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Prepositions: Simple and joined with the article

In Italian prepositions are quite difficult to master for a foreign speaker. First of all, they are divided into "semplici" (corresponding to English prepositions) and "articolate", when the preposition (di, a, da, in, con, su) can (or must) be merged in one word with the definite article.
    Preposizioni Semplici:
  • DI » of
  • A » to, at, in
  • DA » from, by
  • IN » in, at, to
  • CON » with
  • SU » on, over, above
  • PER » for, through
  • TRA, FRA »* between, among, in
[*"TRA" and "FRA" are interchangeable, their choice is a matter of style, area, personal liking.
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Preposizioni Articolate

When Italian prepositions are accompanied by articles "lo" and "la", the article usually becomes "-l'" in front of vowels.
Article
il
lo
la
l'
i
gli
le
Prep. DI
del
dello
della
dell'
dei
degli
delle
Prep. A
al
allo
alla
all'
ai
agli
alle
Prep. DA
dal
dallo
dalla
dall'
dai
dagli
dalle
Prep. IN
nel
nello
nella
nell'
nei
negli
nelle
Prep. CON
col
--
--
--
coi
--
--
Prep. SU
sul
sullo
sulla
sull'
sui
sugli
sulle


Use of Preposition "DI"

"DI" roughly corresponds to the English "of". In front of vowels, the final "i" can be substituted with an apostrophe Examples:
  • It's a matter of taste --> È questione di gusti
  • The countries of the world --> I Paesi del mondo
  • summer sun --> sole d'estate
  • African wars --> guerre d'Africa
  • envy gesture --> gesto d'invidia
  • a spoonful of oil --> un cucchiaio d'olio
  • smell of moisture --> odore d'umido

But most often in English a specification is placed as an adjective. Examples:
  • a music book --> un libro di musica
  • a hotel room --> una camera d'albergo

Possessive case or Saxon genitive is rendered also with "DI". Examples:
  • Mary's father --> il padre di Maria
  • the laywer's office --> l'ufficio dell'avvocato

The English "from" as place of origin can be rendered also with "DI". Examples:
  • a doctor from Rome --> un dottore di Roma

The English "about" as subject spoken or written. Examples:
  • He was talking about the war --> Parlava della guerra


Use of Preposition "A"

"A" roughly corresponds to the English "to", "at", "in".

As indirect object - but also pay attention to personal pronouns, where the preposition "to" is omitted and the pronoun placed before the verb.
  • I wrote a letter to John --> Ho scritto una lettera a Giovanni
  • They spoke to me --> Mi hanno parlato

With expressions of place, both as movement and location. "A" is used with cities and smaller places, but not with countries where Italians use "in".
  • I went to Paris / to France --> Sono andato a Parigi / in Francia
  • He was living in Berlin / in Germany --> Viveva a Berlino / in Germania
  • I am at home --> Sono a casa
  • I'm going home --> Vado a casa

With some expression of time, roughly corresponding to the English "at" followed by hours.
  • At 5.00 pm --> Alle 5 di sera
  • At Christmas --> A Natale

After the verbs "cominciare" (begin, start) and "continuare" (go on) followed by a verb.
  • Start reading --> Comincia a leggere
  • He went on speaking --> Continuava a parlare


Use of Preposition "DA"

"DA" roughly corresponds to the English "from", and "by" (in the passive). Examples:
As place of origin
  • They're coming from the station --> Vengono dalla stazione
  • She comes from afar --> Viene da lontano.
  • Where do you come from? --> Da dove vieni? (or: Di dove sei?)

As duration of time, corresponding to the English "for" and "since", and pay attention to the verb tense, which in Italian is a present. Examples:
  • How long have you been waiting? --> Da quando aspetti?
  • We've had this car for 5 years --> Abbiamo questa macchina da cinque anni.
  • Cathy's been studying German since last summer --> Caterina studia tedesco dalla scorsa estate

For the English "by", in the passive. Examples:
  • That book was written by Manzoni --> Quel libro è stato scritto da Manzoni
  • He was killed by his wife --> Fu ucciso da sua moglie.

For the English at someone's. Examples:
  • I met her at Macy's --> L'ho incontrata da Macy
  • I was living at my granpa's --> Abitavo da mio nonno.