How to use “tra”: Italian grammar lesson

Lesson 177

Key Takeaways

Discover how to use the Italian preposition tra to express intermediate positions, time, and distance effectively.

  • Meaning: Tra means in the middle of, between, and among, covering both spatial and temporal contexts.
  • Usage: Often paired with e (and) to link items, such as in “La città si trova tra le colline e il mare.”
  • Time and Distance: Tra can also mean in when discussing future events or distances, like “Ci vediamo tra un’ora.”
  • Interchangeable: Tra and fra are interchangeable, with the choice often based on sound preference to avoid repetition.

Quick facts

What is the primary function of "tra" in Italian?

"Tra" denotes an intermediate position between items, regarding time or space.

How does "tra" correlate to English prepositions?

"Tra" translates to "between" or "among" in English, covering both meanings.

How is "tra" typically used in a sentence?

"Tra" often pairs with "e" (and) to link items, e.g., "tra le colline e il mare."

Can you give an example where "tra" denotes location?

"La città si trova tra le colline e il mare" means "The city is located between the hills and the sea."

What does "tra" signify when discussing future events?

"Tra" indicates the time until a future event, like "Ci vediamo tra un’ora" (See you in one hour).

How do you use "tra" to discuss distances?

"Tra" describes distances, e.g., "Tra due chilometri c'è un supermercato" means "There is a supermarket in two miles."

How is "tra poco" used in Italian conversation?

"Tra poco" means "shortly" or "in a short period," commonly used to indicate imminent actions.

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

"Tra" and "fra" are interchangeable, chosen based on sound preference to avoid repetition.

Why might one prefer "fra" over "tra" in some contexts?

"Fra" might be chosen over "tra" to avoid awkward repetition, like "fra fratelli" instead of "tra fratelli."

Can "tra" be used to express a time frame for an event?

Yes, "tra" can express a time frame, e.g., "Arriveranno tra quattro ore" means "They'll arrive in four hours."

Audio images

🔊
Tra amici ci si sente a casa.
🔊
I bambini giocano tra gli alberi.
🔊
Ho trovato una moneta tra i cuscini del divano.

Vocab

tra
preposizione
italiano
significato
uso
frase
esempio
spazio
tempo
insieme
scelta
luogo
periodo
confronto
intervallo
comunicazione
distanza
relazione
scambio
ambito

Sentences

Tra una settimana vado in vacanza.

In a week, I'm going on vacation.

Tra me e te, non ci sono segreti.

Between you and me, there are no secrets.

Il negozio è tra la farmacia e la banca.

The store is between the pharmacy and the bank.

Tra i miei amici, sei il più divertente.

Among my friends, you are the funniest.

Il film inizia tra dieci minuti.

The movie starts in ten minutes.

My Thoughts

What does “tra” mean in Italian?

In today’s grammar note, we’re going to focus on how to use tra, which is a very small but common word.

It is very easy to use since it has a specific meaning.

As we stated previously, it refers to the idea of an intermediate position between two or more items, in terms of time and space.

Tra can be translated as in the middle of, between, and among.

Just so you know, in Italian, we don’t differentiate between “between” and “among”. We just say tra.

Also, we usually use the word e (and) in the same sentence since it lets us link two or more items that are in between, as you can see in the example below:

La città si trova tra le colline e il mare.

The city is located between the hills and the sea.

🔊
Tra amici ci si sente a casa.

🔊
I bambini giocano tra gli alberi.

Tra: Examples

Let’s have a look at some more examples:

C’è un bellissimo giardino tra le due case.

There’s a beautiful garden between the two houses.

Le chiavi sono cadute tra il divano e il muro.

The keys fell between the couch and the wall.

Luigi era seduto tra la madre e la zia.

Luigi was sitting between his mother and his aunt.

C’era anche il pilota dell’aereo tra i feriti.

The pilot of the plane was among the injured.

Costerà tra i 10 e i 15 euro.

It’ll cost between 10 and 15 euros.

Sei il migliore tra i miei amici.

You’re the best among my friends.

🔊
Ho trovato una moneta tra i cuscini del divano.

When does tra mean in?

Tra can also mean in. This is when we’re discussing distance or time to something that will happen in the future.

Have a look at the examples below:

Ci vediamo tra un’ora.

See you in one hour.

Arriveranno tra quattro ore.

They’ll arrive in four hours.

Tra due chilometri c’è un supermercato.

There is a supermarket in two miles.

We also say tra poco a lot. It means in a short period of time or just shortly, as in the sentence below:

Tra poco arrivo.

I’ll be there shortly.

What’s the difference between tra and fra in Italian?

You might hear fra instead of tra. But there is no difference in meaning between the two forms.

Sometimes, we prefer to say one rather than the other depending on the sound of the word we’re referring to.

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For example, we might prefer to say phrase A, rather than phrase B, just to avoid the repetition of the same sound:

A: tra fratelli
B: fra fratelli

among siblings

A: fra tre anni
B: tra tre anni

in three years

But other than that, we use them interchangeably.

You can say either sentence A or B since they both mean the same:

A: Il treno si è fermato tra Perugia e Siena.
B: Il treno si è fermato fra Perugia e Siena.

The train stopped between Perugia and Siena.

Click here to learn all about the Italian preposition da.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

FAQs

What does "tra" mean?

It's a preposition referring to the idea of an intermediate position between two or more items, in terms of time and space

When does "tra" mean in?

When we’re discussing distance or time to something happening in the future.

Is there a difference between "tra" or "fra"?

There is no difference in meaning. They are used to avoid sound repetition in words.

Italian word of the day
aziende
Example
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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2 Responses

  1. Hi Stefano. There is another of those typos A~ where there should be c’e. It is in the Quick Facts about using tra for distance.

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