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 along with many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn everything 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”.

Sotto
Under, underneath, below

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

Now, let’s see a couple of example sentences with sotto in Italian, before taking a look at how to use this word.

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Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

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Il cane si nasconde sotto al tavolo.
The dog hides 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 what the use of sotto in Italian is.


Use of sotto in Italian

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

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

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

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

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

But…

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 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 it, now you know 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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