6 Ways to Use the Preposition "Di" in Italian

The word has many meanings

young woman flipping through book at bookstall
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While students are often taught in classrooms that the preposition “di” simply means “of”, the truth is a lot more complicated.

In fact, the small, unassuming “di can actually mean:

  • Of

  • From

  • About

  • By

  • Than

Below you’ll find the various ways that it’s used along with some examples to help you clarify how you can use it in conversation, too.

6 Common Ways to Use "Di" in Italian

1.) To Show Possession:

  • È il libro di Maria. - It’s Maria's book.

  • La nonna della mia ragazza è qua. - My girlfriend’s grandmother is here.

  • Vado al negozio di Giovanni. - I’m going to Giovanni’s shop.

“Di” can also be used to talk about creative possession in terms of the authors of books or the director of movies, like:

  • Ho letto i libri di Rossana Campo. - I’ve read Rossana Campo’s books.

  • Oggi leggeremo la Divina Commedia di Dante. - Today we’re going to read Dante’s Divina Commedia.

2.) To Describe What an Object Is Made Of

  • Il tavolo di legno - Wooden table

  • La spada di metallo - Metal knife

  • La medaglia di bronzo - Bronze medal

Note that if a material is more precious in nature, like “il marmo - marble”, then you may also use the preposition “in”.

  • Una statua in marmo - A marble statue

  • Una collana in oro zecchino - A pure gold necklace

3.) To Show Origin Using the Verb "Essere + di + Nome di Città (Name of the City)"

  • Elisa è di Napoli. - Elisa is from Napoli.

  • Maurizio è di Prato. - Maurizio is from Prato.

  • I Rossi sono di Catania. - The Rossis are from Catania.

  • Sono di Portland. - I’m from Portland.

4.) The Be Used With Certain Verbs

  • Decidere di (fare qualcosa) - To decide to (do something)

  • Avere bisogno di (fare qualcosa) - To need to (do something)

  • Finire di (fare qualcosa) - To finish (doing something)

  • Accorgersi di (qualcosa) - To notice (something)

  • Innamorarsi di (qualcuno) - To be in love with (someone)

  • Vergognarsi di (qualcosa) - To be ashamed by (something)

This is not an exhaustive list of all of the verbs that are paired with the preposition “di”, but it does give you a taste of common ones.

5.) To Be Used in Fixed Phrases

  • Di sera - During the evening

  • Di notte - At night

  • D'estate - During/In the summer

  • Un uomo di mezza età - A middle-aged man

  • Tassa di soggiorno - Visitor tax

6.) To Make Comparisons

  • Lucia è più alta di Marco. - Lucia is taller than Marco.

  • La mia macchina è più bella della tua. - My car is more beautiful than yours.

  • Susan riesce a parlare l’italiano meglio di suo marito. - Susan is able to speak Italian better than her husband.

Other Common Usages

To give your shoe size

  • Porto il 39 di scarpe. - I wear size 39 shoes.

To specify measurements

  • Vorrei 400 grammi di spinaci. - I would like 400 grams of spinach.

While it might seem intimidating to realize there is a ton to learn around just one preposition, take comfort in the fact that nobody learns how to use “di”, or any pieces of the Italian language, overnight. Each student will pick up a little here and little there and over time, knowledge will accumulate, so don’t feel pressured to memorize everything right now.

As the Italians say, piano, piano (bit by bit).