I recently started learning Italian, so I'm not so sure how to understand this sentence:

Abbinate le foto numerate a queste parole.

What is confusing me is this 'a' which has various meanings, and in my native language 'abbinare' is translating as match (with), so it is difficult for me to understand why is this 'a' standing in sentence instead of 'con' (with). So I would like to know how it may be explained in English. I think the translation would be: Bring together numbered photos with these words.

P.S. sorry for my English, there might be some mistakes, it isn't my native language neither. Best regards, folks.

  • Welcome to Italian.SE, @MarcPaul! Notice that what we can do here is to help you to understand the sentence or the words in the sentence and not to find a perfect translation in English. Anyway, if the purpose of your question is this one (as it seems to me), it's an interesting question.
    – Charo
    Apr 4, 2020 at 20:15
  • Well, I'm just curious about Italian grammar also. Can you help me in understanding why there isn't standing 'con' instead of 'a', because the translation is: Bring together numbered photos with these words.
    – Marc Paul
    Apr 4, 2020 at 20:36
  • 1
    I've changed a little bit the wording of your question, Marc Paul: in the way it was, it seemed to be off-topic. I've also included the contents of your comment. But, of course, you can change whatever you want.
    – Charo
    Apr 5, 2020 at 9:10
  • 1
    The English dictionaries I consulted use both “to match to” and “to match with”. Abbinare can be rendered in English with “to pair up”.
    – egreg
    Apr 5, 2020 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


The verb abbinare is commonly followed by "a"; it is also possible to use it followed by "con" - the meaning is the same. In your phrase:

Abbinate le foto numerate a queste parole

the preposition "a" is chosen probably for two reasons: 1) because it is more common, and 2) because "con" can be ambiguous because:

Abbinate le foto numerate con queste parole

would mean that the photos are numerated by "queste parole". It is true that "queste parole" (these words) does not mean "questi numeri" (these numbers), but: 1) the phrase "queste parole" could be followed by a list of words like "uno" "due" "tre"... (words expressing numbers); 2) to distinguish correctly the usage of "con" in this phrase, in order to connect it to "abbinate", one should use semantics.

The preposition "a" is used, among other things, to express a movement or an orientation; the preposition "con" expresses instead, among other things, the "agent" performing (or helping) the action: "mangio la mela con le mani" (I eat the apple using my hands).

"con" expresses also a coupling (for example "io con te" - me together with you), so it is not wrong to use it with "abbinare"; for example, one can say "metti quelle scarpe, si abbinano con la tua cintura" (wear those shoes, they mate to your belt). And note that the sentence "mangio la mela con le mani" has a little ambiguity, because it could (ok, hardly) mean "I eat the apple together with my hands)", as in "mangio la mela col pane" (I eat apple and bread).


In English, we sometimes say "match this to that".

It usually happens when we must match a carpet colour to the walls or something like that and we never use it when matching elements from two lists, because we have match with for that purpose.

In Italian, it is perfectly fine (and more idiomatic) to use the to preposition (in Italian, a) even when comparing lists.

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