Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Prepositions

2 kinds of prepositions and articles combined

In this lesson, we're going to try to clear up something that can be confusing: two combinations of a preposition and article that look alike but have different meanings and functions. You can get by just fine not knowing the names of these grammatical elements, but knowing how they work and when to use them can help you figure out what's going on in an Italian conversation.



1) Preposizione articolata (articulated preposition)


You might already know that in Italian, instead of saying di il paese (of the town), you say del paese (of the town). In other words, the preposition di (of) gets combined, in a special way, with the definite article il (the). It turns into del (of the). This is called una preposizione articolata (an articled preposition).


As with English, what follows a preposition is usually an indirect object. See our lesson about la preposizione articolata or search the topic preposizioni articolate in the lessons tab. 


Here, the important word in the combination is the preposition. The article just goes with the noun.

Sa, la banda del paese si riunisce qui per provare.

You know, the band of the town gets together here to rehearse.

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 2

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If the indirect object is feminine, then the preposizione articolata changes according to gender and number, just like a definite article would:

Sì, si chiamava Lorenzo Poggiali, trent'anni, primo clarinetto della banda,

Yes, his name was Lorenzo Poggiali, thirty years old, first clarinet of the band.

Caption 20, Il Commissario Manara S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu - Part 2

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If you have been following Yabla videos, or have watched Italian movies and TV shows, you have witnessed this phenomenon hundreds of times. And It works with other prepositions, too, such as in (to, at, in), a (to, in, at), da (from, since, at), and su (on, above).  


2) Articolo partitivo


There is another way we combine a preposition with an article, but here, the meaning is different, as well as the purpose. Perhaps the easiest way to think of this is that it often means "some." In short, it's a way to talk about an imprecise quantity of something.


What's different from the preposizione articolata?


a) For one thing, with the articolo partitivo, the only preposition that is used is di (of). It's combined with a definite article (in all its forms):

del, dell', dello, dei, della, delle, degli.


b) What follows the articolo partitivo is not an indirect object but a direct object. Hai dei soldi per fare la spesa (do you have some money for the grocery shopping)? 


c) If you just use a plain definite article, the sentence still functions grammatically.


d) You can replace the articolo partitivo with un po' di  (a little, a bit of), or alcuni/alcune (some, several).


Here's an example where Adriano uses un po' di

Aggiungiamo un po' di parmigiano grattugiato.

We'll add a bit of grated Parmesan.

Caption 46, Adriano Spaghetti pomodoro e aglio

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But he could have used del.  

Aggiungiamo del parmigiano grattugiato.


Here, Adriano does use del, but he could have said un po' di sale

Quando l'acqua bollirà, potrò aggiungere del sale.

When the water boils, I can add some salt.

Caption 34, Adriano Spaghetti pomodoro e aglio

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Taglio del pane e poi, e poi forse un bicchiere di vino prima?

I'll cut some bread and then, maybe a glass of wine beforehand?

Caption 6, Escursione Un picnic in campagna - Part 3

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Here's an example in the plural where Andromeda is talking about her dog. 

Mi hanno portato una casetta, mi hanno portato delle coperte...

They brought me a little house, they brought me some blankets...

Caption 36, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

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So to test the meaning, we can use alcune or alcuni. They both mean "some" but can also mean "a few" or "several." So Andromeda could have said:

Mi hanno portato una casetta, mi hanno portato alcune coperte...


We hope this sheds some light on this sometimes confusing aspect of the Italian language. 


Keep in mind that sometimes, in English, we don't bother to say "some" if it isn't necessary, but as with articles, Italians tend to use a partitive article more often than we would think. To boost your Italian skills, try paying special attention to partitive articles this week as you watch Yabla videos. Feel free to bring them to the attention of fellow learners in a comment to the video. 

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Sotto and Its Common Uses


Let's talk about a word that is used a lot in Italian to mean more than its one-word, traditional translation. We're talking about sotto (under, underneath, below). Not only is it a preposition, but it's also an adverb and sometimes a noun. It can combine with other words to take on a new meaning, and in this lesson, we will just mention a few of the common ways it's used to mean something different than what we might expect.


Sotto can mean "down" 

Sotto is often preceded by qua, qui, or là when indicating something either close by or further away, but in a downward direction.


E qua sotto c'è il fiume Tevere.

And down here is the river Tiber.

Caption 19, Anna e Marika - Trattoria Al Biondo Tevere

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When we talk about the stories or floors in a building or house, we can use sotto to indicate a lower floor. Usually, in this context, it's preceded by di (of).


Andiamo giù a vedere che cosa c'è al piano di sotto.

Let's go down to see what's on the lower floor.

Caption 23, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze

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When you want to talk about downstairs, you can also use sotto.


Ah, perché non è di sotto?

Ah, because she's not downstairs?

Caption 4, Sposami - EP 4 - Part 9

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Vai di sotto!

Go downstairs


In front of

Sometimes sotto means "in front of," usually referring to a house, a building, or... one's nose. Lots of people live on the upper floors of apartment buildings, so you have to go down to get to the front of the building.


Appena ha visto i carabinieri sotto casa Sua,

As soon as you saw the carabinieri in front of your house,

se n'è scappato tipo "Fuga di mezzanotte".

you ran away, "Midnight Express" style.

Captions 8-9, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore - S1 EP2 Come piante fra sassi

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Sotto il profilo

Sotto il profilo is used to mean something to the effect of "in terms of" or "as regards." Il profilo is a true cognate and friend of "the profile," but it's used figuratively here.


Rita abbia dedicato la sua vita a fare crescere la sua anima

Rita devoted her life to nurturing her soul,

e non soltanto sotto il profilo della ricerca scientifica, eh.

and not only in terms of her scientific research, uh.

and not only as regards her scientific research, uh.

Captions 41-43, Illuminate - Rita Levi Montalcini

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On hand

Here, the Italian expression uses the preposition sotto, but the English one uses the preposition "on."


Eh... eh, non è questione di non avere nessuno sottomano,

Uh... uh, it's not a question of not having anyone on hand,

è che è molto difficile trovare la donna giusta.

it's that it's very difficult to find the right woman.

Captions 28-29, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro

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Sottomano can also mean "handy," or "close by."

Non ho il numero sottomano ma lo posso cercare nella rubrica.

I don't have the number handy, but I can look it up in my address book.


Sotto as a noun

When you are talking about a 2-piece outfit, such as pyjamas, bikini, or athletic wear, you can refer to the bottoms as il sotto (the bottom part).


We have just scratched the surface of sotto but if you absorb all these meanings (or even one or two), you will be one step closer to becoming fluent.


Why not check out Marika's video about adverbs of place (avverbi di luogo)? Attenzione: Sometimes what are considered adverbs in Italian might be considered prepositions in English.


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The indispensable preposition di

The preposition di is one of the most common prepositions in the Italian language. Its basic definition, or rather, translation, is "of."


The title of a Yabla video about the famous Olivetti typewriter is La forza di un sogno. Here we can translate directly: "The strength of a dream."


Di = "of" in many cases.


One way di is used is to show the purpose of something. In this case, we might have two nouns separated by di (of) After di, we don't need the article of the noun, when we are referring to purpose, although there may be exceptions to this.



A scuola di musica is the title of a series of videos about what the musical notes are called in Italian. If you like to play music, this might interest you.


In English, we can say "school of music" or we can say "music school." They mean the same thing. In Italian, we don't have the choice, except in some certain circumstances we won't worry about just now.


Just as we have la scuola di musica, where di means "of,"  we can guess the meaning of other, similar series of words connected by di.


un negozio di vino - wine shop

un museo di arte moderna - modern art museum or, museum of modern art

una casa di caccia - hunting lodge

uno studio di registrazione - recording studioun 

un professore di storia - history professor


In English, we can often use a noun as an adjective as in "wine shop," but in Italian we start with "shop" (negozio) and add di plus the kind of shop it is, also a noun.


Apostrophe for possession in English, but not in Italian

To show possession in English, we sometimes use the apostrophe, which we don't use in Italian. To translate in a parallel way, we have to turn the phrase around in English and imagine using "of," even though to use it sounds kind of awkward. 


For example, one Yabla video is called Battesimo di Philip.  In English, we could say, "Philip's baptism," but in Italian this form doesn't exist. We need di. In the caption itself, we've used the same formula for the English translation. It could have been: "my son Philip's baptism."

La... il battesimo di mio figlio Philip.

The... the baptism of my son Philip.

Caption 17, Adriano Battesimo di Philip - Part 1

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Sometimes di means "from"

One the first things we learn in a new language is to say where we're from, because inevitabilmente (inevitably), we'll be asked that. 


The basic question is: di dove sei  (where are you from)?  For this we use the verb  essere (to be).

"Di dove sei" è una domanda che io faccio per chiedere a una persona dov'è nata, l'origine.

Where are you from is a question I ask to ask a person where he was born, his origins.

Captions 9-10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Preposizioni in e a

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Note that di is at the beginning of the question. For the answer, we start with the verb (with the personal pronoun incorporated into it). Di by itself works for towns and cities. States, regions, and countries can be more complicated but we won't worry about that right now.

Sono di New York (I'm from New York).


Di  can mean "at" regarding time.

Di can mean "at" when we're talking about night and day, morning, afternoon, or evening:

eh... cucinando di notte, perché sennò di giorno fa caldo,

uh... cooking at night because otherwise it's too hot during the day,

Caption 68, Cucinare con le spezie di Franco Calafatti Introduzione

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Di  can mean "about" 

Racconta la storia di un burattino di legno

It tells the story of a wooden puppet

Caption 31, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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We could say, "Pinocchio is a story about a wooden puppet."


There are other ways in which we use di, too many to list here. But we will close with a few common ways to say, "You're welcome" with di.


If you want to minimize what you did for someone, you can say:

Di niente (it was nothing).

Di nulla (it was nothing).

Non c'è di che (there's nothing [to thank me] for).


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What does su mean?

Let's have a look at the preposition su. Its most common meaning in English is "on." As Marika has been explaining in video lessons such as this one, the simple preposition su can be combined with a definite article — in Italian, there are several forms, based on gender and quantity — to become a preposizione articolata (a preposition combined with a definite article — ("the" in English).


So to say, "on the table," instead of saying su il tavolo, we say sul tavolo. The preposition and definite article combine into one word.

Aspettate, lascio il libro sul tavolo

Wait, I'll leave the book on the table

Caption 3, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il futuro - Part 4

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This process is similar for all the different forms of definite articles in Italian.

sul = su + il

sull' = su + l'

...nubi invece sull'Umbria e sulle zone interne della Toscana.

...clouds, instead, in Umbria and in the inland areas of Tuscany.

Caption 63, Anna e Marika in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo - Part 2

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sulla =  su + la

Allora, siamo qui con la nostra? -Chiara. Che ci risponderà a un po' di domande sulla mozzarella di bufala.

So, we're here with our... -Chiara. Who will answer a few of our questions about buffalo mozzarella.

Captions 1-2, Anna e Marika La mozzarella di bufala - La produzione e i tagli - Part 2

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sullo = su + lo


Sullo sfondo potete vedere il Vesuvio

In the background, you can see Vesuvius

Caption 4, Escursioni Campane Castello Normanno - Part 1

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sui = su + i

Allora, questa lista la scriviamo tutti insieme, io alla lavagna e voi sui quaderni.

So, this list we'll all write together, I on the blackboard and you in your notebooks.

Captions 10-11, Corso di italiano con Daniela Il condizionale - Part 5

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sugli = su + gli

Multiple meanings of su


Just as in English, prepositions often have multiple meanings and su is no exception.

Su can mean "on," but also "in," sometimes:

L'ho letto sul giornale.

I read about it in the newspaper.

Caption 22, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 10

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Su often means "about."

E vi racconto qualche storia semplice sul gelato, ma molto interessante.

And I'll tell you a few simple stories about ice cream, but very interesting.

Caption 10, Andromeda in - Storia del gelato - Part 1

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Note that sometimes definite articles are used in Italian but not in English, as in the example above.


Su can mean "out of," as in the following example:

Nove volte su dieci lo fa perché ha qualcosa da nascondere.

Nine times out of ten, he does it because he has something to hide.

Caption 25, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso - Part 19

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An expression with su


A good expression to know is sul serio (seriously)?

Sul serio?


Caption 4, Marika spiega La formazione degli aggettivi

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It can also be interpreted as "for real."

Però voglio dirti una cosa, questa è importante sul serio.

But I want to tell you something. This is important for real.

Caption 45, Francesca Cavalli - Part 1

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Being approximate

Another way we use the preposition su is to give an approximate time, weight, or age.

Arriverò sul presto (I'll get there on the early side).

Aveva sui cinquant'anni (he was around fifty years old).


Note that in this lesson, we talked about the preposition su, but su is also an adverb meaning up, upwards. We'll talk about that in a future lesson.

Maybe you have seen or heard other uses of su we didn't mention here. Let us know!

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Combining the preposition di with a definite article

The preposition di (of) is one of the most common simple prepositions. It's used to show possession, but also means, origin, manner, quantity. Take a look at the WordReference entry to get an idea.


The simple preposition di can be combined with an article to form what is called una preposizione articolata. In doing this, it is transformed a bit, so this is just something we need to learn. Marika has a video series about the prepositions, and begins with the common preposition di. In this lesson we will set out to put things in a visual context with a list of how di can combine with definite articles, and we'll give you some examples from Yabla videos, so you can hear them in context.



Here is how we combine the preposition di with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"): The main thing to notice is that the i in di is transformed in e.

di + il = del

di + lo = dello

di + l’ = dell’

di + la = della

di + i = dei

di + gli = degli

di + le = delle



Let's look at each combination in context:

Del is the combination of the preposition di and the definite article il.

It will usually precede a masculine noun or the adjective that describes it.

In tutte le città del mondo ci sono ristoranti italiani.

In all the cities of the world, there are Italian restaurants.

Caption 8, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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In the following example, note that before the noun there is an adjective, famoso (famous) which also agrees with the masculine noun. 

Pinocchio è il protagonista del famoso romanzo dell'autore Collodi:

Pinocchio is the main character of the famous novel by the author Collodi:

Caption 29, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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Dello is the combination of the preposition di and the masculine singular definite article lo. Note that there are two L's!

Note that there is another example of dello in the title of the episode. Translated it would be: The shark's gold.

Chi ha aggiustato la porta dello spogliatoio?

Who fixed the door of the locker room?

Caption 30, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 13

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In the following example, even though we say il colore, not lo colore,  we do use di plus the definite article lo and it becomes dello. This is because before the noun, we have the adjective stesso which begins with an s + the consonant t. So we need the definite article lo. Like when we say: È lo stesso (It's all the same). That's something to remember. Later in this lesson, we will look at a similar construction with a feminine noun.

E una bella borsa dello stesso colore.

And a nice handbag of the same color.

Caption 37, Corso di italiano con Daniela I colori - Part 3

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Dell' is the combination of the preposition di and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.

Le pulizie della casa, dell'appartamento si chiamano anche "faccende domestiche" oppure "pulizie casalinghe".

The cleaning of the house, of the apartment, is also called "housework" or "household cleaning."

Captions 32-33, Marika spiega Le pulizie di primavera - Part 1

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Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  It's a truncated version of della, which we'll look at next.This can be a headache for learners:

Io mi occupo della contabilità dell'azienda.

I take care of the accounts of the business.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne - Part 3

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Della is the combination of the preposition di and the feminine singular definite article la. Just like dello, we double the L.

La grande tragedia della guerra lascia memorie che non si cancellano.

The great tragedy of the war leaves memories that don't get erased.

Caption 43, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 5

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Now let's move on to di plus a plural definite article.

Dei is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article i.

Da quando in qua un uomo si deve occupare dei neonati?

Since when should a man have to take care of [the] newborns?

Caption 16, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 12

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Note that Italian uses the definite article, where in English, none is necessary. This is common and takes some effort in getting used to it.


In the next example, we have the combined preposition followed by the possessive pronoun miei (the plural masculine form of mio).  Here too, the article is there (attached to di = dei ).

È una ricetta dei miei nonni che coltivavano le arance di Sicilia.

It's a recipe from my grandparents, who cultivated Sicilian oranges.

Caption 12, Adriano L'arancello di Marina

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Degli is the combination of the preposition di and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Degli is hard to pronounce for lots of folks. Here, too, the definite article is included, while English leaves it out.

Pensate che il novanta percento degli italiani beve caffè quotidianamente.

Just think that ninety percent of Italians drink coffee on a daily basis.

Caption 7, Adriano Il caffè

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Delle is the combination of the preposition di and the plural feminine definite article le.

Sarà la forma delle note a stabilire qual è la durata dei suoni,

It's the shape of the notes that determines the duration of the sounds,

Caption 37, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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If you look at the transcript of just about any video, you will be able to pick out several examples of these preposizioni articolate. Look for common phrases and start repeating them, getting them into your repertoire.  


For other preposizioni articolate, check out:

Combining the preposition a with a definite article

Combining the preposition in with a definite article


Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at

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Presso Answers the Question Dove (Where)?

If you hang out in Italy for even just a visit, you are likely to see the word presso written somewhere, and you may or may not hear it. It's not all that easy to figure out, so let's take a look.


These days most folks use email to communicate, rather than mailing letters. This avoids, in many cases, needing to write your address anywhere, except possibly on an immigration form at the airport. But if you do have to write down where you are staying, for example, then you might need presso. One of its very basic meanings is "at" or "in." But that isn't very helpful since we use these prepositions in so many ways.


If, for instance, I am staying at the Hotel Verdi, in Pisa, then I might use presso. It's not my house, but that's where I am temporarily lodged. One dictionary gives this definition for presso:

indica un indirizzo preciso ma non specificato

(it indicates a precise, but not specified address).



Presso is a preposition, and we can use it to mean in casa di (at the home of), the equivalent of: "in care of," or "c/o," as you would write when addressing an envelope. Maybe you are writing to an exchange student friend staying at the home of a family in Tuscany.

Signorina Giovanna Bossi

     presso la famiglia Bianchi

via Verdi, 4

56036 Forcoli PI


Biancaneve vive presso i sette nani nel bosco.

Snow White lives with the seven dwarfs in the wood.

Caption 11, Ti racconto una fiaba - Biancaneve

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We immediately visualize that Snow White is staying with the dwarfs, or that she is staying at the home of the dwarfs.


1) Your friend is in the hospital and someone asks you where, for example: (dov'è ricoverato Giacomo?): How could you answer?


We can use it to mean "in a place," for example, where you work.


Ciao ragazzi, sono Adriano, un ragazzo italiano di ventisette anni

Hi guys! I'm Adriano, an Italian guy of twenty-seven

e lavoro presso un agenzia di programmatori informatici.

and I work at a computer programing agency.

Captions 1-2, Adriano - Giornata

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Adriano is implying that he also works for this agency. He could have said:

Ciao ragazzi, sono Adriano, un ragazzo italiano di ventisette anni e lavoro in un agenzia di programmatori informatici.


Presso is a bit more formal, a bit more refined.


2) Tu dove lavori/studi (where do you work/go to school)?


Arianna and Erica both used presso when talking about where they went to school.


Mi sono laureata presso l'Università di Perugia

I got my degree at the University of Perugia

in Lingue Straniere per la comunicazione internazionale.

in foreign languages for international communications.

Captions 5-6, Arianna spiega - vivere all'estero

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Quindi mi sono iscritta a, all'indirizzo archeologico

So I enrolled in, in the Archeology course of study

presso l'Università di Pisa.

at the University of Pisa.

Captions 10-11, Professioni e mestieri - Erica - archeologa

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Martina is talking about what she would like to do when she finishes her university studies.


Quando finirò i miei studi, vorrei diventare

When I finish my studies, I would like to become

o perito minorile o giudice onorario presso il tribunale per i minori.

either an evaluator of minors, or lay judge at juvenile court.

Captions 28-29, Serena - presenta Martina

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Daniela teaches some video lessons about writing letters, both formal and informal. She describes a letter applying for a job.


Per esempio io, io, Daniela Rossi,

For example, I, I, Daniela Rossi,

sto cercando un lavoro presso la casa editrice Feltrinelli

am looking for a job at the Feltrinelli Publishing House,

e scrivo al dottor Luca Monti, responsabile del personale,

and I am writing to Doctor Luca Monti, Personnel Manager,

per mandare la mia candidatura

to send in my application

e vedere se c'è una possibilità di lavoro per me.

and to see if there is a possibility of a job for me.

Captions 43-47, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Lettera formale

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We can also use it to mean "among," "in," "for," or "with": 

Presso gli Etruschi, l'aldilà era molto importante.

For the Etruscans, the afterlife was very important.


Lui è partito con... diciamo, all'interno del... di questa,

He set off... let's say, at the center of the... of this,

di questo movimento che

of this, of this movement that

fu chiamato la Nouvelle Cuisine,

was called la Nouvelle cuisine,

ma poi, dopo aver fatto, per esempio, esperienze molto intense

but then, after having had, for example, very intensive experiences

presso le cucine orientali e in particolare la... la cucina giapponese,

with Asian cooking, and in particular... Japanese cooking,

la sua attenzione è stata subito attratta da una delle più grandi cucine...

his attention was immediately drawn to one of the greatest cuisines...

Captions 40-45, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni

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Translating presso isn't always easy, but the important thing is to grasp the idea of what it means. 


3) What if I wanted to say that in Italian, we often leave out the personal pronoun?


Presso as "near," "close by," "by"

Another meaning of presso is "near," "by," "close by."


Il sole splende in Val Rendena

The sun shines in the Rendena Valley

illuminando il fianco destro della chiesa di San Vigilio,

illuminating the right side of the church of San Vigilio

presso il cimitero di Pinzolo.

by Pinzolo's cemetery.

Captions 1-3, Itinerari Della Bellezza - Trentino Alto Adige

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4) Dove ci incontriamo Where shall we meet? You can answer by suggesting the bar near the train station, even if you don't know the name of it.


To conclude:

You can get away without using the preposition presso,  but isn't it nice to able to understand it if someone else uses it? And if you do use it, people will be impressed!



Possible solutions:

1) È ricoverato presso l'ospedale XXX.

2a) Lavoro presso una scuola di lingue.

2b) Studio presso l'Università di Firenze.

3) Presso la lingua italiana, si può spesso omettere il pronome personale.

I could also say:

Nella lingua italiana, si può spesso omettere il pronome personale.

4) Ci vediamo nel bar presso la stazione.

Ci vediamo al bar vicino alla stazione.

Ci vediamo al bar all'interno della stazione.

Or in Tuscan Italian:

Ci si vede nel bar...


As always, if you have questions or comments about the lesson, we love to hear from you! Write to us at

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Using Prepositions A and In with Cities and Countries

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:

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 1 of 2

Marika spiega - Le preposizioni di luogo - Part 2 of 2



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

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Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?

For example: "When are you going to Bologna?"

Caption 26, Marika spiega - La particella CI

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We use in with the names of continents, states, nations, regions, and larger islands.


The regions of Italy


In Toscana, come in altre regioni d'Italia,

In Tuscany, as in other regions of Italy,

molte famiglie hanno degli ulivi di loro proprietà.

many families have olive trees of their own.

Captions 1-2, L'olio extravergine di oliva - Il frantoio

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Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.

Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'aperitivo

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Continents, nations

Africa is a continent, so we use in


Vorrei tanto andare in Africa.

I would very much like to go to Africa.

Caption 6, Marika spiega- Le preposizioni di luogo

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Canada is a country, so we use in.


Nicole Kidman è venuta una volta a provare,

Nicole Kidman came once for a fitting,

poi altre due volte siamo andati noi in Canada.

then we went two more times to Canada.

Captions 31-32, That's Italy - Episode 2 - Part 4

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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).


Here are some quick, mixed examples:


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 Japanma 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 England for a couple of years).


The U.S.A.

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.



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Combining the Preposition A with a Definite Article

We have talked about the main uses of the preposition a, and that it can mean "at," "in," or "to," as well as "in the manner of," so in this lesson, we will see how this preposition is transformed when it is followed by a definite article. 


Here is how we combine the preposition a with the various definite articles (that all mean "the"):

a + il = al

a + lo = allo

a + l’ = all’

a + la = alla

a + i = ai

a + gli = agli

a + le = alle



Let's look at each combination in context:

Al is the combination of the preposition a and the definite article il.

It will usually precede a masculine noun or the adjective that describes it.


E durante l'estate, il porto di Maratea diventa un ritrovo,

And during the summer, the port of Maratea becomes a meeting place,

soprattutto per i ragazzi,

above all for the kids,

i ragazzi più giovani, e anche quelli meno giovani,

he younger kids, and also the not-so-young ones,

che amano ritrovarsi qui, eh, parlare, bere qualcosa al bar.

who love to meet up here, um, to chat, have a drink at the bar.

Captions 13-15, Milena - al porto di Maratea

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In the following example, note that before the noun there is a possessive pronoun that has to agree with the noun, as well as an adjective. The two people in the video are probably having a drink together. The clink their glasses and say "to your..." and in this case we use the preposition a.


Allora al tuo prossimo concerto.

To your next concert then.

Caption 22, Milena e Mattia - Al ristorante

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Allo is the combination of the preposition a and the (masculine singular) definite article lo.


Oggi ci troviamo allo stadio comunale Renzo Barbera di Palermo.

Today we're at the municipal stadium Renzo Barbera of Palermo.

Caption 2, Adriano - Forza Palermo

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In the following example, even though we say il modo, not lo modo,  we do use a plus the definite article lo and it becomes allo. This is because first we have the adjective stesso which begins with an s + the consonant t. So we need the definite article lo. Like when we say: È lo stesso (It's all the same). That's something to remember. Later in this lesson we will look at a similar construction with a feminine noun.


Infatti, parliamo allo stesso modo...

In fact, we talk (inthe same way...

e facciamo le stesse cose.

and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche - sulla spiaggia

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All' is the combination of the prepositon a and the singular masculine (and in some cases feminine) definite article l'.


Anche lui all'inizio pensava di essere un uomo libero.

At the beginning he also thought he was a free man.

Caption 13, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara

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Sometimes this same construction turns out to be feminine!  This can be a headache for learners:


All'entrata del Palazzo Vecchio, ci sono due statue.

At the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, there are two statues.

Caption 23, In giro per l'Italia - Firenze

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Alla is the combination of the preposition a and the feminine singular definite article la.

Here is what you say when you want to say, "See you next time!"


Ciao a tutti, alla prossima.

Bye, everyone, see you next time. [literally, "to the next"]

Caption 76, Andromeda - La storia di Ulisse

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If you visit Bologna, you might want to try le tagliatelle alla bolognese.  There is a word that gets left out of this phrase but is implied: la maniera. So it is alla maniera (in the manner of) 

We use alla with an adjective in Italian where in English we might use an adverb or adverbial phrase:

alla cieca (blindly)

alla buona (in a laid back, casual way)


If, instead of saying allo stesso modo, we want to say alla stessa maniera, (which means something similar: "in the same way"), note that even though stessa begins with an s + a consonant, the noun is feminine and so we say la stessa maniera, alla stessa maniera. But if we think about the fact that la stessa is easy to say, and il stesso would be difficult, it makes a certain amount of sense:... it's easier to say. In fact if we think about it, the flow of a language is an important factor in its evolution.


Now we will move on to a plus a plural definite article.

Ai is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article i.


Come tutte le nonne, fa tanti regali ai nipoti.

Like all grandmothers, she gives many presents to her grandchildren.

Caption 28, Adriano - Nonna

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Let's note that lots of times, Italians use a normal definite article, when in English, we would use a possessive adjective (as in the previous example). 

Agli is the combination of the preposition a and the plural masculine definite article gli.

Agli is hard to say for lots of people. And as an aside, agli is also the plural of aglio (garlic). Don't worry. We mostly use aglio (garlic) in the singular, just like in English.


Cristina ci ha detto che qualche suo quadro era riuscito a venderlo.

Cristina told us that you were able to sell a few of his paintings.

Sì, agli amici.

Yes, to friends.

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP10 -La verità nascosta

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Alle is the combination of the preposition a and the plural feminine definite article le.

One important way we use this combination preposition is when talking about time. The hour is said in the plural which makes sense if we think back to times when people would tell time by counting how many times the bell would chime.


La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano - Giornata

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If you look at the transcript of just about any video, you will be able to pick out several examples of these preposizioni articolate. Look for common phrases and start repeating them, getting them into your repertoire.  


Meanwhile, if you have any questions or doubts, write to us at

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Let's Talk about the Italian Preposition A

In a previous lesson we talked about the preposition in, and in a subsequent lesson we talked about how we modify the preposition in when a definite article follows it. The preposition a works in a similar way, and sometimes means the same thing as in, but certainly not always. 


A is used to refer to places, both going somewhere and being somewhere. Sound familiar? Yes. Just like in, a can mean "to" (indicating direction to a place) or "at" (indicating being in a place). Consider this short example.


OK, ho finito. Vado a casa (OK, I'm done. I'm going home).

Che bello! Finalmente sono a casa (How great! I'm finally home)!



Note that if I say sono in casa, I imply that I am inside the house, whereas if I say sono a casa, it might mean I am at home, but outside in the garden!


If we look at the preposition a in the dictionary, there's a long list of meanings, or rather, uses. But in this lesson, we'll look at just a few of the most common ways you need to know how to use this preposition.


We also say a scuola with no article. This is similar to English.


Sono a scuola (I'm at school).

Sto andando a scuola (I'm going to school).


Although these locations without an article are exceptions, they are important ones, since most of us have a home and many of us go to school or have kids or friends who go to school. Another perhaps less crucial one is a teatro ("to" or "at the theater").


In most other cases regarding places, we do need a definite article after the preposition, as in:


A me e a Vladi piace andare a ballare la sera,

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night,

uscire con gli amici,

going out with our friends,

andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema

going to see a good film at the movies

e fare molto sport.

and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano - la sua ragazza

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Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

From Umbria to Tuscany, it's but a short way.

Caption 2, Meraviglie - EP. 4 - Part 6

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Watch this space!

  • In the next lesson we will give you the rundown (with videoclip examples) on how we modify a when followed by a definite article, just as we did with the preposition in. However, even in this lesson, we can't avoid looking at some examples where we do use a definite article.
  • We will also devote a specific lesson to the prickly topic of prepositions preceding cities, states, countries, and regions. Knowing when to use in and when to use a is a common challenge for those of us learning Italian, even if we have lived in Italy for years and years.


But for now, let's look at some other ways we use the preposition a.


We use a to talk about "when" or "until when." 

For example, when we talk about "at what time" something is going to happen, we use a and in this case we use a definite article when talking about "at what time."


La mattina mi sveglio intorno alle otto.

In the morning I wake up at around eight o'clock.

Caption 5, Adriano - Giornata

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Why is it le otto? Isn't that plural? Yes. We use the feminine plural definite article (lebecause there's a "hidden" word: le ore (the hours). Think of a clock striking the hours. So, yes. Time, when considered by the clock, is expressed in the plural, and of course, it takes some getting used to. For more about telling time, see this video from Marika.


But if we are talking about noon or midnight, then it's in the singular and there is no article.


Io mi ricordo che a casa mia si mangiava, allora, il,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the,

a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo,

at noon we'd eat: the first course,

la carne, il contorno e la frutta.

meat, vegetable and fruit.

Captions 33-35, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá

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We also use a when we talk about until what time something will go on.


Sì, ma fino a mezzanotte il commissario sono io.

Yes, but until midnight, I'm the commissioner.

Caption 74, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

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When we mention the months or a holiday, we use a:


Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse

It seemed as though there was fog

anche a Ferragosto.

even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

Caption 26, L'arte della cucina - L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni

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E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once.

Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre,

Different installments that are due every semester,

perché l'anno dell'u'...

because the school year...

l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri.

the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters.

-Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio,

-The first that goes from September to January,

e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena - sistema universitario italiano

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And finally, we use a when we say what something is like, what something is made of, or in what way something is done. We often use "with" for this in English, or we use an adjective. This topic is addressed in the Yabla lesson: A Righe or a Quadretti?


We talk about olio di oliva spremuto a freddo (cold-pressed olive oil).


In the following example, Monica Bellucci is describing how she goes about her career. Note that since istinto (instinct) starts with a vowel, she adds a d to the a!


Ma io non ho una formula, guarda,

Well I don't have a formula, look,

vado a m'... vado avanti molto ad istinto.

I go... I go along very much by instinct.

Caption 47, That's Italy - Episode 1 - Part 3

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Here are two expressions, one with a and one with in, that essentially mean the same thing. You just have to remember which is which. They are worth memorizing.


Ad ogni modo, mi piace tanto.

In any case, I like her a lot.

Caption 36, Adriano - la sua ragazza

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In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing,

ho deciso di prendere Ulisse.

I decided to take Ulisse.

Captions 28-29, Andromeda - La storia di Ulisse

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Looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson. A presto!

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Combining the Preposition In with a Definite Article

We recently talked about the preposition in: what it means and how to use it. While we don't always use an article with the noun following it, we often do. And when we do use in with a definite article, we combine the preposition and the article to form what we call una preposizione articolata (an "articled" preposition). 


Basically, the n, instead of being at the end of the preposition in, gets moved to the beginning of the word and is followed by an e. After that, the ending will change according to the gender and number of the definite article, as well as whether the word following it starts with a vowel.



Here's the list:


(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle


in plus a masculine singular article il


Nel frattempo, riempiamo una pentola d'acqua.

In the meantime, we'll fill a pot with water.

Caption 21, L'Italia a tavola - Penne alla Toma Piemontese

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We say nel because it's il frattempo. But here's a tip. Actually, we rarely say il frattempo. Most of the time you will find the noun frattempo together with the preposition nel. It's curious because the noun frattempo already comes from another preposition fra (between) and the noun tempo (time). In English we can say "in the meantime" or "meanwhile," which mean almost the same thing. But we need to translate both of these as nel frattempo or, alternatively, nel mentre, which means the same thing.


in plus the masculine singular article lo


Questo è fondamentale quando ci si trova

This is fundamental when you find yourself,

appunto nello studio di doppiaggio

in fact, in the dubbing studio

a dover affrontare un, un testo oppure un personaggio.

and need to deal with a script or a character.

Captions 16-17, Arianna e Marika - Il lavoro di doppiatrice

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We say nello because we say lo studio (the studio). So here, you have to pay attention to the first letter of the word following the preposition. It will start with an S plus a consonant, or a Z, and sometimes Y.


Quanti libri hai nello zaino?

How many books do you have in your backpack?

Caption 9, Marika spiega - La particella NE

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Oppure nello yogurt, la mela sciolta diciam'...

Or else in some yogurt, an apple dissolved, let's say...

ridotta a polpa nello yogurt, sempre sul viso, è idratante.

reduced to a pulp in some yogurt, again on the face, is moisturising.

Caption 22, Enea - Mela Part 2

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Il tasto "play" e "pause"

The "play" and "pause" button

si trova esattamente nello stesso punto del pannello di controllo.

is located in exactly the same spot on the control panel.

Captions 15-16, Italian Intro - Serena

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in plus the masculine or feminine singular definite article l'

We use l' when the first letter of the word following the article starts with a vowel. We double the L and add an apostrophe.


Nell'ultimo ventennio,

In the last twenty years,

i coronavirus si sono imposti all'attenzione del mondo

coronaviruses have caught the attention of the entire world

in tre momenti precisi.

in three precise moments.

Captions 27-29, COVID-19 - Domande frequenti

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Allora, può intagliare così,

So, they can make an incision like this,

può intagliare un pomodoro così,

they can cut a notch in a tomato like so,

mettere una pentola d'acqua a bollire

put up a pot of water to boil,

e tenere i pomodori

and keep the tomatoes

nell'acqua bollente per dieci minuti.

in the boiling water for ten minutes.

Captions 10-14, L'Italia a tavola - La pappa al pomodoro

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in plus the feminine singular article la


È da circa otto minuti che i nostri spaghetti

It's been about eight minutes that our spaghetti

stanno cuocendo nella pentola.

has been cooking in the pot.

Caption 38, Adriano - Spaghetti pomodoro e aglio

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in plus the masculine plural definite article i


E due luoghi sacri si trovano proprio nei punti più alti della città.

And two sacred places are found right at the highest points of the city.

Caption 12, Meraviglie - EP. 1 - Part 10

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in plus the feminine plural definite article le


Leonardo, molto spesso, nelle sue opere,

Leonardo, very often in his works,

faceva le figure centrali

made the central figures

quasi fossero delle piramidi

almost as if they were pyramids

e poi i dodici apostoli sono suddivisi in gruppi di tre.

and then, the twelve apostles are divided into groups of three.

Captions 10-13, Meraviglie - EP. 3 - Part 12

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Olivetti è sempre riuscito nelle cose che ha intrapreso.

Olivetti has always succeeded in the things he has undertaken.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2

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In future lessons, we will talk about other preposizioni articolate that follow these same principles.

See this lesson about di (of): 

See this lesson about in (to, in, at). 

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Let's Talk about the Italian Preposition In

One thing that's always tricky when learning a new language is how to use prepositions. We are especially aware of this when we hear Italians speaking English, since they often get prepositions mixed up. 


In your own language you rarely get it wrong. You just know. 

What's confusing for English speakers learning Italian, is that in can translate as different prepositions depending on the situation.


In can mean "in"


Lots of times in means "in."


Buongiorno. Oggi siamo in Toscana.

Hello. Today we're in Tuscany.

Caption 1, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanella

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OK.  "We're in Tuscany - Siamo in Toscana. That's easy, but look at the title of the video. In cucina. In Italian, there is no article in this case, but in English there is. 

Dov'è Arianna (Where is Arianna)?

È in cucina (She's in the kitchen).


The kitchen is a place in the house. The same goes for lots of other places.


  • Il mio capo è in ufficio (My boss is in the office).
  • C'è qualcuno in bagno (There is someone in the bathroom).
  • Ho messo l'acqua in frigo (I put the water in the fridge).
  • Durante la pandemia, sono stata chiusa in casa (During the pandemic, I was stuck in the house).
  • Ho una cyclette in camera (I have an exercise bike in the bedroom).


The following example uses in zona, a great way to say "in the area." You might ask someone on the phone it they are in zona. Then you can meet up! Zone - zona is a nice true cognate, even though we will translate it as "area" in many cases.


Siamo nati qui in zona, in un paese qui vicino di Praia a Mare.

We were born in this area, in the nearby village of Praia a Mare.

Captions 3-4, Gente - al Porto di Maratea

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The seasons

We also use in to mean "in" when talking about the seasons:


Probabilmente preferirei una bella vacanza in montagna, allora.

I'd probably rather have a nice vacation in the mountains, then.

Un po' d'aria fresca, i boschi, i ruscelli.

A bit of fresh air, the woods, streams.

-Eh be', qualcosa della montagna piace anche a me.

-Oh well, I like some things about the mountains too

Ad esempio, in autunno, andare a prendere i funghi.

For example, in autumn, going to get mushrooms.

Captions 21-24, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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We can also note from the previous example that to talk about going on vacation in the mountains, Italians not only leave out the article, they use the singular: "mountain" — montagna. Also, not in the example, Italians use in vacanza to mean "on vacation." They could also say in ferie to mean the same thing.


Andiamo in vacanza la settimana prossima.

Were going on vacation next week.


In can sometimes mean "at"

Lavora in banca (He works at the bank). 

In can sometimes mean "on"

Sono in spiaggia (I'm on the sand by the waterfront)

In can mean "by"


In can mean "by" when we are talking about a means of transportation:


A Parigi ci vai in treno o in aereo (Are you going to Paris by train or by plane)?

Vado al lavoro in bici (I go to work by bike) ma quando piove vado in macchina (but when it rains I go by car).


In can mean "to"

This is where it gets tricky because Italians use in when they are going someplace but they use the same preposition when they are already there!


Devo andare in banca (I have to go to the bank).

Non posso parlare al telefono perché sono in banca (I can't talk on the phone because I'm at the bank).

Le donne anziane del villaggio vanno in chiesa tutte le sere (The elderly women of the village go to church every evening).

Quando sono in chiesa, mi copro le spalle (When I am in a church, I cover my shoulders).


All the cases above have in common the absence of an article between the preposition in and the noun following it. They mostly have to do with places, seasons, or means of transportation.


In followed by an article

But sometimes we do need need an article, for example:

in un attimo (in an instant)


When we have an indefinite article following in, both the preposition in (in, at, by, to) and the indefinite article un or una (a) stay separate and intact.

However when in is followed by a definite article in the singular or plural, the in gets combined with the article as follows: 

(in + il) nel 

(in + lo) nello 

(in + l') nell' 

(in + la) nella 

(in + i) nei 

(in + le) nelle 


Ciao ragazzi e benvenuti nella mia cucina.

Hi guys and welcome to my kitchen.

Caption 1, Adriano - Pasta alla carbonara

 Play Caption


These prepositions are called preposizioni articolate and merit a lesson of their own, so stay tuned!

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Combining Conjugated Verbs and Infinitives Part 3

We've been looking at conjugated verbs followed by verbs in the infinitive. Some can be connected directly as we saw in Part 1, some are connected with the preposition a, as we saw in Part 2, and others are connected with the preposition di, which we will look at in this lesson. 


Verbs that take di before a verb in the infinitive:

Let's start with an example. 


Ti ho portato il millefoglie.

I brought you a millefeuille.

Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi

While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready

e poi usciamo, eh?

and then we'll leave, huh?

Captions 18-20, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti

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Finisco is the conjugated verb (finire) and preparare is in the infinitive. We have the formula: conjugated verb + di + verb in the infinitive. Attenzione: The verb preparare is attached to the personal pronoun mi (myself) because in this case, the verb prepararsi is reflexive and means "to get [oneself] ready." 


One important verb we use with the preposition di is decidere (to decide).


Anita, per migliorare il suo livello di italiano,

Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian

ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia,

decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy,

dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare

where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing

con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti

with my friends, my family, my relatives,

e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana

and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture

e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.

and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.

Captions 36-41, Adriano - Adriano e Anita

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There are plenty of important and useful verbs that take the preposition di before the infinitive, and you can find a list here, but here are a few more examples from Yabla videos:


Oppure: chiudo l'ombrello, perché ha smesso di piovere.

Or else, “I close the umbrella because it has stopped raining.”

Caption 7, Marika spiega - Il verbo chiudere

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Let's remember that although cercare basically means "to look for," "to seek," it also means "to try" or, we could say, "to seek to." We use the preposition di in this case.


Quando vai in paese, cerca di scoprire qualcosa di interessante.

When you go into town try to find out something interesting.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP7 - Alta società

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Another great verb is credere, which basically means "to believe," but when it's used in conjunction with a verb in the infinitive, we often translate it with "to think," as in:


Ferma! Sta ferma! Dove credi di andare?

Stop! Stand still! Where do you think you're going?

Captions 46-47, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale

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In fact, you could say the exact same thing with the verb pensare, which also takes the preposition di before an infinitive. 

Dove pensi di andare?


Sperare is another great verb that works the same way, and to close, we'll say:

Speriamo di vedervi presto su Yabla (we hope to see you soon on Yabla)!



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