Using the preposition “su”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

“Su” in reference to a place:
Physical Position: “On” “On top of”

The Italian preposition “su” means on and provides a literal description of one’s physical location or movement upward. The concept is simple: if someone or something is “on” something, it is above that thing, often connected to it in some way, but usually able to be removed and repositioned.

As with other prepositions, su is combined with the definite article for the noun that follows and in this case, describes what the subject is “on.” The combination means, “on the” or “on top of the.”

Of course, an Italian noun — that is, a person, place, or thing — is often preceded by an Italian definite article (il, lo, la, l’, i, gli, le), which means “the.” The letter “l” of the preposition is sometimes doubled when writing, but luckily, for conversation one just needs to remember the pronunciation! Below is the method for combining su with each Italian definite article and also a reminder about which definite article to choose for the gender and number of an Italian noun.

A word of advice…

Do not try to memorize the rules behind each definite article,
but DO memorize each noun with its definite article!

This way, when you are speaking,
the definite article will naturally be linked to it’s noun!


The method for [su + singular definite articles]:

su + il = sul          masculine singular definite article

su + lo = sullo     masculine singular definite article before [s+consonant], x, y, z

su + la = sulla      feminine singular definite article

su + l’ =  sull’        masculine and feminine singular definite article before a vowel


The method for [su + plural definite articles]:

su + i = sui           masculine plural definite article

su + gli = sugli    masculine plural definite article before a vowel or z, s+consonant, y

su + le = sulle      feminine plural definite article


Simple examples:

Il cane di Luisa dorme sempre sul divano del salotto.
Luisa’s dog always sleeps on the couch in the livingroom.

Anna si siede sulla sedia.
Ann sits on the chair.


“Su” in reference to a place:
with Salire to “Get in” or “Go up”

The Italian verb salire has many translations in English, but most often refers to physically “going up” from one place to another or “getting in” a mode of transportation.  When one moves higher from one place to another, the preposition su comes into play to describe the new location.

If one is walking, just use [salire + su + definite article + noun] to describe the act of “walking/going up” to a place. Of course, this includes walking up the stairs, or salire le scale. 

Be careful! Salire is irregular in the present tense for the io and loro forms: io salgo, tu sali, Lei/lei/lui sale, noi saliamo, voi salite, loro salgono. The past participle is salito, and the helping verb for the passato prossimo past tense to describe motion and a one-time event is essere.

For instance:

Oggi sono salito sulla collina vicino a casa mia.
Today I walked up the hill near my house.

Siamo saliti sulle scale nella torre campanaria a Firenze.
We walked up the stairs in the bell tower in Florence.

With mechanical transportation,  describing the act of  “getting into” a vehicle is a bit complex in Italian. The Italian preposition in (in) is  used to describe getting into a car, although the Italian preposition su is used to describe boarding or getting on different modes of public transportation.

Check out the examples below from the book Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases to learn whether the preposition in or sul is appropriate for the vehicle you are “getting into.”  As a corollary to this topic, to describe “getting out” of any method of transportation use the verb scendere.

To aid in understanding the Italian sentence structure, in the examples below the prepositions are given in red and the combined prepositions are underlined. The verbs are in green and the nouns in blue. Again, notice how the letter “l” of the definite article that is combined with Italian prepositions is sometimes doubled when written.

Salgo in macchina.                  I get into the car.
Scendo dalla macchina.        I get out of the car

Sali in macchina!                    Get into the car! (fam. command)
Scendi dalla macchina!        Get out of the car! (fam. command)

Salgo su…       I get on/I board/I go aboard…

Salgo…            sull’autobus, sul treno, sulla motocicletta, sulla bicicletta, sull’areo.
I get onto…    the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane.

Scendo da   I go down/I get down/I get off or out of…

Scendo…         dall’autobus, dal treno, dalla motocicletta, dalla bicicletta, dall’areo.
I get off of…   the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane.



“Su” in reference to a place:
with Salire  to “Mount” and Saltare to “Jump” 

Before the industrial era, and even today, people often mount or “get on” a horse — for transportation or simply for enjoyment. In this case, one can also describe “getting on a horse” with a phrase that uses salire, but the preposition that follows is changed to “a,” which is then combined with the definite article. The helping verb in the passato prossimo past tense for these verbs of motion is essere.

The complete phrases that describe getting onto a horse are:  [salire in groppa + al cavallo] or [salire in sella + al cavallo]  Of course, to be even more precise, one could also use the Italian verb “montare + a cavallo” for “to mount a horse.” (Note that no definite article is needed with montare a). To describe riding a horse, use the verb cavalcare.

Il comandante salgo in groppa al cavallo e cavalca  verso la collina.
The commander mounts the horse and rides toward the hill.

Sono montato a cavallo e mi sono divertito a cavalcare tutto il giorno.
I got on the horse and enjoyed riding all day.


If one  “jump ups” or “hop ups” onto something, the verb saltare comes into play, again with [su + definite article]. If jumping over something, there is no need to use the preposition su! Just follow saltare with the noun for the thing one has jumped over.  The verb saltare is regular, as is the past participle, which is salto. The passato prossimo of saltare again takes essere, as do the other verbs of motion we have been discussing in this blog. Also, remember to change the last letter of the past participle to match the gender and number of the subject when using essere as the helping verb!

An interesting idiomatic expression that uses saltare to describe “hopping over” or, as we would say in English,  “dropping over” someone’s house, which uses the preposition da. This was first mentioned in our blog “How to Use ‘Da’ in Italian.”

Some examples:

La acrobata è salta sulla torre di sedie.
The acrobat jumped onto the tower of chairs.

Il bambino è salto oltre la pozzanghera.
The little boy jumped over the puddle.

Ho fatto un salto da Maria ieri sera.
I dropped over to Maria’s house last night.



“Su” to describe
use of an electronic device
“on” the Internet

To turn on electronic devices, use the Italian verb accendereThis verb works for electric lights, the radio, the TV, and the computer.  To turn off electric lights, the radio, TV or computer, use the Italian verb spegnere.

Figuratively, Italians use “su” to describe when electronic devices “come alive” and are ready for use. When one is using electronics to listen to music or watch a program, Italians use su to describe  audio and video streaming (lo streaming)If one is using the Internet in any way, su is the preposition needed. In this case, su does not combine with a definite article for the word Internet or the name of a streaming service.  Other Italian prepositions are used to describe the “old fashioned” way these devices can also work! 

See below for some examples of the “new” ways to interact with “old fashioned” electronic devices — and how the Italian prepositions have changed! All prepositions have been underlined.

To describe listening to an electronic device in Italian…

Ho ascoltato quella canzone alla radio stammattina.
I listened to that song on the radio this morning.

Ho ascoltato quella canzone su Spotify (sul mio telefonino).
I listened to that song on Spotify (on my cellphone).

Ho ascoltato quell’audiolibro su Amazon Kindle.
I listened to that audio book on Amazon Kindle.

To describe watching a show on an electronic device in Italian…

Ho visto quel film in TV.
I saw that movie on TV. 

Ho visto quel film in TV su Canale 9.
I saw that movie on TV on Channel 9. 

Ho visto quel film sulla TV via cavo su Channel 9.  
I saw that film on (the) cable TV on Channel 9.

Ho visto quel film su Internet / su Amazon Prime / etc.
I watched that movie over the Internet / on Amazon Prime / etc.

Ho guardato quella serie italiana in streaming su MHz TV.
I streamed that Italian series on MHz  TV.

Ho un abbonamento al canale Criterion per lo streaming di film classici italiani.
I have a subscription for the Criterion channel to stream classic Italian movies.



“Su”  to “Research on/about”
a topic on the internet

The Italian preposition su also allows one to enter the imaginary electronic worlds of  the Internet and social media for research or enjoyment. The definite article is used to describe “research on” or “about” a particular topic. The Italian definite article is also needed to credit “the website” (sul sito web) from which information was obtained.

Ho fatto ricerche sulla  lingua italiana ieri sera. 
I did research on the Italian language last night.

Ho fatto una ricerca sui verbi italiani.
I did a search about (the) Italian verbs.

Ho scoperto un fatto importante sul sito
I discovered an important fact on the website

Ho anche scoperto un video divertimente su You Tube e un altro su Instagram.
I also discovered an entertaining video on You Tube and another on Instagram.

“Su” to Talk “About”
or “Reflect On” a Topic

As mentioned in the blog “How to use ‘Di’ in Italian:” To complete our discussion, note a change in use of the preposition di required in Italian: when talking about a person or something by name. Instead of di, the Italian preposition su is used in the following construction: [su + definite article + noun]. As mentioned in the previous blog, if the preposition di were used  before a name, the translation would be “by.” For a book, for instance, use of di would mean the person had written the book, rather than the book was about the person under discussion.

Sto leggendo un bel libro su DaVinci.
Ho guardato un bel film su DaVinci.
I am reading a good book about DaVinci.
I watched a good film about Da Vinci.
Ho imparato molto sul Rinascimento all’Università. I’ve learned a lot about the Renaissance at college.    

The preposition su is also used with the following verbs: informare su to inform someone about — and  riflettere su to reflect upon, or consider something.

In English, we say one needs “to focus on” something. Italians use “concentrarsi su.”

In the same way, if you give support to a particular mode of living or are “in favor of” a particular point of view, use su to talk about how you are “on the same wavelength” as someone else!

Sono sulla tua stessa lunghezza d’onda: dobbiamo trovare il modo per la pace.
I am on the same wavelength as you; we must try to find the way to peace.


“Su” to Talk “About”
Approximate Time, Age, Weight or Money


Approximate Time in Italian:

To mention that you will arrive early for a previously scheduled meeting, without giving an exact time, use [su + definite article “l”] to say, “on the early side.” In this case,  su is combined with the definite article “il” for “il lato,” or “the side.” The noun lato is understood in this commonly used Italian phrase, and often left out of the sentence. Either the present or future tense verb can be used, since by use of this sentence, the reference must be in the near future.

Arriviamo sul (lato) presto.
We (will) arrive on the early side.

This does not work when one realizes they will be late, however, in which case the phrase would be:

Arriviamo in ritardo. / Arriviamo sul tardi.
We (will) arrive late.


Approximate Age in Italian:

People commonly speculate on another’s age, saying he or she is  “about” or “around” a certain age. In Italian, to say, “about” in this context, place the person into a general category, such as child, teenager, adult, etc., and then use [su + definite article “i” + number anni].  In this case, su is combined with the  definite article “i” for anni, which is always included in the sentence. The word “years” is not always included in English in sentences of this type, as noted in the translations below with parentheses. Notice that, by definition, since one is estimating an age that may be more or less than the number given, this phrase is always used in the plural.

For instance:

Maria è una donna sui 40 anni.
Maria is about 20 (years old).

Marco è un ragazzino sui 10 anni.
Mark is a young boy about 10 (years old).

Si comincia a essere più responsibili sui 30 anni.
One starts to be more responsible around 30 (years old).

To learn other Italian sentence structures that can used to approximate or state one’s age, visit our blogs about the Italian prepositions di and a: “How to use ‘Di’ in Italian:”  and “Italian Preposition ‘A’ or ‘In?”


Approximate Weight in Italian:

The same construction used to estimate one’s age can also be used to estimate one’s weight:  [su + definite article “i” + number + chili] refers to “about” or “around” a certain weight. Remember Italians use the metric system for weights and measures! Again, by definition this phrase is always used with plural numbers to refer to an approximate weight that can be more or less than the given number.

Questo valige è pesante! Secondo me, peso sui 7 chili.
This suitcase is heavy! According to me, it weighs about 7 kilograms (49 pounds).

Durante i tre mesi scorsi, ho perso sui 2 chili.
During the last three months, I’ve lost around 2 kilograms (14 pounds).


Approximate Money in Italian:

To mention “about” how much money one has, use [su + definite articles “i” + number + euro.] Remember that the noun euro is masculine and invariable in Italian. Again, this phrase is only used in the plural.

“Prendere in prestito,” used in the second example, is an important phrase to remember in case you ever need to borrow money from another. Also note another common phrase, “Mi è rimasto(a),” for “I only have… left” in the last example.

Marco ha sui 50 euro nella sua tasca.
Mark has about 50 euros in his pocket.

Posso prendere in prestito sui 10 euro?
Can I borrow about 10 euros?

Mi è rimasto solo sui dieci euro.
I only have about 10 euros left.

Use “Su” Figuratively to
Describe Happiness or Superiority 

An Italian might encourage a child to get up from bed in the morning by saying, “Su, su, su!” In this case, su stands for “up.” When used in this repetitive way, su can also be used figuratively, to encourage a friend to “Cheer up!” Two additional common expressions of encouragement are, “Su, forza!” and  “Su, corraggio!” which can be translated as, Come on!”

Su is also used figuratively to describe a superior position, such as a king “ruling over”  his people or a boss who is “over” his employees.

Il re governa su tutta la regione.
The king rules over the entire region.

Non sopporto Michele; lui pensa di essere il capo su tutti noi.
I can’t stand Michael. He thinks he is the boss over all of us.

Use “Su” in Reference to
the Way Something is Done

The phrase fatto su misura means custom made or tailor made.

Il vestito di Maria è fatto su misura.
Maria’s dress is custom made.

The phrase su appuntamento means by appointment.

Il mio dottore riceve solo su appuntamento. 
My doctor sees patients only by appointment.


Common Expressions with “Su”

Dici sul serio? Are you talking seriously?
Do you really mean it?
Su questo non ci piove. There is no doubt about it.
su due piedi. To make a decision without hesitation.
su per giù More or less
sul colpo immediately, instantly
nero su bianco in black and white; in writing
essere sulle spine to be on pins and needles
sul filo del rasoioto to be living in a risky situation
on the edge


Remember how to use
the Italian preposition
and I guarantee you will use “su” every day!


For “All the Italian you need to enjoy your trip to Italy,” click on the links below to purchase my Conversational Italian for Travelers books – and then listen to the audiobook “Just the Important Phrases” on your favorite streaming platform! -Kathryn Occhipinti


Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  and Learn Travel
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded to a cell phone from



About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at

Check Also

Eighty Mays ago

In March, my sister Rosie proudly turned 80 and, at the same time, I happened …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want More?

Subscribe to our print magazine
or give it as a gift.

Click here for details