Prepositions of PLACE in Italian: Should you use A or IN?

In this article we will discuss a very important grammatical topic for anyone learning Italian. We will, in fact, deal with the prepositions of place a and in. ANDARE A or ANDARE IN? This is a dilemma that affects every Italian learner, both beginners and advanced, because it really is a bit of a mess!

How to use the Prepositions of Place a and in

Both the preposition IN and the preposition A are used when reffering to places, either the place where we are (when staying at a place, in which case we will use the verb to be or similar verbs), or the place towards which we are going (a movement to a place, in which case we will use the verb to go or similar verbs).

The best way to learn to use the prepositions in a proper way is to read or to listen to Italian as much as possible. Being exposed to real languages inputs, for example by watching movies or travelling, will also help you. The more you will hear the language, the more you will internalise the prepositions and the more it will become automatic. But this is a process that obviously takes time, a lot of time! Even months! Meanwhile, in this video I have decided to give you some simple rules to make the task easier.

How do you know, after the verb TO BE or the verb TO GO, whether to use IN or A?

Luckily, there are some rules. Here they are!

You should use A with:

  • names of cities and towns, not in terms of nations, but in terms of small towns (Abito a Napoli, Vado a Caserta) – (I live in Naples, I’m going to Caserta)
  • the infinitives (Vado a fare un po’ di jogging, Vado a fare la spesa)( I’m going jogging, I’m going shopping)
  • meals, that is, colazione (breakfast), pranzo (lunch), merenda (snacks) and cena (dinner) (Sono a pranzo da mia cugina, Andrò a cena fuori) – (I’m having lunch at my cousin’s, I’m going out for dinner)

However, you should use the preposition IN with:

  • names of countries, regions and continents (Abito in Italia, Sono stata in viaggio di nozze in Asia)(I live in Italy, I spent my honeymoon in Asia). Be careful with the word United States, in which case you should use the “articled” preposition formed by in + gli, namely negli  (Voglio andare in vacanza negli Stati Uniti) – (I would like to spend my holiday in the United States)
  • addresses, which are characterised by the words via(street), viale,corso(avenue), piazza(square), etc. (Abito in viale della Repubblica 27)-( I live in Viale della Repubblica 27)
  • all the rooms of the house: soggiorno (living room), cantina (cellar), cucina (kitchen), corridoio (hallway), sala da pranzo (dining room), giardino (garden), balcone (balcony), camera da letto (bedroom), bagno (bathroom). (Vado in cucina a preparare il pranzo) – (I’m going to the kitchen to cook lunch). Be careful with the word studio, which is characterised by the “articled” preposition nello, formed by in + lo (Vado nello studio a lavorare)(I’m going to the studio to work)
  • names of the places ending in -ia (Vado in… farmacia, profumeria, macelleria, cartoleria, pizzeria, birreria, gelateria, panetteria, libreria, tabaccheria, gioielleria, ecc.)(I’m going to the… pharmacy, perfumery, butcher shop, stationery shop, pizzeria, pub, ice-cream parlour, bakery, bookshop, tobacco shop, jeweller, etc.).
  • Transport (Vado in… macchina, aereo, treno, tram, autobus, nave, barca, traghetto, metro, moto, bicicletta, elicottero, motorino, vespa, ecc.)(I go by… car, plane, train, tram, bus, ship, boat, ferry, metro, motorbike, bicycle, helicopter, moped, Vespa, etc.). This applies both in sentences where these vehicles are used as transport means for going somewhere (Vado in vacanza in aereo)(I’m going on holiday by plane) and in sentences that refer to the place where we are (Sono in macchina)(I’m in the car). Be careful with the expressions andare a cavallo (to ride a horse) and andare a piedi (to go on foot), which both require the preposition a.

These are a lot of rules, but they are not enough to explain every possible case. In fact, there is no rule for all the remaining words (i.e. all the other places), so sometimes we use a, sometimes we use in.

However, I can give you a hint, which does not apply as a rule in all cases, but can be helpul sometimes: the preposizion a togethwr with the article is used with several masculine nouns.

  • Vado al museo (I’m going to the museum)
  • Vado al mare (I’m going to the sea)
  • Vado al cinema (I’m going to the cinema)
  • Vado al parco (I’m going to the park)
  • Vado al ristorante (I’m going to the restaurant)
  • Vado al supermercato (I’m going to the supermarket)
  • Vado allo stadio (I’m going to the stadium)
  • Vado al concerto (I’m going to the concert)
  • Vado al negozio (I’m going to the shop)
  • Vado al mercato (I’m going to the market)
  • Vado al bar (I’m going to the café)
  • Vado al comune (I’m going to the city hall)
  • Vado all’aeroporto (I’m going to the airport)
  • Vado al porto (I’m going to the harbor)
  • Vado al centro commerciale (I’m going to the mall)
  • Vado al centro estetico (I’m going to the beauty salon)
  • Vado all’ufficio postale (I’m going to the post office)
  • Vado al casinò (I’m going to the casino)
  • Vado a teatro (I’m going to the theatre) —> be careful: the word teatro does not require an article!

BUT there are also feminine nouns that follow the preposition a

  • Vado a scuola (I’m going to school) —> the word scuola does not require an article!
  • Vado all’opera (I’m going to the Opera)
  • Vado all’università (I’m going to the University)
  • Vado alla stazione di polizia (I’m going to the police station)

However, there are several feminine nouns that follow the preposition in without the article

  • Vado in piscina (I’m going to the swimming pool)
  • Vado in spiaggia (I’m going to the beach)
  • Vado in campagna (I’m going to the countryside)
  • Vado in banca (I’m going to the bank)
  • Vado in chiesa (I’m going to the church)
  • Vado in biblioteca (I’m going to the library)
  • Vado in palestra (I’m going to the gym)
  • Vado in montagna (I’m going to the mountains)
  • Vado in vacanza (I’m going on holiday)
  • Vado in edicola (I’m going to the kiosk)

BUT there are also some masculine nouns that follow the preposition IN

  • Vado in centro (I’m going dowtown)
  • Vado in ufficio (I’m going to the office)
  • Vado in albergo/hotel (I’m going to the hotel)

You should pay attention to two words in particular! The noun stazione (station) and the noun ospedale (hospital) are different, because they can be used with both prepositions: (Vado alla stazione / Vado in stazione —> I’m going to the station; Vado in ospedale / Vado all’ospedale —> I’m going to the hospital).

The word casa (house) is another particular noun, since we can find it with both prepositions in the sentences Vado a casa / Vado in casa (I’m going home), which are both correct, but have different meanings: the sentence with the preposition a means that the house is the destination of the movement (Dopo lavoro sono andata subito a casa —> After work I went straight home); the sentence with the preposition in means that you enter the house (Siccome in giardino faceva freddo, sono andata in casa —> Since it was cold in the garden, I went inside the house).

We hope that this article helped you to learn some basic rules about this rather difficult grammar topic. We are sure that these suggestions will make your learning easier and lighter! Now that you have a better understanding of the prepositions of place, don’t forget to watch the video about TIME prepositions!

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