Italian Lessons

Topics

Lessons for topic Prepositions

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

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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 2

 Play Caption

 

Per esempio: quando vai a Bologna?

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

Caption 26, Marika spiega La particella CI - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

 

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, 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 frantoio

 Play Caption

 

Valdobbiadene è in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene is in the Veneto region.

Caption 13, Corso di italiano con Daniela L'aperitivo

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 2

 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 4

 Play 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).

 

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 London 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.

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

Using 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

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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, soprattutto per i ragazzi, i ragazzi più giovani, e anche quelli meno giovani, che amano ritrovarsi qui, eh, parlare, bere qualcosa al bar.

And during the summer, the port of Maratea becomes a meeting place, above all for the kids, the younger kids, and also the not-so-young ones, who love to meet up here, um, to chat, have a drink at the bar.

Captions 13-15, Milena al porto di Maratea

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

 

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... e facciamo le stesse cose.

In fact, we talk [in] the same way... and do the same things.

Captions 5-6, Amiche sulla spiaggia

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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. Sì, agli amici.

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

Captions 25-26, Il Commissario Manara S2EP10 -La verità nascosta - Part 5

 Play Caption

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

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Practice:

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 newsletter@yabla.com

Continue Reading

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. 

Places

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)!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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, uscire con gli amici, andare a vedere qualche bel film al cinema e fare molto sport.

Valdi and I like to go dancing at night, going out with our friends, going to see a good film at the movies and playing a lot of sports.

Captions 17-20, Adriano la sua ragazza

 Play Caption

 

Dall'Umbria alla Toscana, il passo è breve.

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

Caption 2, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie EP. 4 - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

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.

Time

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

Play Caption

 

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, a mezzogiorno si mangiava: il primo, la carne, il contorno e la frutta,

I remember that at my house we'd eat, then, the, at noon we'd eat: the first course, meat, vegetable and fruit,

Captions 33-35, L'arte della cucina La Prima Identitá - Part 14

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

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

Sembrava che la nebbia ci fosse anche a Ferragosto.

It seemed as though there was fog even at/on Ferragosto (national holiday on August 15th).

Caption 26, L'arte della cucina L'Epoca delle Piccole Rivoluzioni - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

E si possono pagare con varie rate, anche non tutte insieme. Varie rate che scadono ogni semestre, perché l'anno dell'u'... l'anno in cui si frequenta l'università è diviso in due semestri. -Il primo che va da settembre a gennaio, e il secondo, va da? -Il secondo va da febbraio a luglio.

And you can pay in various installments, not all at once. Different installments that are due every semester, because the school year... the year in which you attend university is divided into two semesters. -The first that goes from September to January, and the second, goes from? -The second goes from February to July.

Captions 18-22, Serena sistema universitario italiano

 Play Caption

 

How?

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

Well I don't have a formula, look, I go... I go along very much by instinct.

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

 Play Caption

 

Expressions

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

 Play Caption

 

In ogni caso, anche se sapevo che era veramente una cosa folle, ho deciso di prendere Ulisse,

In any case, even though I knew it was really a crazy thing, I decided to take Ulisse,

Captions 28-29, Andromeda La storia di Ulisse

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

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

Continue Reading

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 - Part 1

Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

 Play Caption

 

The seasons

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

Probabilmente preferirei una bella vacanza in montagna, allora. Un po' d'aria fresca, i boschi, i ruscelli. -Eh be', qualcosa della montagna piace anche a me. Ad esempio, in autunno, andare a prendere i funghi.

I'd probably rather have a nice vacation in the mountains, then. A bit of fresh air, the woods, streams. -Oh well, I like some things about the mountains too. For example, in autumn, going to get mushrooms.

Captions 21-24, Escursione Un picnic in campagna - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

These prepositions merit a lesson of their own, so stay tuned!

Continue Reading

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. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Verbs that take di before a verb in the infinitive:

Let's start with an example. 

 

Ti ho portato il millefoglie. Mentre lo mangi, io finisco di prepararmi e poi usciamo, eh?

I brought you a millefeuille. While you're eating it, I'll finish getting ready and then we'll leave, huh?

Captions 18-20, La Ladra Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 13

 Play Caption

 

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, ha deciso di trascorrere le sue vacanze estive in Italia, dove ha la possibilità di comunicare, conversare con i miei amici, i miei familiari, i miei parenti e di conoscere più a fondo la vera cultura italiana e la vera cultura della Sicilia, la regione da cui io provengo.

Anita, in order to improve her level of Italian decided to spend her summer vacations in Italy, where she has the possibility of communicating, conversing with my friends, my family, my relatives, and to get a deeper understanding of the true Italian culture and the true culture of Sicily, the region I come from.

Captions 36-41, Adriano Adriano e Anita

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

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 - Part 15

 Play Caption

 

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)!

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

If you're not signed up to receive our weekly newsletter announcing new videos and new lessons, you can do that here.

Continue Reading