How To Use the Prepositions A, IN, and DA in Italian | Italian Prepositions Explained for Beginners

Updated: Jan 25

Prepositions are a nightmare in every language, but if you follow the tips that I am about to give you, not only you won't get these prepositions wrong anymore, but you will also understand the logic behind them. Let's see how the prepositions A, IN, and DA are used in expressions of location.



The main reason why students get the prepositions wrong in Italian is that they don't really translate in English.


Don't get me wrong, they do have a translation.


The problem is that the prepositions A and IN translate at, to, and in. You can understand that knowing the translation is not really going to help you in understanding what preposition to use.


You need to understand what prepositions to use when, and how to use them correctly, rather than knowing the translation.


Before we jump right into the use of these prepositions, let's take a step back and understand the main differences between Italian and English prepositions.


In English, you usually choose the right preposition based on the kind of movement the subject is performing. Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. I go to Rome → the subject is moving from point A to point B (Rome)

  2. I live in Rome → the subject is staying still in one place. The subject is in point A and stays in point A.

  3. I'm going to Italy next summer → the subject is moving from point A to point B (Italy)

  4. Stefano comes from Italy → the subject is moving from point B (Italy) to point A.

  5. I go to the doctor → the subject is moving from point A to point B (the doctor)


Now let me show you how they translate in Italian:

  1. I go to Rome → Vado a Roma.

  2. I live in Rome → Vivo a Roma.

  3. I am going to Italy next summer → Vado in Italia la prossima estate.

  4. Stefano comes from Italy → Stefano viene dall'Italia.

  5. I go to the doctor → Vado dal dottore.


Before you throw away your computer and start regretting the day you started learning Italian, let me tell you that at the end of this article, everything will make much more sense.


Stay with me and let's break it down.


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!


1. The preposition A


As I told you at the beginning of the article, the preposition A translates at, to, and in. The question shouldn't be what A means, but when do we use it? Well, we use these prepositions in two cases:

  1. Before names of cities and small islands

  2. In some idiomatic expressions


Cities

This is pretty easy. When you are IN that city or going TO that city, then you are going to use the preposition A: Vado A Roma (I go to Rome), Abito A Roma (I live in Rome).


As you can see, we're not choosing the preposition based on the kind of movement we are doing, but we're choosing it based on the word we have after the preposition. Since I have the name of a city, I am going to use the preposition A.


Small Islands

When I tell this to my students, they usually say something like "What's a small island? How do I tell if an island is small or big?". Very good question. I would say that anything smaller than Sicilia and Sardegna is small. For example, we would say "Vado A Capri" because Capri is a small island close to Naples (a beautiful island by the way).


Idiomatic expressions

We use the preposition A in some idiomatic expressions you will have to memorize. Let me give you some examples:

  1. A scuola → at/to school

  2. A casa → at home (Vado a casa = I go home or Sono a casa = I am home)

  3. A lavoro → at/to work

  4. A pranzo → at/to lunch

  5. A cena → at/to dinner

  6. A letto → in/to bed

  7. A piedi → by foot/walking (This is pretty different from the other ones but very common. For example, Vado a scuola a piedi = I go to school walking/by foot).



2. The preposition IN


The preposition IN is used:

  1. Before the names of continents, countries, regions, and big islands.

  2. Before the names of means of transport

  3. In some idiomatic expressions


Names of continents, countries, regions, and big islands

This is pretty simple! First of all, if it's not a city (or eventually a small island) for all other geographical places, you're going to use IN.


And, again, it doesn't matter what kind of movement you are doing, you're going to use IN before these places.


Let me give you some examples:

  1. Vado in Italia → I go to Italy

  2. Vado in Europa → I go to Europe

  3. Vivo in Italia → I live in Italy

  4. Vivo in Europa → I live in Europe

  5. Sono andato in Puglia la scorsa estate → I went to Puglia last summer

  6. Vivo in Sicilia da 10 anni → I've been living in Sicily for 10 years.


Means of transport

When you're saying that you will go somewhere by bike, car, train or any other type of transport, you'll need to use IN in Italian.


So, you would say something like "Vado in Italia in treno (by train), in macchina (by car), in aereo (by airplane), in autobus (by bus)" and so on.


This also applies when you are in the mean of transport: sono in taxi, sono in macchina, sono in aereo.



Idiomatic expressions

Let me give you some very common idiomatic expressions with the preposition IN that you might want to memorize:

  1. In città → in/to the city

  2. In ufficio → in/to the office

  3. In centro → in/to the city center

  4. In vacanza → on holiday/vacation (both when you are going and when you are there so you can say both vado in vacanza and sono in vacanza)

  5. In viaggio → travelling (Sono in viaggio = I am travelling)

  6. In palestra → at/to the gym

  7. In piedi → standing up (this is a tricky one! A piedi means walking/by foot BUT in piedi means standing)


3. The preposition DA


Let's talk about the last preposition of today: DA.


This preposition means from most of the time. For example, you could say:

  1. Stefano viene da Roma → Stefano comes from Rome (either he arrives from Rome or he is from Rome)

  2. Il treno arriva da Torino → the train arrives from Turin


However, the preposition DA has also another important meaning!


When you're saying you are going to or are at a person's house or workplace, then you're going to use the preposition DA. Let me give you a few examples to better understand:

  1. Vado da Luca → I am going to Luca's house.

  2. Dormo da Maria domani → I am sleeping at Maria's house tomorrow

  3. Devo andare dal dottore lunedì → I have to go to the doctor (the doctor's workplace perhaps, not his house) on Monday.

  4. Sono dal macellaio → I am at the butcher's shop


Makes sense? Why don't you try this little exercise?


All right! I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to check out my YouTube Channel for more Italian lessons! Ciao!


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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