Prepositions are used before a noun, a pronoun or a verb to indicate various kind of relations (e.g. spatial and temporal). In Italian, there are primary (e.g. a, di, da) and secondary (e.g. sopra, sotto, dentro) prepositions, prepositions combined with definite articles (e.g. al, del, dal) and prepositional phrases (e.g. prima di, davanti a).

Primary prepositions are simple words like a, con, di, da, in, per, tra, fra, su. When a simple preposition (a, di, da, in, su) is followed by a definite article the two words merge to become an articulated preposition (a + il: al; in + il: nel).
Secondary prepositions are adverbs or other words used as a preposition. For example, in the sentence ‘io vado fuori’ fuori is an adverb, while in the sentence ‘io sono fuori casa’ fuori is a preposition.
Prepositional phrases or complex prepositions are similar to secondary prepositions: davanti a, al di sopra di, a proposito di, etc.

Let’s see how three common prepositions are mainly used.


A introduces the indirect object:
Dì qualcosa a Maria. Say something to Maria.

It’s used after a noun to add an explanation:
Preferisco la fotografia a colori. I prefer color photography.

It can be used to indicate manner, or how something is done:
Parlo a bassa voce. I always speak in a soft tone.

It’s used to indicate motion or location:
Vado al parco tutti i giorni. I go to the park every day.

It’s used in time expressions:
Ci vediamo alle tre. See you at three o’clock.

It’s used before an infinitive to express the start of an action or to indicate cause, condition, manner and more:
Andiamo a mangiare. Let’s go eat.
Iniziamo a cucinare. We start cooking.
Sei il primo a saperlo. You’re the first to know.


It’s used to indicate possession:
Questi sono i libri di Giovanni Those are Giovanni’s books.

It’s used after a noun, an adjective or a verb to add an explanation:
Mi piace il succo di frutta. I love orange juice.
Sono contento del mio lavoro. I am happy with my job.

It’s used to make a comparison:
Giovanni è più alto di me. Giovanni is taller than me.

Sometime it’s used when talking about time:
Stefano lavora di notte. Stefano works at night.

It’s used to before an infinitive to express the end of an action or to answer the question ‘what ?’:
Finisco di vestirmi. I’ll finish getting dressed.
Prometto di tornare presto. I promise to be back soon.


It’s used when talking about where someone or something is
coming) from:
Vengo da Parigi. I come from Paris.
Ho ricevuto un messaggio da uno sconosciuto. I got a message from a stranger.

It’s used to express a starting point:
D’ora in poi … From now …
Non lo vedo da un mese. I haven’t seen him for a month.

It’s used to indicate the agent of a passive sentence:
Il museo è stato visitato da 7 milioni di persone. The museum has been visited by 7 million people.

In some cases, it’s used to indicate motion or location (towards / at people):
Vado da mio padre. I’m going to my father.