“Pensare a” in Italian: Grammar Lesson

Lesson 108

Key Takeaways

Readers will learn the differences between using pensare a and pensare di in Italian, including their specific grammatical structures and meanings.

  • Pensare a is used to express thinking about someone or something, often followed by a proper noun, pronoun, or article.
  • When asking questions, place the preposition a at the beginning, e.g., A chi pensi?
  • Combine a with an article for common nouns, e.g., alle for plural feminine nouns.
  • Pensare di is followed by an infinitive verb and expresses an opinion, intention, or decision about an action.
  • Pensare a focuses on contemplation, while pensare di is more decisive or opinion-based.

Quick facts

How does "pensare" change meaning with different prepositions?

"Pensare di" implies intention or decision, while "pensare a" focuses on contemplation or consideration.

How do you express thinking about someone in Italian?

Use "pensare a" followed by a proper noun or a stressed object pronoun, like "Penso a Maria" or "Penso a te."

What preposition do you use with "pensare" when referring to actions?

Use "pensare a" or "pensare di" with an infinitive verb, depending on whether it's contemplation or intention.

How do you ask what someone is thinking about in Italian?

Start the question with "A cosa" or "A chi," as in "A cosa pensate?" or "A chi pensi?"

When using common nouns with "pensare a," what must be included?

Combine "a" with the appropriate article based on gender and number, like "al," "alla," "ai," etc.

Can "pensare a" and "pensare di" be used interchangeably?

Occasionally, yes. "Pensare a" can mean to consider doing something, similar to "pensare di," but the nuance differs.

How does "pensare di" translate in terms of decision-making?

"Pensare di" leans towards expressing a planned action or decision, like "Penso di partire domani."

What does "pensare a" imply when followed by an infinitive verb?

It implies considering or contemplating an action, such as "Pensi sempre a fumare!"

How does proper noun usage differ with "pensare a"?

Use "a" followed by the person's name or a stressed pronoun, e.g., "Penso a Maria" or "Penso a te."

What's a good Italian song to practice "pensare a" usage?

"E penso a te" by Lucio Battisti is perfect for practicing this grammatical structure.

Audio images

Penso sempre ai miei amici.
Penso sempre ai miei amici.
Pensiamo alle vacanze estive.




Penso a te.

I think of you.

Sto pensando a cosa fare.

I am thinking about what to do.

Non posso smettere di pensare a quella canzone.

I can't stop thinking about that song.

Hai mai pensato a cambiare lavoro?

Have you ever thought about changing jobs?

Pensiamo a organizzare una festa.

Let's think about organizing a party.

My Thoughts

“Pensare” in Italian

The verb pensare means “to think”, but its translation might slightly change depending on what you want to say, like in the examples below:

Sto pensando di iscrivermi all’università.

I’m thinking of enrolling in university.

Abbiamo pensato a un bel regalo per Giovanni.

We thought about a nice present for Giovanni.

As you can see, in the first case it takes on the meaning of considering something, while in the second it is merely the expression of a thought.

Another detail I hope you noticed is the preposition that follows the verb “pensare”. On the one hand, we have the preposition “a”, on the other hand, we have the preposition “di”.

Let me explain to you the main differences between these two.

Penso sempre ai miei amici.

“Pensare a” vs “Pensare di”

“Pensare a” in Italian

In Italian, we use the construction pensare + a to express that we are thinking of (or about) something or someone. This is the easiest use and translation of the verb “pensare”, but what is relevant, is the fact that the preposition can be followed by different grammatical items.

  • Pensare a + proper noun/pronoun

When we refer to someone, we might use their name, but we might also just use a followed by a stressed object pronoun.

a me
a te
a lui/lei
a noi
a voi
a loro

Penso sempre a Maria.

I always think of Maria.

Penso sempre a te.

I always think of you.

If you want to ask what or who someone is thinking about, you have to place the a at the beginning of the question, as in the examples below:

A cosa pensate?

What are you thinking about?

A chi pensi?

Who are you thinking about?

  • Pensare a + article

Of course, when we use a common noun, we might need an article before it. In this case, we must combine the preposition a with an article, depending on the gender and number of what we’re referring to:

il + a al
lo + a allo
la + a all’ / alla
i + a ai
gli + a agli
le + a alle

Have a look at the examples below:

Stai pensando alle tue bambine?

Are you thinking about your girls?

  • Pensare a + infinitive

In Italian, the phrase “pensare a” followed by an infinitive verb generally means “to think about” or “to consider” doing something. This is very commonly interchangeable with “pensare di” which I will explain below.

Pensi sempre a fumare! Non è salutare!

You are always thinking about smoking! It is not healthy!

“Pensare di” in Italian

In Italian, the construction “pensare di” is followed by an infinitive verb and is used to express an opinion or intention, or to indicate the act of considering doing something.

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It is equivalent to the English “to think of” or “to plan on”, but it often leans more towards expressing a thought process or decision about an action.

Penso di partire domani.

I plan to leave tomorrow.

Penso di accettare l’offerta di lavoro.

I am thinking of accepting the job offer.

While “pensare a” focuses more on the contemplation or consideration of an action (similar to pondering), “pensare di” is typically more decisive or opinion-based.

Penso sempre ai miei amici.

E Penso a Te

Now that you have understood the different uses of pensare in Italian, try listening to the song below by Lucio Battisti. Its title is E penso a te, so it is perfect to practice this new topic.

Io lavoro e penso a te.
Torno a casa e penso a te.
Le telefono e intanto penso a te.
Come stai? E penso a te.
Dove andiamo? E penso a te.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions


When do we use "pensare a"?

When we think of (or about) something or someone.

Can "pensare a" be used with a pronoun?

Yes! Pensare a + pronoun (me, te, lui/lei, noi, voi, loro).

Can "pensare a " be combined with an article?

Yes! Pensare a + article (al, allo, all'/alla, ai, agli, alle).

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