Italian/Prepositions

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Prepositions / Preposizioni[edit]

The "standard" prepositions that are taught at school are

  • di ('of', 'belonging to'; used in place of the English genitive)
  • a ('to')
  • da ('from', 'by')
  • in ('in', 'on' with abstract nouns)
  • con ('with')
  • su ('on')
  • per ('for', 'in order to')
  • tra ('among', 'between')
  • fra ('among', 'between')

Remember that the above translations into English are only approximate. bravo in matematica obviously translates into English as good at mathematics and not good in mathematics.

When prepositions are used together with definite articles, the preposition and the article are sometimes condensed into a single word. For example, "of the student" becomes "dello studente" and not "di lo studente".

More specifically, the following table lists all the possible combinations (except those not in common use today).

il lo la i gli le
di del dello della dei degli delle
a al allo alla ai agli alle
da dal dallo dalla dai dagli dalle
in nel nello nella nei negli nelle
su sul sullo sulla sui sugli sulle

Please note that using these combinations is mandatory: you cannot choose to use plain preposition + article instead. Con, per, tra/fra and all other prepositions don't have contracted forms, they simply use preposition + article. Originally con and per also had contracted forms (col, collo, etc. and pel, pella, etc.) but these are never used anymore (with the exception col (= con + il) which is still occasionally found).

The prepositions di and da may take an apostrophe and become d' before a vowel. Examples where this is the rule, and not simply a matter of personal preference, are

  • d'altra parte, lit. "from other side", meaning "on the other hand"
  • d'altro canto, lit. "from other place", as above
  • d'altri, "of others" (but di altri is acceptable)
  • d'oro, "made of gold", "golden"
  • d'argento, "made of silver"
  • d'oltreoceano, d'oltralpe, etc.

For euphonic reasons, the proposition a usually becomes ad before a vowel, though this is not mandatory. When the vowel following the preposition is another 'a', using ad can probably be considered mandatory. Examples: ad altri (to others), ad essere or a essere (to be), ad oltranza or a oltranza (ad libitum).

Historically, per has been a combinable preposition (with combined forms pel, pello, pella, pei, pegli, pelle), but this usage is never encountered in contemporary prose, even though it is still present in the dialects of Tuscany.