Italian Prepositions of Time: IN vs TRA

Struggling with Italian Prepositions of time? In today's article, we are going to look at the differences between the preposition IN and the preposition TRA.



In today's article, we are going to talk about two Italian prepositions (IN and TRA) that are used for many purposes, and one of them is to express time. They are a bit tricky but I am sure this article will help you understand which one to use.


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1. Preposition TRA


Before talking about the use of TRA for time, let's repass really quickly its other main meanings:

  • Between: il ristorante è tra la banca e le poste → the restaurant is between the bank and the postal office

  • Among: tra tutti i dipendenti, tu sei il più bravo → among all employees, you are the best one


Now, let's talk about the uses of TRA when it comes to time.


The preposition TRA is used in terms of time to convey the idea of IN in English. This is the reason why it might be a bit confusing. TRA is used to talk about an event that will happen in a very specific and defined amount of time. Let's see a few examples to better understand:

  • Partirò per l'Italia tra 2 mesi → I am leaving for Italy in two months (very specific, 2 months from now)

  • Esco di casa tra 10 minuti → I am leaving the house in 10 minutes.

  • Arrivo tra 2 secondi → I am coming in 2 seconds, I will be there in 2 seconds

  • Tra 10 anni voglio essere un dottore → I want to be a doctor in 10 years.


2. Preposition IN

The preposition IN, on the contrary, is used to talk about an action that took place or will take place in the future and we know exactly how long it took or it is going to take to perform that action.

  • Ho letto il romanzo in 2 mesi → I've read the novel in two months = it took me two months to read the novel

  • Scriverò il libro in 1 anno → I will write the book in a year = It will take me a year to write the book.


3. IN vs TRA


Finirò il progetto in una settimana VS Finirò il progetto tra una settimana


In the first sentence, I am saying that it's going to take me a week to finish the project, no matter when I start. I could start now or in two years, the amount of time required to finish the project will still be one week.


In the second sentence, I am saying that starting from now, a week from now the project will be finished.



P.S. Many students ask me what the difference between TRA and FRA is. Well, they are exactly the same. Sometimes we choose one preposition over the other for phonetic reasons. Tra tre mesi might be a bit hard to pronounce as we have the TR sound twice. So, we might want to say fra tre mesi instead. Honestly though, I find myself saying tra tre mesi all the time and it does not sound weird to me at all, so no big deal!


If you have any questions about this topic, don't hesitate to send me a message in the contact section of my website.


A presto,


Stefano


Do you want to take your Italian to the next level? Check out my Online Italian course for beginners "Be Italiano" and start learning today to become a real Italiano, like me!
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