“In” and “ago” as expressions of time: Italian grammar lesson 60


Key Takeaways

Get ready to master Italian time expressions with ease! This guide breaks down how to use tra, fa, and in to chat about past, present, and future events like a true Italiano. 🇮🇹⏰

  • Tra vs. Fra: They’re twins in the Italian language! Use either to say “in” for future events. Whether you’re arriving tra mezz’ora or your bro’s birthday is fra tre giorni, you’re all set. 🕒
  • Fa is your go-to for the past. Just finished a delicious gelato un’ora fa? That’s how you say “ago” in Italian. Remember, fa always follows the time expression. 🍨👈
  • Use In for the duration. If you aced Italian in sei mesi, you’re telling folks the time it took to achieve something. It’s like saying “within” or “in” in English. 🏆
  • Personal preference rules when choosing between tra and fra. Go with what rolls off the tongue or what you hear locals using. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! 🗣️👍
  • Keep it simple with fa. No need to complicate things; slap it right after your time expression to talk about the good old days. Due anni fa, you didn’t know a word of Italian, look at you now! 🎉

Quick facts

What preposition indicates waiting time for future events in Italian?

"Tra" indicates waiting time for future events, such as "Arrivo tra mezzora," meaning "I will arrive in half an hour."

Is there a difference between "tra" and "fra" in Italian?

No, "tra" and "fra" are interchangeable in meaning, like "Fabrizia parte tra due giorni" and "Mio fratello compie gli anni fra tre giorni."

How do you express a past event in Italian?

Use "fa" after the time expression, e.g., "Ho finito di lavorare un'ora fa" means "I finished working one hour ago."

Can "fa" be used before a time expression?

No, "fa" must always follow the time expression, such as "Giovanna si è sposata due settimane fa," meaning "Giovanna got married two weeks ago."

How is the preposition "in" used in Italian regarding time?

"In" describes a set time within which an event occurs, like "Ho finito il libro in soli tre giorni," meaning "I finished the book in just three days."

How would you say "I lost 2 kilos in one week" in Italian?

You'd say, "In una settimana ho perso due chili," using "in" to denote the time frame.

What's an example of using "tra" for future events?

"Il concerto è tra una settimana" translates to "The concert is in one week," indicating a future event.

Can "in" imply the duration taken to complete an action?

Yes, like "Sandro si è laureato in tre anni," meaning "Sandro graduated in three years," showing the duration of his studies.

How do you express "ago" in Italian?

Use "fa" after the time expression, e.g., "Quanto tempo fa è successo?" means "How long ago did it happen?"

Is there a preference between "tra" and "fra" among Italian speakers?

No strict preference; usage depends on personal habit and phonetics. Both are correct, like "Il concerto è tra una settimana" or "fra una settimana."

My Thoughts

What are expressions of time in Italian?

If you are studying a foreign language like Italian, you will soon realize how important and useful expressions of time are in everyday life and conversation.

In this lesson, we will look at some of the most commonly used prepositions you can use when talking about time: tra (in) and fa (ago), and in (in).

Arrivo tra mezz’ora, va bene?

I will arrive in half an hour, is that ok?

Ci siamo laureate 3 anni fa.

We graduated 3 years ago.

Riesci a finirlo in un’ora?

Will you be able to finish it in one hour?

How to use tra?

The Italian preposition tra has more than one use. But when we talk about time, it indicates how long we have to wait for something to happen.

It describes the amount of time to something in the future.

Fabrizia parte tra due giorni.

Fabrizia is leaving in two days.

Il concerto è tra una settimana.

The concert is in one week.

As you might already know, there is another preposition in Italian that looks very similar to tra: fra.

Do not worry! They are so similar for a reason: there is no difference in meaning between tra and fra.

Italian speakers use them according to personal preference, habit, and phonetics.

Mio fratello compie gli anni fra tre giorni.

My brother’s birthday is in three days.

How to use fa?

The preposition fa is the Italian equivalent of ago. Its use is pretty simple and can come after right after all kinds of expressions of time to talk about the past.

Have a look at the examples below:

Ho finito di lavorare un’ora fa.

I finished working one hour ago.

Giovanna si è sposata due settimane fa.

Giovanna got married two weeks ago.

Quanto tempo fa è successo?

How long ago did it happen?

Remember, just like agofa must come after the expression of time!

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

How to use in?

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The preposition in can be used in Italian to talk about a set amount of time within which an action or event will take place.

It can be translated into English as within or in.

Here are some examples:

Ho finito il libro in soli tre giorni. Mi è piaciuto molto.

I finished the book in just three days. I really liked it.

Sandro si è laureato in tre anni.

Sandro graduated in three years.

In una settimana ho perso due chili.

I lost 2 kilos in one week.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

How do I use "tra" in Italian, and what does it mean?

In Italian, "tra" is a preposition that can mean "between," "among," or "in" when referring to time or space. It is used to indicate relationships between people, objects, or periods. For example: Il ristorante è tra la banca e il cinema (The restaurant is between the bank and the cinema) or Ci vediamo tra due ore (See you in two hours).

Are there any differences between "tra" and "fra" in Italian?

Both "tra" and "fra" have the same meaning in Italian, and they can be used interchangeably. They both express relationships between people, objects, or periods in terms of space or time. For example: Il parco è fra/tra la chiesa e la scuola (The park is between the church and the school) or Ci vediamo fra/tra tre giorni (See you in three days).

How do I choose between "in" and "tra" when referring to time in Italian?

When referring to time in Italian, use "in" to indicate that something will happen within a specific time frame or period, while use "tra" to express that an event will occur after a certain amount of time has passed. For example: Completerò il compito in due ore (I will complete the task within two hours) or Inizieremo la riunione tra mezz'ora (We will start the meeting in half an hour).

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