Italian the word in

I'm confused as when to use it- sometimes it is acceptable and others it does not allow it..

April 28, 2019


When it comes down to prepositions, every language seems to have its own rules. So, it is difficult to understand when to use what (when learning a new language), but with time you'll get the grasps of it. There is a VERY large number of expressions using in.

Prepositions form the variable part of a clause that connects two elements (sentences or words). In is one of them. It is a preposizione (propria) semplice (invariable). When it is placed before a definite article, it merges with the article itself, originating a preposizione articolata (formed by a preposition + the article): nel, nello, nella, nei, negli, nelle.

[they are called preposizioni proprie because they only function as prepositions]

In usually indicates a position in space or time or a way of being or of behaving.


  • Ti aspetto in giardino. [position in space]

In is used with places that have a certain spatial extension: Abita in Italia. // Abitavo in campagna, ma ora abito in città.

To put evidence to the spatial extension of places (like small localities), also in particular expressions: In fondo alla strada (at the bottom of the street) // In cima al monte (at the top of the hill) // Sono in casa? (Are they home?) // L'ho visto in ufficio // Erano in chiesa

When it has the meaning of inside --> In sala non c'era quasi nessuno

In can be translated also with into and in in some cases (when it has the meaning ''from the outside to the inside''): Versare il latte in una tazza (To pour milk into a cup) // Loro guardarono nella stanza, ma non c'era nessuno. (They looked into the room, but there was no one there) // Mise la mano in tasca. (He put his hans into/in his pocket) // Cadde nell'/in acqua. (He fell into the water)

It can also be translated from into when there are verbs that indicate a transformation/a mutation: Circe trasformava gli uomini in beste (Circe changed men into beasts)

  • Ci rivedremo in autunno. [position in time]

with years, seasons, months and, usually, to indicate a period of time: L'ho fatto in due giorni (I did it in two days) / Nei giorni di mercato (on market days)

Also to indicate a specific moment: Nello stesso tempo (at the same time) / In quel giorno (that day)

  • Ama vivere in solitudine. [way of being]

  • Mi piace lavorare in gruppo. [way of behaving]

  • I miei zii vivono in campagna.

  • Controlla nello zaino. [nello: inside the backpack]

  • E' inciampato nel girarsi verso di lei. [by turning towards her, as he was turning towards her]

On (from English) can sometimes be translated also with in.


  • He had a curios turban on his head: Aveva un curioso turbante in testa

  • Dinner is served: Il pranzo è in tavola (on the table)

To express a position in a place, in is used with the names of streets, squares, regions and nations. Instead, a is used with names of cities.

in via Quasimodo, in piazza Unità d’Italia, in Friuli, nel Molise, nel Lazio, in Sardegna, in Islanda, in Germania, in Inghilterra [Example: Andremo in Inghilterra l'estate prossima.]

a Milano, a Roma, a Venezia, a Londra, a Madrid, a Parigi

Other constructions:

  • in molti casi

  • mettere in moto (to put into motion)

  • di città in città / di giorno in giorno / di male in peggio / di corte in corte (in is associated with the preposition di to indicate a progressive passage/a transition)

  • in mano [in is used in the sense of ''wrapped'',''contained''. For example: Aveva un coltello in mano (he had a knife in his hand) / L'ho trovato in un libro (I found it in a book) / Era avvolto in un pezzo di carta gialla (It was wrapped up in a piece of yellow paper)]

  • avere fiducia in qualcuno (to have confidence in someone)

  • essere nei panni di qualcuno (to be in place of somebody)

  • scoppiare in lacrime (to burst into tears)

  • in nome di (in the name of)

  • nel negare [nel + a verb]

In is used with the infinitive when it means:

  • ''in the act of'': Si ferì la mano nel chiudere la porta/chiudendo la porta (in the act of closing the door)

  • ''in the moment'': Svenne nel sentire la notizia (On hearing the news she fainted)

  • ''while'': Si tagliò il dito nel lavorare in giardino (He cut his finger while working in the garden)

  • in vacanza

  • in punto di morte (on the point of death)

  • essere in preda al terrore (to be a prey of terror)

  • in quanto a me (as far as I am concerned)

  • in seguito (a) (later on, subsequently)

  • stare in piedi (to be standing)

  • in treno / in aereo [this preposition is used also to indicate a means of transport] --> MA a piedi (by foot)

  • andare in bicicletta [see above]

  • in esilio

  • un commerciante in pelli (a dealer in skins) / uno studente in [or di medicina] medicina (a medical student) --> [to indicate a specific activity]

  • Chiara Rossi in Bianchi (Chiara Rossi née Bianchi) [in can be used before the family name (of the husband) to indicate the maiden name]

  • in seta [to indicate the material]

  • L'ho avuto in dono/regalo (I had it as a present) --> In is used to translated as when it has the meaning of ''in quality of''/''as''.

  • Guardò in alto (He looked up) / Sta lì in alto (It is up there) / C'è una fontana lì in basso (There is a fountain down there) --> it is sometimes used together with adverbs

(See here)

(Source for part of the answer)

If you download this file, you can find a list with other examples.

April 28, 2019

You say 'in' in the title, and 'it' in the description.

April 28, 2019
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