Mmm from what I've seen, it seems to be a peculiarity of the words "at" and "in". For instance, a casa, a scuola, a cena, a Milano, a teatro, in Italia, in banca, in mare, in vacanza, etc. None of those use prepositional articles, they stick solely with their plain prepositions. I have no idea why. The only thing I have figured out is that you should use a for cities and in for countries.
According to my Italian textbook, when the word "in" is used to designate location, you omit the article when the following noun is doesn't have an adjective. I forget whether you include it in all cases where an adjective describes the noun, or if it's something more precise, like when the adjective helps to specify the location or specifies which scuola or teatro etc. you're talking about. I remember that the example given was "in Italia" vs "nell'Italia Centrale." One might include "in Italia" vs "negli Stati Uniti." Another example: "in mare" vs "nel mar Mediterraneo."
If I don't forget, I'll try to lookup the rule and edit this comment.
@kaport Yes, there are many things that sound funny to Americans when spoken in proper grammar. "Lay" as the past tense of "lie" comes to mind. Most Americans use "laid", which is, of course, the past participle and therefore wrong.
However, "family" is usually treated linguistically as a singular now. A unit. It's easiest to see in the romance languages because their articles reflect the noun. "La familia" not "Le familia." I honestly can't say for sure, but I would assume it's the same in English. So, "My family IS" is correct and not, "My family are." I find it interesting that your Brit friends use "are". What part of Britian? That matters a lot, as you may well know. My girlfriend and her family are from London and I can't say i ever noticed. Nor when I was in Southern England. I did encounter some interesting speech patterns in Torquay. LOL
I think the choice of singular/plural verb in these cases (and other collective nouns) is influenced by whether the action is being performed by the whole collective or by members of it considered individually. For example, 'the family are arguing' implies an internal disagreement, whereas 'the family is arguing' is more suggestive of the group presenting an argument representative of them all. Similarly, a sentence like 'the government are debating the proposal' seems to me to have a very different connotation to 'the government is debating the proposal'.
In the case of this sentence, however, I'd probably most naturally use 'is', although 'are' doesn't sound wrong to my English ears.
Americans consider a family to be a single unit, while other "English speaking" people consider a family to be a group which is why Americans use the singular verb and the "others" use the plural form. It is not a matter of using "correct" English; it is a matter of perception.
Tavolo is the piece of furniture. Tavola is a ready table, or it's a table in the sense of a chart, or it's a snowboard... just has many more meanings. More info at http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/tavola-vs-tavolo.6038/
The Italian sentence begins La tua famiglia ..., and I don't have an issue with that. In another lesson I had to translate an English sentence into Italian. The English began, My mother .... My translation was, La mia madre .... It was marked as incorrect and the correct solution was Mia madre .... So, I am totally confused now as to when I can put the definite article before a possessive.
Perhaps, but I doubt that other exercise is saying that about a family. More likely it refers to foods that are "in tavola" (which, in Italian, is a correct way of saying "on the table"). You can use either one, but they mean different things. "At (the) table" or "a tavola" usually means sitting down with the table right in front of you, whereas "on the table" or "in tavola" or "su tavola" means the table is physically supporting your weight. When translating, you should always use whatever has the same meaning, so if the sentence says "at the table," you should translate it "a tavola" rather than "in tavola".
Remember also that which preposition we use when is often inconsistent across languages. For example, although we say that "a" is "at" or "to" and "in" is "in" or "into", Italians will say "a Roma" while Americans will say "in Rome" rather than "at Rome". Even within a language, preposition usage is inconsistent; notice how we say, "I'm in the car" or "She's in an airplane", but we say, "He's on the bus." Unfortunately you sometimes just have to memorize how prepositions are used in different cases.
This is the exercise: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/1389900
The sentence is on the table (dinner, food, etc) Someone replied this: "I'm no expert, but as far as I have been able to research it, this is what I got. (Any corrections would be great)
Italian "in" is used as English "on" when the related noun is an abstract noun. And I'm guessing since the word "tavola" is not just a plain old "tavolo", it might count as an abstract noun in this case."
In tavola - on the table (food) a tavola - at the table (people)
I found this:
"Il tavolo is ‘the table’, in the sense of a piece of furniture. However if ‘the table’ is prepared for a meal, it becomes la tavola.
At home, when food is ready and you want to call your friends and family to the table to eat, you would say a tavola or è pronto in tavola. However, when calling to book a table at a restaurant, you would say vorrei prenotare un tavolo."
In this translation, there is no specificity regarding the table so the article "the" is not articulated but is implied. If the translation spoke to "the red table," the article would be articulated for specificity (la tavola rossa). Using the word "tavola" reflects a table for a meal while "tavolo" is a piece of furniture.