Italian Language/use of "a"


Dear Maria,

Thank you for your help with my recent question about the sentence – “Io gioco nel parco”.

I am still confused and hope that you will not mind another question about this sentence.

Can you please help me to understand why the preposition “a” can be used to indicate position at a point in the some sentences (please see the sentences below), but the preposition “a” cannot be used to indicate position at a point in  -   “Io gioco al parco”  (I play at the park) where one must say instead – “Io gioco nel parco” (I play at the park).

Io sono al museo.
I am at the museum.

Il taxi è all’aeroporto.
The taxi is at the airport.

Aspetto al binario tre.
I wait at platform three.

Le donne lavorano al ristorante.
The women work at the restaurant.

Loro comprano la verdura al supermercato.
They buy vegetables at the supermarket.

I hope you do not mind my asking this question.  This is very confusing to me.  

Thank you



Dear Rich,

I know that you are still confused after my answer about the sentence “Io gioco nel parco”, but I was referring to this  specific sentence when I said that you needed to use the articulated preposition “nel” before the noun “parco” which is not a geographic term of city, country, region.

In short, the preposition “al”, which is used to indicate position at a point in  some sentences such as “Io sono al museo”, “Il taxi è all’aeroporto”, “Aspetto al binario tre“, “Le donne lavorano al ristorante”, "Loro comprano la verdura al supermercato”,  is not used in “Io gioco nel parco” because there is the verb “giocare” + the noun “parco”.

See also: “Mi piace portare i bambini a giocare nel parco vicino casa”, “In città ci sono molti parchi nei quali i bimbi giocano”, etc.

Anyway, I have to tell you that, although generally speaking the preposition “in” and its articulated forms are used  with verbs that  denote the place where  an action takes place as in “Abito nella casa di  mio padre”, while the preposition “a” and its articulated forms are used with verbs that show motion towards a place as in “Vado al parco”, this rule is not mandatory, since the use of a preposition depends often on the verb or the noun used in a sentence.

See for example:” Gioco in giardino”, "Amo passeggiare nel parco",“Sto spesso  in casa”, “Lavorava al bar della stazione”, “Sono in stazione e aspetto il treno”, “Non mi piace stare in campagna”, “Andrò a Roma in treno”, “Ti invito a stare con me nella mia casa al mare”, "Vado spesso al mare", etc.

To conclude, when using  prepositions, it’s advisable to use the dictionary to check how a preposition is used  and  look it up in  some  examples  that are usually quoted in the entries.
This because a non-native speaker  can have a lot of trouble with the prepositions and their use.

So, I am afraid that I cannot give you a fixed grammar rule about this, but unfortunately that’s the way it is.

All the best,


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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).

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