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Italian Language/Use of prepositions with the names of continenets

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QUESTION: Dear Maria,

My question is about the use of the prepositions “in” and “a” with the names of continents.  

I was wondering if it is true that the use of either the preposition “in” or the use of the preposition “a” before the name of a continent depends on the verb that is used in the sentence.

Can you please tell me if it is true that these prepositions can be translated as either - “in”, “at” or “to” depending on the verb that is used in the sentence.

Can you also please tell me if the simple preposition or if the articulated preposition should be used before the name of a continent.  

For example, should I say:

“in Sudamerica”
in, at, to South America

“a Sudamerica”
in, at, to South America

Or, should these prepositions be articulated as:

“nel Sudamerica”
in,  at, to South America  

“al Sudamerica”
in, at, to South America


Thank you very much for your help.

Sincerely,

Rich

ANSWER: Dear Rich,

it is true that the use of either the preposition “in” or the use of the preposition “a” before the name of a continent depends on the verb that is used in the sentence.

Also, it is true that these prepositions can be translated as either - “in”, “at” or “to”, depending on the verb that is used in the sentence.

In short, it is correct to say:“in Sudamerica”  (in, at, to South America) and “nel Sudamerica”  (in,  at, to South America ), but not  “a Sudamerica “ nor “ al Sudamerica” .

See for example: “Vive in Sudamerica”, “Va in Sudamerica”, “Ha vissuto a lungo nel Sudamerica”, “Alcuni miei amici sono rimasti in Sudamerica per diversi anni”, “Nel Sudamerica si parla Spagnolo, tranne che in Brasile dove si parla Portoghese”.

Anyway, with Italian names of the continents Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, we use the simple preposition "in", but not the articulated preposition "nel /nella", unless the name of the continent is followed by a specific detail such as an adjective, for example.

See e.g.:  "Sono stata in Asia", "Vado in Asia", "Preferisco abitare in Europa", "Sono stata in Africa", "Vado in Africa", "Preferisco abitare in Australia", "Sono stata nell' Asia meridionale", "Vado nell' Africa orientale", "Preferisco abitare nell' Europa del Nord","Ho fatto un viaggio nell'Australia del Sud".  

All the best,

Maria


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Maria,

Thank you for your help with this question.  

I am sorry not to be able to completely understand.  

Can you please explain why you say it is true that the preposition “a” can be used before the name of a continent - depending on the verb, but that saying “a Sudamerica” and “al Sudamerica” is not correct.

Thank you very much for your help and patience with my questions.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

I do realize that it is not so easy to understand why “a Sudamerica” and “al Sudamerica” are not correct, though it is true that the preposition “a” can be used before the name of a continent - depending on the verb of motion or  of place where.

Anyway you must consider that every language has its grammar rules, but also its specific exceptions to the rule, just as in the examples “a Sudamerica”, “a Nordamerica”, “ ad Asia”, “ad  Africa”, “ad Australia”,”ad Europa”, where  the preposition “a” or “ad” used before a vowel are wrong and also cacophonous.

To sum up, grammar rules are important, but daily language practice is also very important as it can teach you how to  use the simple / articulated prepositions before a name/noun.

So, I’m sorry, but unfortunately it's impossible to help you more.

Best regards,

Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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

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