The simple preposition SU is used in plenty of verbal expressions and in many idioms used in everyday life by native Italian speakers. In this lesson, you will get to know them all and learn to effortlessly speak Italian in a more spontaneous way. 

The use of the preposition SU: 10 expressions to remember

In this article, we’ll show you 10 Italian expressions with the preposition SU: these expressions are commonly used in Italian written and oral language, especially by native speakers. 

The following examples will show you how a simple preposition is used in many different contexts. Are you ready to learn them with us?

Su misura

This expression can be used in two different contexts: 

– To refer to a piece of clothing sewn and cut to suit a specific person, who is to wear it. 

Non posso prestarti questo vestito perché è fatto su misura e le nostre taglie sono diverse.

(I can’t lend you this dress because it’s tailor-made and our sizes are different.)

– To refer to something that fits someone perfectly.

Sono sicura che non avrai problemi! Si tratta di un lavoro fatto su misura per te.

(I’m sure you won’t have any problems! It is a job tailor-made for you.)

Sul serio

You can use this expression instead of “veramente/davvero/senza scherzi”, meaning “seriously”.

Sto pensando sul serio di comprare una villa in campagna e lasciare lo stress della città.
I’m seriously thinking of buying a villa in the countryside and leaving the stressful city life.

or in rhetorical questions to express doubt or wonder about something:

Sul serio?! Hai organizzato tutto questo solo per lei?
Seriously?! You organised all this just for her?

You can often find this preposition with the verb fare, to express the commitment or the seriousness of the intention. Fare sul serio means to be serious (about something).

Smettila di mettermi dubbi, io faccio sul serio con questo nuovo lavoro!
Stop doubting me, I’m serious about this new job!

Or by the verb prendere, meaning ‘to take something or someone seriously’.

Prendevamo sul serio le nostre promesse, perciò non abbiamo mai deluso nessuno.
We took our promises seriously, so we never let anyone down.

Su due piedi

An expression which refers to an action taken or a decision made without hesitation, suddenly, without thinking about it. 

Quello che ci chiedi è complesso: non possiamo risponderti così su due piedi. Abbiamo bisogno di consultare i nostri avvocati.

What you are asking is complicated: we cannot answer you on the spot. We need to consult our lawyers.

Su per giù (suppergiù)

This expression means about/pretty much/more or less.

Viviamo in questa casa su per giù da 5 anni.

We’ve been living in this house for more or less 5 years.

Sul colpo

This expression refers to an action that takes place immediately/instantly/straight away. You can find it in the famous Italian expression morire sul colpo (to die on impact).

Sembra che la vittima sia morta sul colpo: non ha sofferto molto.

It seems that the victim died on impact: they did not suffer much. 

Nero su bianco

This is an expression used to define a situation permanently or put something in writing. Thus, nero (black) refers to the ink of a pen writing on the bianco (white) of paper. This expression is often accompanied by the verb mettere.

Potremo collaborare insieme solo quando deciderai di mettere le cose nero su bianco. Altrimenti, non mi fido.

We can only work together when you’ll decide to put things down on paper. Otherwise, I can’t trust you.

Sulla ventina/trentina/quarantina…

This expression can be used to make an assumption about somebody’s age (to be about 20/30/40 years old or to be on their twenties, thirties etc.)

Mentre venivo qui, un uomo sulla quarantina mi ha chiesto che ora fosse.

On my way here, a man in his forties asked me what time it was.

Su richiesta

This is an expression used to express a non-mandatory/optional action.

Il pullman per Milano fa 5 fermate più altre 3 su richiesta.

The bus to Milan makes 5 stops plus 3 more only on request.

You can also find the expression su richiesta di, which means “following the request of… or “at the request of…”.

Vi lascio i suoi documenti a richiesta dell’ispettore.

I leave you his documents at the request of the inspector.

Sulle spine

This expression is used when one is in a state of anxiety or apprehension.

It is often preceded by the verbs “stare” or “tenere”.

Mi ha tenuto sulle spine per tutta la sera e poi finalmente mi ha rivelato il suo segreto.

He kept me on my toes all evening and then finally revealed his secret.

Sul filo del rasoio

This expression refers to a risky or dangerous situation.

Dopo tutto quello che hai fatto, per quanto mi riguarda, sei già sul filo del rasoio: alla prossima, ti sbatto fuori dalla squadra.

After all you have done, as far as I am concerned, you’re already on the edge: next time, I’ll kick you out of our team. 

If you want to learn more about the use of prepositions in Italian, you can also learn other expressions with the preposition A.

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