La preposizione 'di'
Languages are filled with tiny words. In Italian, some of these words are called prepositions and are constantly used to connect various parts of sentences. Prepositions connect nouns, adjectives, or phrases to express directions, possession, limitations, and much more. In this article, we will focus on the preposition 'di'.
One of the first prepositions presented to new Italian learners is the preposizione 'di'. This monosyllabic word is used in basic questions such as : 'di dove sei?' [where are you from?] or 'di chi è questo...?' [ Whose is this...?], and many others. It is also one of the most confusing elements of the Italian language. Looking at the two questions it is clear that this small particle doesn't correspond to a singular element of the English language. So how does it work?
What is a preposition?
A preposition is a short word that correlates a noun, or a pronoun, to another element of a sentence in order to express a specific function. We use them constantly to express concepts such as possession [e.g. A friend of yours], the idea of origin [e.g. I am from Rome], and much more. In Italian the prepositions have the same function but, as in the English language, their use is often correlated to idiomatic expressions and functions. The prepositions in Italian are : di / a / da / in / con / su / per / tra / fra .
What is the general role of the preposition 'di'?
The 'preposizione di' expresses many, functions, and it is often presented in an overcomplicated way by grammar books. We can conceptualise the role of 'di', as a preposition that allows us to convey specific information related to possession, belonging, or characteristics.
'Di' gives us the possibility to express what in English we cover with the use of the Genitive, or with the preposition 'of'. Overall, we are giving specific information about to whom something belongs. If my friend Giorgio has a car, in Italian I would say that car belongs to Giorgio. I would think of it rather than 'Giorgio's car' - as - The car of Giorgio -
la macchina di Giorgio
This idea of belonging gets translated also into places. In Italian, when we tell where are we from, we are intending that we belong to that place
io sono di Roma.
This different mindset applies also to specify the material of what something is made of, the content, or it dimensions. If I want to describe a paper sheet I would use the preposition 'di' to specify the material
un foglio di carta
To describe the content of something, for instance, 'a glass of wine'
un bicchiere di vino
And dimensions, such as a '2-meters wall'
un muro di due metri
These are the most common uses of the preposition 'di' that a beginner/elementary learner might encounter. There are many more but the best way is to start bit by bit. Remember that your brain is a wonderful machine and it will register this preposition (along with the others) and you will master their use without even realising it!
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