Which preposition is the correct one to use with 'terra'? I have seen different uses of each one. Are they interchangeable in the examples below?

On the ground (i.e. giacere) = a/per terra

To the ground (i.e. cadere) = a/in/per terra

  • 1
    Good question, but I'm afraid the answer is “it depends on where you live”.
    – egreg
    Apr 23 '16 at 8:40
  • 1
    @egreg: What do you mean?
    – Charo
    Apr 23 '16 at 13:18
  • 2
    @Charo That you can hear each one of those prepositions in different parts of Italy.
    – egreg
    Apr 23 '16 at 13:18

La mia impressione è che le tre preposizioni siano intercambiabili. Google Books mostra una preferenza per la preposizione "a":

(I think that the three prepositions are interchangeable. Google books shows a preference for "a": )

Ngram cadere in/a/per terra

Ngram giacere in/a/per terra

  • 1
    Could you please give a version of your answer in English, so that we are sure that the OP can understand it?
    – Charo
    Apr 24 '16 at 7:31

The three prepositions in these examples nowadays have become more or less interchangeable, even though "cadere" means that something is moving towards something else, so "in" should be wrong and "a" should be a better choice.

The opposite should be true for "giacere". Since there is no movement, it should be better to use "in" and "a" should be wrong.

But languages keep changing over time, and so did Italian, that's why nobody is really going to notice it as a mistake anymore if you say "cadere in terra" or "giacere a terra".

  • Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Apr 26 '16 at 13:18
  • You seem to imply that the preposition a is somewhat “wrong” for stato in luogo, while in is for moto a luogo. Alas, this is one of several unfounded but ubiquitous pseudo-rules. There are counterexamples for both of them all along the history of Italian language: Dante's “vissi a Roma” (If I 71), “Io sono al terzo cerchio” (If VI 7) and so on, and vice versa “giugnemmo in prato di fresca verdura” (If IV 111), “Vassi in Sanleo e discendesi in Noli” (Pg IV 25) and so on and so on along the centuries. (And how else would you say “Vado in Francia”?)
    – DaG
    Apr 26 '16 at 13:21
  • @DaG You're correct and that's pretty much what I said, languages change and rules also change. That's why you find it in 13th century texts, for example. Also, nations get a "special treatment" because you're supposed to go "inside" the country, similar to when you say "vado in cantina". You use "in" in that case because you're "entering" an area, just like you "enter" a country.
    – ChatterOne
    Apr 26 '16 at 13:25
  • Yes, languages change, but I am implying that both uses of both a and in have always been valid, since the beginning of Italian as a language and still today. Are you interested in examples from any other century?
    – DaG
    Apr 26 '16 at 13:30
  • The gist is: we cannot apply “logical” rules to natural languages. Why “vado in Francia”, “vado a Milano”, “vado sulla Luna”? Why both “vado a casa” e “vado in casa” are correct but with different nuances? Why do people from Pisa study “in Normale” and from Rome “alla Sapienza”? (Rhetorical questions, of course.)
    – DaG
    Apr 26 '16 at 13:32

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