How to use “per”: Italian Grammar Lesson

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Key Takeaways

Learn the versatile world of the Italian preposition per, and master its various uses in everyday language! From expressing reasons to indicating movement, this guide has got you covered. 🇮🇹✨

  • Purpose or Intention: Learn how per indicates the intended purpose of actions, such as in “L’ho fatto per te” (I did it for you).
  • Destination: Understand how per specifies the final point of travel, such as in “Questo è il volo per Londra” (This is the flight to London).
  • Duration: Explore how per expresses the duration of past activities, like in “Ho lavorato per 10 ore ieri” (I worked for 10 hours yesterday).
  • Cause or Reason: See how per explains motivations, as in “Sono triste per la notizia” (I am sad because of the news).
  • Personal Perspective or Opinion: Find out how per expresses personal preferences, such as in “Per me sarebbe meglio la pizza” (For me, pizza would be better).
  • Means: Learn about using per to describe methods of communication or transport, as in “Te l’ho mandato per posta” (I sent it by post).

Quick facts

How does "per" function as a destination indicator in Italian?

"Per" can signify the destination, akin to English "to," as in "Questo è il volo per Londra" (This is the flight to London).

Can "per" denote the reason for an action?

Yes, "per" indicates the reason, similar to "for" or "to" in English, like in "L'abbiamo fatto per aiutarti" (We did it to help you).

How is "per" used with expressions of time in Italian?

"Per" is used to express the duration of an action, such as "Ho lavorato per 10 ore ieri" (I worked for 10 hours yesterday).

When talking about communication, how does "per" translate?

In communication, "per" translates to "by," like in "Abbiamo parlato per telefono" (We spoke on the phone).

What role does "per" play in describing movement through places?

"Per" signifies movement through a place, as in "Siamo passati per Milano" (We went through Milan).

How should one express the duration of an ongoing action in Italian?

Use "da" rather than "per" to express ongoing actions, e.g., "Studio giurisprudenza da 2 anni" (I’ve been studying law for two years).

What is the difference in using "per" and "da" with time expressions?

"Per" is used for completed durations, while "da" indicates ongoing actions, such as "Ho lavorato per" vs. "Studio da."

How does "per" function in the context of transportation?

"Per" denotes the method of transport, like "Te l'ho mandato per posta" (I sent it by post).

Can "per" be used to indicate a mistaken destination?

Yes, "per" can indicate a mistaken destination, e.g., "Pensavo di aver preso un bus per Milano ma era per Torino!" (I thought I got on a bus to Milan, but it was to Turin!).

What does "per" translate to when discussing entrance points?

"Per" translates to "through" for entrance points, as in "I ladri sono entrati per la porta posteriore" (The thieves came in through the backdoor).

My Thoughts

“Per” in Italian

The Italian preposition per can be translated into English in many different ways and can be used in a variety of grammatical constructions.

The most common way we can translate it is “per”, but its uses extend beyond this simple translation. It can indicate purpose or intention, destinations, durations, as well as causality and personal opinions.

Each of these uses demonstrates how flexible and useful “per” is to provide nuances that are essential for clear and effective communication in Italian.

How to use “per” in Italian

Purpose or Intention

Per is often used to indicate the intended purpose of an action or the reason why something is done. This can relate to the purpose of an object or an action meant to benefit someone or something.

Questi documenti sono per il direttore.

These papers are for the director.

L’ho fatto per te.

I did it for you.

For instance, in these sentences “per” indicates the recipient of the papers or the gesture. This use helps clarify the aim or goal behind actions and decisions.

Destination

In the context of movement, per specifies the final point towards which someone or something is headed.

Questo è il volo per Londra.

This is the flight to London.

Pensavo di aver preso un bus per Milano ma era per Torino!

I thought I got on a bus to Milan, but it was to Turin!

Londra and Milano are the destinations of the planned journeys. This usage is crucial for discussing travel plans and directions.

At the same time, when used with verbs of movement, per means through.

Siamo passati per Milano.

We went through Milan.

I ladri sono entrati per la porta posteriore.

The thieves came in through the backdoor.

Duration

Per is used to express for how long an activity has gone on in the past. Of course, this use requires a correct mastering of expressions of time.

Ho lavorato per 10 ore ieri.

I worked for 10 hours yesterday.

Quando arriverai, avrò già cucinato per un’ora.

When you will arrive, I will have cooked for one hour already.

It is important to underline that, for this use, the past tense – either the actual past or the past in the future with the future perfect – is mandatory, because per is used to express for how long something has been going on, implying it is no longer continuing in the present.

This peculiarity is the main reason why “per” and “da” get often confused. In fact, while “per” is used with the past tense, “da” is used with the present tense, meaning that something is still going on in the present.

Studio giurisprudenza da 2 anni.

I’ve been studying law for two years.

Meaning I started two years ago and I am still studying.

Cause or Reason

This usage of per explains the motivation behind an emotion, action, or event. It often introduces a causal relationship, providing the context for responses.

Sono triste per la notizia.

I am sad because of the news.

Here, “per” links the sadness directly to the news received, functioning as a connector.

Personal Perspective or Opinion

Per can also be used to express a personal preference, opinion, or perspective. It serves as a way to specify the preference of an individual regarding a matter.

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Example:

Per me sarebbe meglio la pizza.

For me, pizza would be better

It indicates that, from the speaker’s personal viewpoint, pizza is a preferred choice.

Means

Per can be used to talk about how something is transported or communicated. In this case, it is similar to the English by.

For example:

Te l’ho mandato per posta.

I sent it by post.

“Per” Everything!

Yes, per can be used almost for everything. This shows how important it is for you to master its uses and meanings if you want to learn Italian.

Start now practicing this tiny but enormously useful word per parlare (to speak) per ore (for hours) per telefono o per messaggio (by phone or by message) with whoever you want!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

What is "per" in Italian?

A preposition that can be used in many different ways and in a variety of grammatical constructions.

How can "per" be translated?

As for and to depending on the context of the sentence.

How to use "per"?

"Per" can be used when talking about the reason for something, with expressions of time, to talk about how something is transported or communicated, and with movement verbs.

Italian word of the day
persona
Example
Mi piace Silvio. Sia come politico che come persona.
I like Silvio. Both as a politician and as a person.
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