Italian Lessons


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. 

Making It Happen

Fare (to make) is a verb for getting things done. It’s about as universal in Italian as “get” (or “have”) is in English and frequently means about the same thing. 

Here, fare really does mean “to make”:


Eccolo. Questo è il vino che faccio con mio nonno.

Here it is. This is the wine I make with my grandfather.

Captions 7-8, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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Fare used simply, as in the above example, indicates you are doing the work. If, instead of doing something yourself, you have it done by someone else, you’ll generally use fare plus the verb in the infinitive:


Se vuole, La faccio accompagnare da uno dei miei ragazzi.

If you'd like, I'll have one of my guys accompany you.

Caption 19, Una gita - al lago

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When you need to borrow something, fare loans itself to you because there’s no single word in Italian that means “to borrow.” You need to “get something lent to you,” so you use the verb prestare (to lend) but you turn it around using fare, plus, depending on whom you are talking about, the appropriate reflexive personal pronoun.


La mia dolce Ninetta riceve anche la visita di Pippo,

My sweet Ninetta also gets a visit from Pippo,

un altro servitore di Casa Vingradito,

another servant from the Vingradito home,

e riesce a farsi prestare da Pippo alcune monete.

and is able to borrow a few coins from Pippo.

Captions 11-13, Anna e Marika - in La Gazza Ladra

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The same idea holds for showing something to someone: you need to “make them see it.”


Adesso vi farò vedere alcuni piatti di semplice realizzazione

Now I'm going to show you some dishes that are simple to make

Caption 3, Ricette dolci - Crème brûlée alla banana

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Fare can also be intended as “get,” “have,” or “let,” depending on the context. Here, fare is used in a command:


Fammi uscire! Ehi, fammi uscire!

Let me out! Hey, let me out!

Captions 52-53, Acqua in bocca - Mp3 Marino

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There’s lots more to say about fare, but for now, when you tune into Yabla, try to start noticing how people talk about getting things done using this catch-all word. To get more acquainted with fare, have a look here and here.



Learning suggestion:

Think about some things you would like to get done (or have already had done). Here are some ideas to work with. Try turning them into questions or changing the person, tense, subject, object, or verb, or you can make up your own sentences from scratch.

Faccio sempre pulire la casa da professionisti.

I always have the house cleaned by professionals.

Facciamo riparare la nostra macchina dal meccanico in paese.

We get our car repaired by the mechanic in town.

Mi sono fatta fare un tatuaggio.

I got a tattoo. (This is a woman speaking. A man would say, Mi sono fatto fare un tatuaggio.)

Vorrei farmi fare un vestito da una sarta.

I’d like to get a dress made for me by a seamstress.

Non mi lavo i capelli da sola.  Li faccio lavare dalla parrucchiera.

I don’t wash my own hair. I get it washed at the hairdresser’s.

Ti voglio fare conoscere un amico.

I want to introduce you to a friend.

Voglio farti conoscere un amico.

I want to introduce you to a friend.

Mi fai vedere le tue foto?

Will you show me your pictures?

Joining a language forum such as WordReference can be helpful for getting feedback on your attempts.



Play Time

The verb suonare (to play music, to sound) has various related meanings, all connected with sound (il suono)

In Escursione - Un picnic in campagna - Part 3, a guy is talking to his girlfriend about the vendemmia (grape harvest). He concludes by saying:


Suono l'organetto e facciamo una cena tutti quanti insieme.

I play the accordion and we have a dinner all together.

Caption 32, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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After taking out his accordion, he says:


Questo è il pezzo che suono sempre.

This is the piece I always play.

Caption 34, Escursione - Un picnic in campagna

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Back in the city, Milena and Mattia are sitting at an outdoor café. Mattia is talking about his band.


No, io suono solo il piano.

No, I just play the piano.

Il ragazzo che suona la chitarra fa anche il cantante.

The guy who plays the guitar is also the singer.

Captions 54-55, Milena e Mattia - Al ristorante

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In the above examples, suonare means “to play” (an instrument or music), but suonare also means “to sound.” Consider the following sentence:

Francesco suona bene il violino, ma in questa stanza il violino non suona bene.

Francesco plays the violin well, but in this room the violin doesn’t sound good.

Here's a list of even more ways the verb suonare can be used:

  •      suonare bene (to sound good, or to play well—depending on the context)
  •      suonare il campanello (to ring the doorbell)
  •      suonare il claxon (to honk the horn)
  •      fare suonare (literally, to make something sound; to play something, such as a CD—as in pressing “play”)
  •      suonare in giro (perform here and there, play some gigs)
  •      essere suonato/suonata come una campana (literally, having been rung like a bell—to be off one’s head)
  •      suonare (to ring, as in a telephone or an alarm clock; to toll, as in a churchbell slowly ringing  to announce a death)
  •      suonare male a qualcuno (to not sound right to someone)

Another translation of “to play” is giocare, but this comes from the word for “game,” il gioco. In Bibione: Torneo del frisbee - Part 1, Dario talks about his favorite gioco:


Mi piace molto giocare a frisbee.

I really like playing frisbee.

Caption 3, Bibione - Torneo del frisbee

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L'Ultimate frisbee è uno sport che si gioca

Ultimate frisbee is a sport that is played

sia su erba che su spiaggia.

both on the grass and on the beach.

Lo scopo del gioco è fare meta.

The aim of the game is to score.

Captions 36-38, Bibione - Torneo del frisbee

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So whether you like playing frisbee, playing the guitar, or playing your favorite CD, play some videos on your computer and play the Yabla Game. Can you figure out the right Italian word for all the highlighted words in the previous sentence, and in the following one? See if it sounds right to you!

(See below for the solution.)

  • giocare
  • suonare
  • fare suonare
  • fare suonare (or, fare andare—literally, to make something go)
  • giocare
  • gioco
  • suonare

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