Prepositions

The “standard” prepositions that are taught at school are

  • di (‘of’, ‘belonging to’; used in place of the English genitive)
  • a (‘to’)
  • da (‘from’, ‘by’)
  • in (‘in’, ‘on’ with abstract nouns)
  • con (‘with’)
  • su (‘on’)
  • per (‘for’, ‘in order to’)
  • tra (‘among’, ‘between’)
  • fra (‘among’, ‘between’)

When prepositions are used together with definite articles, the preposition and the article are sometimes condensed into a single word. For example, “of the student” becomes “dello studente” and not “di lo studente”.
More specifically, the following table lists all the possible combinations (except those not in common use today).

il lo la i gli le
di del dello della dei degli delle
a al allo alla ai agli alle
da dal dallo dalla dai dagli dalle
in nel nello nella nei negli nelle
con con il con lo con la con i con gli con le
su sul sullo sulla sui sugli sulle
per per il per lo per la per i per gli per le

Please note that using these combinations is mandatory: you cannot chose to use plain preposition + article instead. Currently, the proposition con represents the only exception, as con il, con lo, con la, con i, con gli and con le are perfectly acceptable forms.
The prepositions di and da may take an apostrophe and become d’ before a vowel. Examples where this is the rule, and not simply a matter of personal preference, are

  • d’altra parte, lit. “from other side”, meaning “on the other hand”
  • d’altro canto, lit. “from other place”, as above
  • d’altri, “of others” (but di altri is acceptable)
  • d’oro, “made of gold”, “golden”
  • d’argento, “made of silver”
  • d’oltreoceano, d’oltralpe, etc.

For euphonic reasons, the proposition a usually becomes ad before a vowel, though this is not mandatory. When the vowel following the preposition is another ‘a’, using ad can probably be considered mandatory. Examples: ad altri (to others), ad essere or a essere (to be), ad oltranza or a oltranza (ad libitum).
Historically, per has been a combinable preposition (with combined forms pel, pello, pella, pei, pegli, pelle), but this usage is never encountered in contemporary prose, even though it is still present in the dialects of Tuscany.

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