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Italian Prepositions Tra and Fra

Le Preposizioni Tra e Fra in Italiano

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The Italian prepositions tra and fra indicate the concept of an intermediate position (not necessarily central) with respect to two or more elements, especially in time and space. For this reason the prepositions tra and fra are often related to the conjunction e: un ponte tra una riva e l'altra del fiume (a bridge between one bank and the other of the river).

There is no difference in meaning between the two forms; the choice of one or the other is determined primarily for euphonic reasons. It is much preferred to say fra travi and tra frati to avoid groups of identical sounds (other examples include tra fratelli and fra tre anni). Even so, tra is the more common form; proceeding personal pronouns it is often followed by the preposition di: tra di noi.

  • The prepositions tra and fra take the following complements:

» location, place (stato in luogo) (with the meaning of "in mezzo a"): tra due monti si stende una vallata; una casa tra gli alberi (between two mountains lies a valley; a house amidst the trees)

» movement to a place (moto a luogo): torna tra noi (come back between us)

» movement through a particular point (moto per luogo): un raggio di luce passava tra le imposte socchiuse (a beam of light passed through the half-closed shutters)

» distance (distanza): tra due chilometri c'è un benzinaio (within two kilometers there is a gas station)

» time (tempo): arriverà tra due ore; sono libero tra le otto e le nove; parlare tra il sonno (she will arrive in two hours; I am free between eight and nine o'clock; to talk in one's sleep)

» connection, relationship (relazione): una discussione tra amici; si consultarono tra loro (a discussion between friends; they conferred amongst themselves)

» companionship, alliance (compagnia): ama stare fra gli altri (he loves to be among others)

» partitive (partitivo): sei il migliore tra i miei amici; alcuni tra i presenti protestarono (you are the best among my friends; some of those present protested)

In some sentences, tra tutti means "throughout, overall": tra tutti saranno un centinaio (overall there will be a hundred). In certain expressions the preposition tra (fra) has a causal value: Fra la casa e i bambini non ho mai il tempo di uscire Between the house and the children I never have time to get out.

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