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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

 

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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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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

Solutions to Exercises from "A Relative Pronoun Shortcut"

Here are the solutions to the exercises in the lesson: A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

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Here are some ways to say the same thing using in cui or nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, nelle quale (in which).

 

This is a grammar exercise, so not necessarily will a new solution be a good-sounding solution. The point is to see how different relative pronouns can be placed inside a sentence. When you use "quale" with its preposition and article, you need to determine the gender and number. The reference noun and article are in boldface.

 

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla in cui si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla nella quale si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.

Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1

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Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, in cui potermi riposare.

Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, nel quale potermi riposare.

I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.

Captions 36-37, Adriano - Nonna

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Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo in cui si gestiva il potere.

Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo nel quale si gestiva il potere.

We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.

Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3

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Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, in cui si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

​Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, nei quali si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, in cui ci sono scoperte...

​Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, nei quali ci sono scoperte...

I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...

Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggere

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Poi c'è un giorno a settimana in cui i negozi sono chiusi.

Poi c'è un giorno a settimana nel quale i negozi sono chiusi.

Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

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Un altro caso in cui uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Un altro caso nel quale uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...

Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11

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A Relative Pronoun Shortcut

 

After telling us about the different relative pronouns, which in some cases are interchangeable, Daniela finishes up by telling us that in certain cases, when we are talking about a place or situation, we can use dove (where) instead of in cui (in which)To back up a moment, we're talking about object relative pronouns, indeed, indirect object pronouns, because in the case of cui (which), we often need a preposition right before it. Here's how she summarizes cui. If you can watch the lesson it might be helpful!

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Indipendentemente dal genere o dal numero, io uso sempre "cui", che è invariabile, sempre preceduto da una preposizione semplice, quindi da "di", da "da", o da "a".

Regardless of the gender or the number, I always use "which," which is invariable, always preceded by a simple preposition, so by "of," by "from," or by "to."

Captions 43-46, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Pronomi relativi - Part 3

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The good news here is that we don't have to consider gender when we use cui.  Getting stuck mid-sentence looking for the right article can hamper the telling of a good story. So cui is a good relative pronoun to be familiar with. But many of us might not feel so comfortable using cui. Indeed, you don't need to think about gender, but you do have to think about which preposition to use: There is an alternative that you might like.

 

Using dove (where) can simplify life, actually. Certainly, Italians use dove (where) as a relative pronoun, even when we're not strictly talking about places and situations. And we do this in English, too, so it won’t seem too odd!

 

Following are some examples from Yabla videos. Let's remember that dove (where) is not always a relative pronoun, and it is not always a relative pronoun taking the place of in cui, but the following examples have been selected because they do fit into this category.

 

E, invece, oggi, come potete vedere, è una giornata molto tranquilla dove si può prendere il sole in santa pace.

And, on the other hand, today, as you can see, it's a very quiet day in which one can get some sun in blessed peace.

Captions 39-40, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 1

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Vengo qui da lei, perché so di poter trovare un ambiente tranquillo, calmo, dove potermi riposare.

I come here to her place, because I know I'll find a peaceful, calm atmosphere, where I can rest.

Captions 36-37, Adriano - Nonna

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Noi ora stiamo entrando nel cuore della Reggia di Caserta, il luogo dove si gestiva il potere.

We're now entering into the heart of the Caserta Royal Palace, the place where power was administered.

Captions 36-38, Alberto Angela - Meraviglie - Ep. 1 - Part 3

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Sono due posti qui vicino Roma, dove si producono questi tipi di pane casareccio [casereccio].

They're two places near Rome, where they produce these types of home-style bread.

Captions 49-50, Anna e Marika - Il pane

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Mi piacciono anche i libri antropologici, per esempio, dove ci sono scoperte...

I also like books on anthropology, for example, where there are discoveries...

Captions 44-45, Arianna e Marika - L'importanza di leggere

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Poi c'è un giorno a settimana dove i negozi sono chiusi.

Then, there's one day a week when the shops are closed.

Caption 7, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Orari di apertura e sistema scolastico

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Un altro caso dove uso il congiuntivo è quando abbiamo dei verbi impersonali...

Another case in which I use the subjunctive is when we have impersonal verbs...

Captions 40-41, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il congiuntivo - Part 11

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Now that you have looked at all these examples, why not try transforming them into sentences with in cui? If that is too easy, try the same thing with nel quale, nella quale, nei quale, or nelle quale. For this, you will need to consider gender and number! Here’s the link to suggested solutions. Non barare (don't cheat) — unless you have to! 

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Don't Worry!

When you worry about something, it’s hard to think about anything else. With this in mind, it won’t come as too much of a surprise that the Italian word for worrying sounds a lot like the verb “to preoccupy.” The infinitive is preoccupare (to worry), usually used reflexively—preoccuparsi (to worry about)—the adjective/participle is preoccupato (worried), and the noun is preoccupazione (cause for worry) with its plural, preoccupazioni (worries, troubles). We all do our share of worrying, so it’s a good word to be familiar with!

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In the story of La Bohème, Rodolfo is worried about Mimì because she has tuberculosis.

 

l'ho sentito che si confidava con Marcello, il suo amico pittore, e gli diceva che era preoccupato per via della mia malattia.

I heard him confiding to his friend Marcello, his painter friend, and he told him that he was worried because of my illness.

Captions 30-31, Anna presenta - La Bohème di Puccini

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Andiamo a casa, va'! Se no zia si preoccupa.

Let's go home, come on! Otherwise Auntie will worry.

Captions 36-37, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in Blu

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Sometimes people worry for no reason, so we want to reassure them. In other words, we’re giving the negative command, “Don’t worry.” Negative commands in Italian are easy when you’re talking to friends and family: non + the infinitive of a verb.

So, if a friend or familiar person is preoccupato and they shouldn’t be, take after Adriano, who’s reassuring his grandmother. She’s family, so he speaks informally to her. As he sings her praises, she notices something off-camera and points to it. He doesn’t want her to worry about it, or even to pay attention to it:

 

Non ti preoccupare, nonna.

Don't worry Grandma.

Caption 26, Adriano - Nonna

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Remember that preoccupare is generally used reflexively (preoccuparsi), so just like with other reflexive verbs, the personal pronoun can go in two different positions (both are equally grammatical): before the verb, as Adriano says it, or attached to the end of the verb as below. See this previous lesson, and this one, too, for more on reflexive verbs.

 

Scusa, eh, per le foto così brutte, ma le ha fatte mio marito, quindi... No, ma non preoccuparti.

Sorry, uh, for such bad photos, but my husband took them, so... No, but don't worry about it.

Captions 34-35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 7

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If, on the other hand, you need to tell someone you don’t know very well not to worry, use the polite form of the imperative (more on doing so here): Non si preoccupi. Without delving into a lot of grammar, just memorizing the phrase (with a nice accent on the “o”) will be helpful when you’re addressing someone like a salesperson, someone’s parent, a teacher, or a doctor, as in the following example. 

 

Dottore non si preoccupi, ci occuperemo noi di lui.

Doctor don't worry, we'll take care of him.

Caption 50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 12

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Gualtiero Marchesi forgets his troubles by going back to his childhood haunts. Pensieri (thoughts, worries) go hand in hand with preoccupazioni (worries, troubles):

 

Sono sempre tornato nei luoghi della mia infanzia, a volte, all'improvviso, lasciandomi alle spalle pensieri e preoccupazioni.

I've always returned to the places of my childhood, sometimes, suddenly, leaving my thoughts and worries behind.

Captions 16-17, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua

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As an aside, the antidote to worrying is frequently to take care of something, and the verb for that is occuparsi (to take care of, to deal with), not to be confused with preoccuparsi.

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Learning suggestion:

When you meet people or pass them on the street, consider whether you would speak to them informally or formally, and tell them, in your mind, not to worry. Would you say non ti preoccupare or non si preoccupi

Vocabulary

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