How to use SOTTO in Italian

How do you use the word sotto in Italian? What does it mean? How do you pronounce it?

In this lesson, we will look at how to use this word with the help of many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn all you need to know!

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Sotto in Italian

What is sotto?

Sotto is both an adverb and a preposition. It can be translated as “under”, “underneath” or “below”.

Under, underneath, below

Its pronunciation is close to soht-toh. If you have trouble pronouncing Italian sounds, check out the Italian pronunciation guide.

Now, let’s see some example sentences with sotto in Italian, before we take a look at how to use this word.

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

Il cane si nasconde sotto al tavolo.
The dog is hiding under the table.

Le chiavi di casa sono sotto al vaso accanto alla porta.
The house keys are under the vase by the door.

Ci sono dei libri sotto la scrivania?
Are there any books under the desk?

Il termometro è sceso sotto zero.
The thermometer went down below zero.

two students shivering from the cold in the classroom

Now let’s see how to use of sotto in Italian.

Use of sotto in Italian

We’ve said that sotto in Italian primarily means “below” and “under”, so it can be used for things that touch each other and for things that just one below the other.

Sotto la diga c’era un mulino ad acqua.
There was a water mill below the dam.

It’s most often followed by the preposition A, although you can use sotto without any preposition. For example, there’s no difference between saying sotto al tavolo and sotto il tavolo (under the table)… It’s just a matter of style, but there is one exception.

I bambini hanno trovato i regali di Natale nascosti sotto al letto.
The children found the Christmas presents hidden under the bed.

Il sole tramonta sotto l’orizzonte.
The sun sets below the horizon.

sun setting behind mountains

If sotto is followed by a pronoun, you cannot do without a second preposition. The second preposition also changes: you have to use the preposition DI.

Sotto all’appartamento dei miei vive una famiglia di avvocati.
Below my parents’ apartment lives a family of lawyers.


Sotto di me vive un’anziana signora.
Below me lives an elderly woman.

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Expressions with sotto in Italian

There’s a variety of common expressions and sayings featuring sotto in Italian. Here are some:

  • sotto la pioggia (in the rain)
  • sotto controllo (under control)
  • sotto pressione (under pressure)
  • sotto tiro (under siege, at gunpoint)
  • mettere qualcosa sotto i denti (to grab a bite)
  • sotto a chi tocca! (whoever’s turn is it!)

For example, you could say…

Non permettere ai bambini di giocare sotto la pioggia.
Don’t allow the children to play in the rain.

Mi rifiuto di lavorare sotto pressione.
I refuse to work under pressure.

old man refusing food

Il cacciatore tiene il coniglio sotto tiro.
The hunter holds the rabbit at gunpoint.

Ho fame. C’è qualcosa da mettere sotto i denti?
I’m hungry. Is there anything I can eat?
(Literally: Is there anything I can put under my teeth?)

And that’s the end of our lesson on how to use sotto in Italian!

What next?

Now that you’ve seen how to use sotto in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

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