One of the most common mistakes in Italian foreign learners do, is the use of the preposition and in.

If in some cases specific rules are telling you when to use the preposition IN and when using the preposition A, in some other cases the best is to learn the specific Italian collocations using the prepositions in or a.

Let’s start from the rules…

 

THE USE OF THE PREPOSITION “A”

 

A is used before the names of cities.

  • Vado a Venezia
  • Vivo a Palermo

 

A becomes AD before the names of cities that starts with a vowel. 

  • Vivo ad Amburgo
  • Vivo ad Alessandria 

 

A is also used in front of  names of small states, such as:

  • Vado a San Marino
  • Vado a Gilbirteterra 

 

A is used in front of the names of small islands, for examples:

  • Vado a Malta
  • Vado a Ibiza

 

A is used with cardinals points:

  • A Sud, a Nord, a Est, a Ovest

 

A is also used with some verbs when they are followed by another action (and the infinitive verb is used), for example:

  • Continuare a – continuo a studiare più tardi 
  • Cominciare a (iniziare a) – comincio a lavorare alle 9 del mattino
  • Aiutare a  – mi aiuti a pulire?
  • Essere abituato a – non sono abituato a parlare in pubblico 
  • Riuscire a – non riesco a dormire

 

THE USE OF THE PREPOSITION “IN”

 

IN is used before nouns of countries:

  • Vivo in Italia
  • Vivo in Germania

 

If the countries is grammatically plural, such as, the United States or the Netherlands, the correct Italian prepositions to use are nei, negli.

  • Vivo negli Stati Uniti
  • Vivo nei Paesi Bassi

 

IN is used too with the names of regions or states:

  • Vivo  in Lombardia
  • Vivo in Texas

 

IN is used with names of the big islands, for instance

  • Vivo in Sicilia
  • Vivo in Sardegna

 

IN is used with the names of the streets or squares.

  • Vivo a Londra, in Oxford Street
  • Vivo a Milano, in via Petrarca

 

IN is finally used with the name of shops or places ending in –ia.

Vado…

  • in farmacia
  • in pizzeria
  • in gelateria
  • in macelleria
  • in periferia
  • in profumeria
  • in campagna

 

There are rules and trends when it comes to deciding whether to use the preposition in or a, but sometimes it is difficult to pick up the right one. Thus it’s better off to learn by heart the most common expressions using these prepositions.

 

COMMON COLLOCATIONS USING “IN”

In chiesa, in campagna, in montagna, in campagna, in macchina, in bici, in palestra, in piscina, in bagno, in ufficio , in centro, in città, in discoteca, in vacanza, in edicola, in spiaggia.

 

COMMON COLLOCATIONS USING “A”


A messa, a scuola, a lavoro, teatro, a piedi, a letto, a colazione, a pranzo, a cena, a tavola, a letto, a lezione, a destra, a sinistra, al bar, al ristorante, al cinema, all’università, al mare, al lago.

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