You are here:

Italian Language/"invece" and "invece di"


Dear Maria,

My question is about the use of the Italian preposition “invece”.  I have learned from a recent answer to a question that ‘invece” means “but”.   I have also learned from this answer that the preposition “invece” cannot be used in all contexts to mean “but”.

Could you please tell me under what types of context that I should use the word “invece” to mean “but”.   I know that there are other Italian words such as “ma” that are used to express “but”.  I am trying to understand when to use “invece” to express “but”.  

This is confusing because my dictionary also states that preposition “invece” means “instead”.  Can you please tell me if it is acceptable to use “invece” to express “instead”.

I am also wondering about the use of “invece di”.    My dictionary states that “invece di” is a preposition that means “instead of”.   Can you please tell me if this is correct or not.
I am asking this question because I was wondering if “invece di” is actually a “locuzione prepositiva”.  Can you please tell me if “invece di” is a “locuzione prepositiva”.  

If “invece di" is actually a "locuzione prepositiva" - I am wondering why my dictionary does not identify "invece di" as a "locuzione prepositiva".   

Does this mean that all “locuzioni prepositive” will be identified as “prepositions” in dictionaries even though they are actually “locuzioni prepositive” (Italian prepositional phrases)?

Thank you very much for your help.  

Very Sincerely,


Dear Rich,

actually “invece” is not a preposition, but an adverb meaning “instead”, “but”, “on the contrary”, according to the context.
For example:

-“Dovrei andare io stesso,  invece ci andrà mio fratello” (I myself should  go, but my brother  will go instead);
-“Volevo telefonargli e invece  andai di persona” ( I was going to phone him, but went to see him instead);
-“Credevo di trovarlo in casa, (ma) invece  non c’era” ( I expected to find him at home, but he wasn’t there);
-“Lui ama lo sport, e invece io no,”( he loves sport, but I don’t);
- “Ti sei annoiato?” “No,  invece mi sono molto divertito” ( “Were you bored?” “On the contrary. I enjoyed myself immensely);
-“I suoi fratelli hanno studiato medicina; lui, invece, ha scelto legge” ( his brothers studied medicine; he, on the contrary, opted for law).

So, generally speaking, we can say  that  you must  use “invece” to mean “but” when the Italian sentences expresses a strong contrast as in “Credevo di trovare qualcuno, invece non c’era in giro nessuno “ , “Volevo telefonargli e invece  andai di persona”, “Credevo di trovarlo in casa,  invece  non c’era” , “Lui ama lo sport, e invece io no”.

But, when the contrast is not so strong, as in “Ti sei annoiato?” “No,  invece/al contrario  mi sono molto divertito”  or  “I suoi fratelli hanno studiato medicina; lui, invece/al contrario, ha scelto legge”, the adverb “invece”, synonym of "al contrario", can be translated as “on the contrary”, while it translated as “instead” in sentences like the following:”Non ho voglia di camminare, prendiamo un taxi, invece” (I don’t feel like walking - let’s take a taxi instead), “Prova invece ad andare in campeggio” (try camping instead), etc.
Therefore it is acceptable to use “invece” to express “instead”.

As for  “invece di”, it is just  a “locuzione prepositiva” meaning exactly  “instead of” and your dictionary should have  identified it as a "locuzione prepositiva", not as a mere preposition, though  the  Italian prepositional phrase  is working  like a preposition.

To conclude, in Italian we use the conjunction “ma” when the contrast is not so strong, while we use the adverb “invece”/"ma invece" when we want to express a strong contrast, and finally we often use the "locuzione avverbiale"  "al contrario" as a synonym of "invece".

Best regards,


Italian Language

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 All rights reserved.