Prepositions in Italian are strange.
Let me explain.
The ones we use in English have the semblance of Italian equivalents, but they’re not actually used in the same way.
Each preposition in Italian kind of plays its own tune and requires attachment to certain verbs, phrases, or just meanings in general.
In this mini-series, I want to highlight unexpected uses of the three prepositions “di”, “da”, and “in”.
Let’s start with “di”.
First of all, you should know that “di” could mean be defined in these ways in English:
1.) Is it “DI mattino” or “IN mattino”?
La notte scorsa sono stata in discoteca fino alle 3 DEL mattino.
In English, we would say “Last night I was at the club until three IN the morning.”
But in Italian, they’re literally saying “Last night I was in the club until three OF the morning.”
This is a really common construction in Italian when it comes to time.
In Italian, they say:
— Di mattina/mattino – In the morning
CPF: You can also say “al mattino” in different contexts.
— Di notte – At night
— Di sera – In the evening
— Di pomeriggio – In the afternoon
2.) Is it “qualcosa dolce” or “qualcosa DI dolce”?
Vorrei mangiare qualcosa DI dolce.
In English, we would translate this as “I would like to eat something sweet”.
However, we see that “di” comes after “qualcosa” and before “dolce” making the literal sentence “I would like something OF sweet to eat”.
The grammar books say that “di” goes between them because it’s talking about the quality of something.
I don’t know if that even helps me make sense of why, so this is an instance where I ignore grammar books.
You can do that, too.
Here are some other instances where this happens:
— Amici/amiche di vecchia data – Old friends (Literally: Friends of old date)
— Una persona di valore – A valued person (Literally: A person of value)
3.) Is it “Esco di casa” or “Esco la mia casa”?
Esco DI casa.
In English, we would say “I’m leaving my house”, but in Italian, it literally sounds like “I’m leaving from home”.
You could also say “Esco DA casa”.
— Esco di casa alle 8 del mattino. – I’m leaving home at eight in the morning.
— Esco da casa alle 7 e passo a prenderti. – I’ll leave from home at seven and I’ll come pick you up.
Interestingly enough, you wouldn’t be able to use “da” for leaving school or work.
It would need to be:
— Esco da scuola. – I’m leaving (from) school.
— Esco dal lavoro. – I’m leaving (from) work.
CPF: You can also say “Esco da lavoro”.
And all of this talk of “da” leads us to your next preposition in the mini-series on unexpected uses.
And for a more in-depth experience with prepositions, check out the 7-week Italian Prepositions Challenge here.
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