoh-eekˈɔj
+ glicoglicoh-lleekˈɔʎɪ
+ lecollecol-lehkˈɔlle

When to use “con”

This preposition, as we said, is an almost perfect translation of the English “with” and is therefore used for: company, mean, manner, quality, cause, limitation.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
CompanyEsco con gli amiciI’m going out with some friends
MeanLuca va a scuola con l’autobusLuca goes to school by bus
MannerTi ospito con grande piacereI host you with great pleasure
QualityUn’auto con un motore potenteA car with a powerful engine
CauseCon l’età, ho dimenticato molte coseWith age, I forgot many things
LimitationCome va con il lavoro?What’s going on with your job?


Commonly translated with “on”, “above, “upon” and “about”, su is another versatile preposition in Italian.

+ ilsulsoolsˈul
+ losullosool-lohsˈullo
+ lasullasool-lahsˈulla
+ l’sull’sooll’sˈull’
+ isuisoo-eesˈuj
+ glisuglisoo-lleesˈuʎɪ
+ lesullesool-lehsˈulle

When to use “su”

Now let’s list all the cases of use for su.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
PlaceIl gatto dorme sulla sediaThe cat is sleeping on the chair
Motion toLa scimmia è salita sull’alberoThe monkey has climbed the tree
MannerIl dottore riceve solo su appuntamentoThe physician only received by appointment
TopicLa prossima verifica sarà sulle frazioniThe next test will be on fractions
DistributionUn candidato su tre passa la selezioneOne candidate out of three passes the selection
TimeIeri sono arrivata a casa sul prestoYesterday I came home early
MeasureLaura deve essere sulla trentinaLaura must be around thirty years old


Such as the following Italian prepositions, per does not merge with the following articles, making it’s use way simpler. It has, though, a great number of functions.

When to use “per”

Per can be used to express motion to and through, cause, purpose, time, limitation, price, distribution, finality, and many others. Let’s see the most common use cases.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
Motion toIl treno per Milano è in partenzaThe train to Milan is departing
Motion throughLa strada da Firenze a Napoli passa per RomaThe road from Florence to Naples passes through Rome
CauseMi sono trasferita a Genova per amoreI’ve moved to Genova for love
PurposeCarlo è venuto per vedertiCarlo came here to see you
TimeAbbiamo abitato in Francia per tre anniWe lived in France for three years
LimitationIl vino italiano è ottimo per qualità e varietàItalian wine is excellent in terms of quality and variety
PriceHo comprato queste scarpe per 30 euroI bought these shoes for 30 euros

Tra and fra

Tra and fra are synonyms, as they both mean “between”, “among” or “within”. They also do not merge with any following article.

When to use “tra” and “fra”

As according to their meaning, these Italian prepositions are mostly used to express place, motion through, distance, time, company.

UseExample sentenceTranslation
PlaceLa Pianura Padana si trova tra le Alpi e gli AppenniniThe Padan Plane is located between the Alps and di Apennines
Motion throughL’uccellino è volato fra i ramiThe little bird flew through the branches
DistanceSarò a Venezia fra una settimanaI’ll be in Venice in a week
TimeLe temperature sono alte tra luglio e settembreBetween July and September, temperatures are high
CompanyÈ bello passare la serata tra amicheIt’s great to spend the evening among friends

Preposizioni improprie: what are they

Preposizioni improprie are a group of words that can function as a preposition but also as an adverb, conjunction or even adjective, depending on the word. Their exact function derives from context. A lot of words to say something that’s actually pretty common also in English. Think for example to the word “near”, that can either be a preposition, an adverb or an adjective.

  • I’m near the office -> preposition
  • It’s near midnight -> adverb
  • I’m running to the nearest pharmacy -> adjective

Italian has A TON of them, we’ll see the most important in the following chart. Please note that some of them may moreover be paired to a simple preposition.

The complete Italian prepositions chart

You can’t get enough prepositions in your life? Check this complete Italian prepositions chart including both simple prepositions and the extremely helpful preposizioni improprie.

Woman studying the complete Italian prepositions chart.

DiOf, at, from, by, then, etcdeedˈi
AAt, to, for, upon, by, etcahˈaː
DaFrom, at, since, etcdahdˈa
InIn, at, into, toeenˈiːn
ConWith, by, despiteconkˈon
SuOn, upon, about, out ofsoosˈu
PerTo, for, because of, through, towards, etcpeh-rpˈer
Tra / fraBetween, among, withintrah / frahtrˈa / frˈa
DavantiIn front of, ahead ofdah-vah-nteedavˈantɪ
SopraAbove, upon, onsoh-prahsˈopra
VicinoNext to, nearvee-chee-nohvit͡ʃˈino
DentroInside, intoden-trohdˈentro

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