We have talked about the prepositions in and a separately in previous lessons. Let's finally talk about when to use the preposition in and when to use a when referring to places like cities, countries, continents, regions, etc. This is tricky for lots of us, and it's easy to make mistakes.
If you are subscribed to Yabla, you will want to check out these two lessons on this topic:
We generally use the preposition a (to, at) with names of cities and minor islands.
Bologna is a city, so we use a.
Perché è partito da Roma ed è arrivato qui a Bologna.
Because it left from Rome and it arrived here in Bologna.
Caption 17, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 2Play Caption
Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?
For example: "When are you going to Bologna?"
Caption 26, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 1Play Caption
In Toscana, come in altre regioni d'Italia, molte famiglie hanno degli ulivi di loro proprietà.
In Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy, many families have olive trees of their own.
Captions 1-2, L'olio extravergine di oliva Il frantoioPlay Caption
Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.
Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.
Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'aperitivoPlay Caption
Africa is a continent, so we use in.
Vorrei tanto andare in Africa.
I would very much like to go to Africa.Play Caption
Canada is a country, so we use in.
Nicole Kidman è venuta una volta a provare, poi altre due volte siamo andati noi in Canada,
Nicole Kidman came once for a fitting, then we went two more times to Canada,
Captions 31-32, That's Italy Episode 2 - Part 4Play Caption
Sometimes a city and a state or country will have the same name, so it can get confusing.
La città di New York è nello stato di New York (New York City is in New York State).
So If I am planning to go on vacation to visit New York City, I might say:
Vado a New York per le vacanze di Natale (I'm going to New York for the Christmas vacation).
In Italian it's clear that I mean the city because I am using a as a preposition, but in English, we have to guess, or specify. New York, in this case, is a city. But New York is also a state. Since it's easy to get confused, Americans will usually specify if they're not talking about the city, and will say New York State. If we translate that into Italian, it will be lo Stato di New York.
Buffalo è in New York (Buffalo is in New York State).
L'empire state building è a New York [City] (the Empire State Building is in New York [City]).
Someone who has family on Long Island will still say New York as if it were the city. The airport is certainly in the city, at least officially. And incidentally, Long Island is a relatively small island, so we would say:
Ho vissuto a Long Island per sedici anni (I lived on Long Island for sixteen years).
Sei mai stato a Parigi (have you ever been to Paris)?
Sei mai stata in Francia (have you ever been to France)?
Vivo a Vienna (I live in Vienna).
Un mio cugino è appena andato in Giappone (a cousin of mine just went to Japan) ma non andrà a Tokyo (but he isn't going to Tokyo).
Quasi quasi mi trasferisco in Nuova Zelanda (I might just move to New Zealand).
Da dieci anni vivo a Como, in Lombardia. (I've been living in Como, in Lombardy, for ten years).
Arianna ha studiato in Inghilterra per qualche anno. Arianna studied in London for a couple of years.
Since the United States is a coveted destination for Italian tourists, at least in normal times, it's important to know how to refer to that country in Italian, and what prepositions to use.
When we say the name of this country, we include the article "the." The United States of America. So when we use the proper Italian preposition (in since we are talking about a nation), we have to modify it to include the definite article:
Vado negli Stati Uniti [d'America]. (I'm going to the United States [of America].
The d'America part is usually left out in both Italian and English, and to make it even easier, Italians also often just say America to mean the United States.
Vado in America per le vacanze (I'm going to America for the vacation).
Some Italians use USA as a word and pronounce it as they see it. For example, here is a headline from Google. It may or may not be correct, but you will hear it said plenty of times:
Come trovare un lavoro negli USA (how to find work in the USA)?
Remember that in contrast to English where "in," "to," and "at" are entirely different, Italian uses the same preposition (be it a or in) to mean any or all of these.
Please let us know what cities, countries or other places you are confused about when using Italian prepositions, and we will answer as soon as we can.