How to choose from A or IN preposition

Prepositions are sentence elements that describe links between different parts of a phrase, such as time, place, or reason: prepositions show how people and things relate to the rest of the sentence. Learn how to choose from A or IN preposition to improve your Italian and avoid mistakes.

A preposition is one word that is usually followed by a noun or a pronoun.

Each preposition can play different functions. Different prepositions have similar uses.

But how to choose from IN or A preposition?


The main meaning of the preposition IN is similar to that of the English word ‘in,’ however, it indicates both position in time and space as well as movement into somewhere.

The relationship expressed by the preposition A is that of direction towards someone, somewhere, or at some point in time.
This preposition, however, has many and varied meanings outside of its basic meaning of ‘to, at’ in English.

Examples:

  • In Europa
  • In Italia
  • In Toscana
  • In Sicilia  
  • In via della Pace

Examples:

  • A Roma
  • A New York
  • A Sanremo
  • A Taiwan

Quest’estate vado in vacanza in Italia

📌 Use IN because Italia it’s a country

Quest’estate vado in vacanza a New York

📌 Use A because New York is a city

Mia sorella vive in Australia

📌 Use IN because Australia it’s a continent

Mia sorella vive a Sanremo

📌 Use A because Sanremo it’s a town


There are many cases where it is not possible to give a precise rule.

Here are some tips to help you memorise the use of these propositions.

👉 Means of transport:

  • in macchina
  • in treno
  • in aereo
  • in metro
  • in autobus
  • in tram
  • in moto
  • in bicicletta
  • in barca
  • in nave
  • in taxi

👉 With nouns of commercial activity ending in -IA

  • in pizzeria
  • in farmacia
  • in trattoria
  • in frutteria
  • in tabaccheria
  • in macelleria

👉 Means of transport:

  • a piedi
  • a cavallo

Abbiamo fatto tutto il viaggio in treno.

📌 Use IN because the mean of transport is treno

Domenica ho fatto un bellissimo giro in bicicletta.

📌 Use IN because the mean of transport is treno

Andiamo al cinema a piedi

📌 Use A because the “mean of transport” is piedi


It may help to know that most of the nouns using preposition IN are female, most of the nouns using the A are male.

👉 With female nouns of places

  • in casa
  • in banca
  • in piazza
  • in strada
  • in vacanza
  • in montagna
  • in campagna
  • in collina
  • in discoteca
  • in biblioteca

👉 With some male nouns of places

  • in ufficio
  • in centro
  • in ospedale
  • in giardino

👉 With male nouns of places

  • al ristorante
  • al cinema
  • al bar
  • a teatro
  • al mare
  • al lago
  • al fiume
  • all’aeroporto

👉 With some female nouns of places

  • a casa
  • a scuola

Very often preposition in the question is the same as the answer

Q: A che ora arriva Paolo?

A: A mezzogiorno

Q: In che stanza mettiamo il mobile?

A: In soggiorno


casa How to choose from A or IN preposition
❗️ PLEASE NOTE

A CASA or IN CASA?

We generally use “a casa” in a generic sense, as well as in an affective meaning and as a synonym for the motherland, nation of origin.
When we need to identify the interior space of a house, we use “in casa(indoors).

❗️ PLEASE NOTE

A PIEDI or IN PIEDI?

We say “A PIEDI” when we want to mean walking, using only his own body, without means of transport.

Prendiamo l’autobus o andiamo a piedi? Shall we take the bus or go walking?

We say “IN PIEDI” with the meaning of standing, upright on the body (not sitting, not lying down or lying down)

L’autobus era pieno di gente e sono dovuto rimanere in piedi. (The bus was full of people and I had to remain standing.)

piedi How to choose from A or IN preposition

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