COMMON MISTAKES with Italian PREPOSITIONS

One of the biggest challenges that foreigners encounter while learning Italian involves the correct use of prepositions. Mistakes are often made in this area, so, in this lesson we will address five common errors that many foreigners, even the more advanced ones, tend to make. I hope this guide helps you avoid them in the future!

How to use Italian PREPOSITIONS

Before reading this article, we recommend you take a look at our lesson on simple Italian prepositions. Do you already know what all the simple Italian prepositions are and how to use them? Well, then, go ahead with this article, where you’ll see the most common mistakes to avoid with prepositions:

1. É IMPORTANTE DI fare

Let’s be honest…Have you ever found yourself saying a similar phrase at least once in your life?

Well… I’m sorry to tell you that it’s incorrect!

The correct structure is:

È + adjective + verb in the infinitive

This structure expresses the nature of an action, specifying its quality. It’s like stating “fare è importante”. Therefore, it is not necessary to add anything, not even the preposition DI.

So, regarding our initial sentence, the correct form is: è importante fare.

Here are other examples with this structure:

È scorretto copiare agli esami.

È fondamentale conoscere la cultura del Paese in cui si vive.

È necessario comunicare i propri dati personali al servizio di assistenza.

2. LA RAGAZZA CAPELLI BIONDI

If I asked you to complete this sentence with a preposition, which one would you use?

Maybe CON? La ragazza con i capelli biondi. Yes, that’s correct.

But what if I told you that you can also use another preposition to say the same thing? Indeed…

Many foreigners think it’s a mistake, but it’s not.

To provide more details about the external appearance or personality of people or things, it is also possible to use the preposition DA. So, you can also say: la ragazza dai capelli biondi.

Both forms are correct, but the use of DA is considered more elegant, especially in formal contexts.

For example, there is an animated series called Anna dai capelli rossi.

Or, the novella by Honoré de Balzac (La Fille aux yeux d’or) has been translated into Italian as La ragazza dagli occhi d’oro.

The preposition DA in this case is almost always used as an articulated preposition (dal, dai, dalla), and the article agrees in gender and number with the described characteristic.

Here are some examples:

Sono seduta sotto la pianta dalle foglie rosse.
Il ragazzo dagli occhi azzurri si chiama Luca.
Quel cane dal pelo lungo è di Carol.

An important note: you can use DA to provide details about characteristics that belong to a thing or a person, in the sense that they were born with those characteristics, as you can see from the examples. Whereas, you can use CON to provide details about other characteristics, for example, things that were purchased by the person concerned.

Therefore:

Il ragazzo con i capelli castani = Il ragazzo dai capelli castani

BUT

Il ragazzo con la Ferrari and not Il ragazzo dalla Ferrari

3. UNA VOLTA A / IL / PER ?

Let me explain this better. How is it said?

Una volta a settimana

Una volta alla settimana

Una volta la settimana

Una volta per settimana

According to the Accademia della Crusca, all formulations are accepted when it comes to indicating the frequency with which an action is carried out in a specific period of time.

However, the most common one is definitely the preposition A used as an articulated preposition (una volta alla settimana).

Other similar forms include:

Due volte al giorno

Tre ore al mese

Due giorni all’anno

4. UN LIBRO DA UN AUTORE

I often hear phrases like “Un quadro da Van Gogh” or “Un libro da Stephen King”.

No, these forms are INCORRECT! When mentioning the author of a work without using verbs in the sentence, the correct preposition is DI. For example, “Un quadro DI Van Gogh” or “Un libro DI Stephen King”.

The “DA” form is correct only in passive constructions, after the verb.

The examples mentioned earlier would be transformed into:

Un quadro dipinto da Van Gogh.

Un libro che è stato scritto da Stephen King.

5. SOPRA DI, SOTTO DI, SENZA DI

Generally, words like sopra, sotto, senza, when used as improper prepositions (i.e., together with a noun), should not be followed by the preposition DI. For example:

Il cane è sotto il tavolo. [you can also say “sotto al tavolo”, but it’s more informal]

Preferisce mangiare la carne senza sale.

Ho appeso il quadro sopra il camino. [you can also say “sopra al camino”, but it’s more informal]

However, if a personal pronoun is present after sopra, sotto or senza, then the preposition DI is necessary.

For instance:

Non riesce a stare senza di te.

Sopra di noi vive una famiglia molto socievole.

Ha tantissimi dipendenti sotto di lui.

Would you like to go deeper into Italian prepositions or any other grammar topics? You can do it on italki, the largest language learning platform! I am an ambassador there and have been working as a teacher for several years. You can find me by searching my name: Graziana Filomeno!

Did you like this article? If you enjoyed it, you can delve deeper by reading a similar one on QUALCOSA: most common mistakes.

Leave a Reply