Use of "di," "a," "in," and "nel" for time in Italian. When do you use which?

I'm currently in the "time" section of Italian Duolingo, and for the life of me, I just can't figure out when to use each preposition for each different time. For the word "mattina" sometimes Duolingo uses "di" and sometimes it uses "a," whereas for places or months, Duolingo uses "in" or "di."

Can someone please help explain which preposition you use for different scenarios? Because I'm completely lost.


May 7, 2014



is used to express a specific or approximate time:

  • a Pasqua, a Natale

  • all'inizio, alla fine del mese

  • A domani! (See you tomorrow)

it's used to express a temporal distance:

  • a un ora da Roma

it is used with "primavera":

  • a primavera (but you can always use: in primavera instead of a primavera)

often it's used with months, but in these cases the use of in is preferable


is used if the moment/time/date expression utilized a month, a season, a century or an epoch

  • in aprile, in dicembre etc.

  • in inverno, in primavera, in estate, in autunno

(If the month or season is specified by something you have to use in + definite article, you also have to use in + definite article with centuries and epochs)

  • Sono stata in Grecia in aprile.

  • Sono stata in Grecia nell'aprile 2001.

  • nell'ottocento, nel 2013, negli anni Trenta

  • nel Medioevo

it's used with the definite article (in + definite article) for specific days and nights.

  • Ci siamo incontrati nel giorno del mio compleanno (= We met the day of my birthday) (in this case you can also use:.... il giorno del mio compleanno)

  • Nella notte del 13. marzo (= in the night of 13. March) (but also in this case you can use: La notte del 13. marzo)

it's used to express "within": Sarò pronta in un'ora. (in this case you can use also "entro")


is used with the time of day:

  • di sera, di mattina, di notte, di giorno

(in the case of mattina, pomeriggio sera the expressions

  • correre la mattina/la sera/ il pomeriggio

  • correre di mattina/di sera/di pomeriggio

  • correre alla mattina/alla sera /al pomeriggio (also: nel pomeriggio)

all are synonyms).

Sometimes it's only a regional question. In north Italy the expressions "alla mattina, alla sera etc." are more used. In my opinion it's the best to remember the cases which can always be used. (i.e. it's better to remember "di" which can be used with all the times of day)

also with some seasons (it's not used with primavera!! "a primavera" or "in primavera")

  • d'inverno, d'estate, d'autunno (but also in this cases you can always use "in")

"di" can also expresses an habit:

  • On Sunday = Di/La domenica (every Sunday):

  • Di domenica pomeriggio mangio la torta. = On Sunday afternoons I eat cake. (habit)


has the meaning "since, for":

  • da ieri, dalle otto in poi

da ... a + articolo

expressed the beginning and the end of a period of time

  • dalle due alle tre

fino a/ sino a

has the meaning "until, to"

  • musica fino a mattina

(this is the only case I can remember using mattina with only the preposition "a" (but maybe I am wrong)).

May 7, 2014

When do you use "a" with a month, for example, "a gennaio"? What is the rule ?
Many thanks.

July 7, 2018

I have a friend from Venice sitting with me and she has just said if it mattered once, it doesn't anymore, they are interchangeable... she uses both.

September 18, 2018

Thank you so much for your help! Now it makes sense.

May 8, 2014

I just asked an Italian buddy in Rimini (university educated) and he says this:

"in febbraio metto sempre i guanti. A febbraio andrò in montagna. A me piace "siamo in novembre" per il presente. Per il futuro arriveremo "in/a gennaio" è uguale."

November 8, 2018
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