Articulated Prepositions in Italian

Learn how and when to use articulated prepositions

Couple toasting with red wine at bar
Ci sono tanti ristoranti sulla spiaggia. - There are a lot of restaurants on the beach. Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

You’ve learned about prepositions like “a”, “di”, and “da”, but you’ve also been seeing ones that look like “al”, “del”, and “dal”. Are these the same prepositions, and if so, how do you know when to use them?

These prepositions are called articulated prepositions, and they are formed when the simple preposition (like “su”) combines with a definite article (like “lo”), and form one word that looks like, “sullo”.

Why Do Articulated Prepositions Exist?

Despite the difficulty they add to all of the Italian grammar you have to learn, articulated prepositions are probably one of the reasons you like listening to Italian. They add a melodic flow to the language that makes Italian easier on the ears.

What Do Articulated Prepositions Look Like?

Below you’ll find a table with all of the articulated prepositions. 

For example: Ho comprato delle uova. - I bought some eggs.

Delle - di + le

Note: Pay particular attention to what happens when you combine the preposition “in” with a definite article as the form changes more dramatically than the others.

Articulated Prepositions in Italian

DEFINITE ARTICLEADIDAINSUCON
ilaldeldalnelsulcol/con il
loallodellodallonellosullocon lo
l'all'dell'dall'nell'sull'con l'
iaideidaineisuicoi/con i 
gliaglideglidaglineglisuglicon gli
laalladelladallanellasullacon la
l'all'dell'dall'nell'sull'con l'
lealledelledallenellesullecon le

Esempi:

  • Vai al cinema? - You’re going to the movies?

  • Vorrei tanto andare negli Stati Uniti! - I would really like to go to the United States!

  • Ci sono tanti ristoranti sulla spiaggia. - There are a lot of restaurants on the beach.

  • Uno dei miei amici mi ha consigliato di andare a Verona. Che ne pensi? - One of my friends advised that I go to Verona. What do you think?

  • Mi piace leggere alla sera. - I like to read in the evening.

Also, note that you only need to know how to change five of the seven prepositions into their articulated forms, with "con" typically only combining with "il" and "i". 

You never need to change “tra”, “fra” or “per”.

When Do You Use Articulated Prepositions?

When you do or do not use this form of prepositions can get tricky very quickly as there are often more exceptions than rules.

However, there is one rule that tends to stay consistent.

Typically, you would use articulated prepositions when the noun following whatever preposition you’re using requires an article, like “Che ore sono? - What time is it? → Sono le dieci. - It’s ten”.

When you’re talking about time, the article is most likely needed.

With that in mind, you would know to use an articulated preposition in this phrase:

We’ll see each other at ten. → Ci vediamo alle dieci.

Some expressions in Italian are also fixed and must include the articulated preposition, and you’ll often see this happen with locations.

For example, “I’m going to to the dentist” would be, “Vado dal dentista”.

It’s easier, however, to talk about when you should avoid using articulated prepositions.

Here are the most common situations.

DON’T use articulated prepositions before:

  • A name, like “Luca”

  • Names of cities, like “Boston”

  • Fixed phrases, like “vacanza da sogno - dream vacation”

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Hale, Cher. "Articulated Prepositions in Italian." ThoughtCo, Jul. 16, 2017, thoughtco.com/articulated-prepositions-in-italian-4056547. Hale, Cher. (2017, July 16). Articulated Prepositions in Italian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/articulated-prepositions-in-italian-4056547 Hale, Cher. "Articulated Prepositions in Italian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/articulated-prepositions-in-italian-4056547 (accessed December 12, 2017).