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 prepositions 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?
Read the explanation to help you and test what you know with interactive exercises.
First, try this exercise to test your grammar.
Read the explanation to learn more.
- With continents, countries, regions
- With addresses
- With big islands
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.
- In Europa
- In Italia
- In Toscana
- In Sicilia
- In via della Pace
Quest’estate vado in vacanza in Italia
Use IN because Italia it’s a country
Mia sorella vive in Australia
Use IN because Australia it’s a continent
- With cities and towns
- With little islands
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.
- A Roma
- A New York
- A Sanremo
- A Taiwan
Quest’estate vado in vacanza a New York
Use A because New York is a city
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.
Memorising 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 bicicletta
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 the preposition IN are female, and 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
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
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).
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.)
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