Italian Prepositions Tra and Fra

Learn seven ways to use “tra” and “fra”

Fra and Tra in Italian
Pizza between other pizzas. Nico De Pasquale Photography

The book is BETWEEN the couch and the wall. There’s a big difference BETWEEN say something and doing something. BETWEEN all of the girls, Giulia is the nicest.

In English, the best definition for the prepositions “tra” and “fra” is “between,” but it can also be understood as “among.”

Luckily, these two prepositions are simple to use in comparison to their counterparts, like “di,” “da,” or “in.”

Here are some usages along with examples.

How to Use “Tra” and “Fra”

Between two objects

  • Il libro è tra il divano e il muro. - The book is between the couch and the wall.

  • un ponte tra una riva e l'altra del fiume -a bridge between one bank and the other of the river

  • tra due monti si stende una vallata - between two mountains lies a valley

  • una casa tra gli alberi - a house amidst the trees

FUN FACT: The popular proverb “Actions speak louder than words,” can be loosely translated as, “Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare,” which literally means, “Between saying and doing there’s an ocean.”

Movement to a place or particular location

  • Torna tra noi. - Come back between us.

  • Un raggio di luce passava tra le imposte socchiuse. - a beam of light passed through the half-closed shutters.

Distance

  • Tra due chilometri c'è un benzinaio. - Within two kilometers, there’s a gas station.

Time

  • Arriverà tra due ore. - She’ll arrive in two hours.

  • Sono libero tra le otto e le nove. - I’m free between eight and nine o'clock.

  • Tra una cosa e un’altra abbiamo fatto tardi! - This and that and we’re late!

Connection or relationship

  • una discussione tra amici - a discussion between friends

  • Si consultarono tra loro. - They conferred amongst themselves.

Companionship or alliance

  • Ama stare fra gli altri. - He loves to be among others.

    To highlight one part or person

    • Sei il migliore tra i miei amici. - You’re the best among my friends.

    • Alcuni tra i presenti protestarono. - Some of those present protested.

    • Fra tutte le ragazze, Giulia è la più simpatica. - Between all of the girls, Giulia is the nicest.

    TIPS:

     

    • In some sentences, the phrase tra tutti means "throughout, overall": tra tutti saranno un centinaio - overall there will be a hundred.

    • In certain expressions, the preposition tra (fra) has a causal value. For example, Fra la casa e i bambini non ho mai il tempo di uscire - Between the house and the children, I never have time to get out.

     

    What’s the difference between “tra” and “fra”?

    There’s no difference in meaning between the two forms. Which one you choose to use is governed by sound; It’s much preferred to say fra travi and tra frati to avoid groups of identical sounds (other examples include tra fratelli and fra tre anni).

    Even so, tra is the more common form.

    TIP: If “tra” precedes personal pronouns, it,s often followed by the preposition : tra di noi.

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    Filippo, Michael San. "Italian Prepositions Tra and Fra." ThoughtCo, Jan. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/italian-prepositions-tra-and-fra-2011463. Filippo, Michael San. (2017, January 30). Italian Prepositions Tra and Fra. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-prepositions-tra-and-fra-2011463 Filippo, Michael San. "Italian Prepositions Tra and Fra." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-prepositions-tra-and-fra-2011463 (accessed November 18, 2017).