Per, di or da?

This is something has always confused me, and I can never seem to remember which one to use. When translating "to". Is there a rule for this?

Have you found something to do? Hai trovato qualcosa da fare?

I exercise to keep fit. Esercizio per mantenersi in forma.

Can't think of an example for di, but I think I've seen it before...

April 6, 2017


I wish to return = spero di tornare

I try to think = cerco di pensare

If you allow me to give you some advice, you should not think of 'to' as an individual word to translate. Try considering it as a part of the infinitive form of a verb. In this respect, you are no longer translating the preposition 'to', but the verbs 'to do', 'to keep fit', 'to return', etc.

The verbs used with the construction you mentioned in the Italian grammar are known as aspectual verbs:

aspectual verb (inflected) + preposition (di or a) + second verb in infinitive form.

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict which of the two prepositions is used after an aspectual verb, you can only learn it and memorize it.

The aspectual construction is not always translated into English using the infinitive of the second verb:

comincio a parlare = I start speaking (present participle)

vado a dormire = I am going to sleep (infinitive)

tento di entrare = I try to enter (infinitive)

continuo a lavorare = I keep working (present participle)

finisco di leggere = I finish reading (present participle)

riesco a finire = I manage to finish (infinitive)

decido di uscire = I decide to go out (infinitive)

temo di fallire = I'm afraid of failing (present participle)

Beware that when di is used, what might look like an aspectual construction can sometimes be a subordinate (objective) clause in implicit form:

penso di venire = penso che verrò = I think (that) I'll come

so di sbagliare = so che sbaglio = I know (that) I am wrong

affermo di conoscere = affermo che conosco = I claim (that) I know

More details about the implicit form of subordinate clauses can be found here:

Instead, the preposition per is not used for the aspectual construction, but for introducing a final clause (i.e. a subordinate clause that expresses the purpose of the main clause). For instance:

esco per camminare = I go out for (the purpose of) walking

in which (io) esco is the main (independent) clause, and per camminare is the final (subordinate) clause.

The difference between the aspectual construction and the final clause is discussed more in detail at the end of my comment in this other page:

April 6, 2017

Ti ringrazio CivisRomanus. Sai di qualche link dove ne potremmo leggere di piu' riguarda questo argomento?

April 6, 2017

Prego, non c'è di che.

Purtroppo non conosco pagine che trattano questi verbi in modo semplice, chiaro ed esaustivo.
Molto spesso i verbi aspettuali vengono chiamati con l'altro nome, verbi fraseologici , ma sono la stessa cosa.
I verbi aspettuali (o fraseologici) includono:

1 - quelli che si legano all'infinito del secondo verbo con una preposizione semplice:

cominciare a  + infinito  →  comincio a scrivere, comincio a capire
finire di  + infinito  →  finisco di lavorare, finisco di pulire

2 - quelli che si legano all'infinito del secondo verbo con una locuzione preposizionale:

essere sul punto di  + infinito  →  sono sul punto di smettere
trovarsi in procinto di  + infinito  →  mi trovo in procinto di partire

3 - quelli che si legano al gerundio del secondo verbo senza alcuna preposizione:

stare  + gerundio  →  sto mangiando , sto pensando
andare  + gerundio  →  vado dicendo , vado correndo

Questi ultimi corrispondono alla forma progressiva dei verbi inglesi (la coniugazione dei verbi italiani non ha una "forma progressiva").

La pagina più completa che parla di questi verbi è quella del portale Treccani ( ), che però è piuttosto tecnica e complessa.

Diverse altre pagine trattano insieme i verbi aspettuali (fraseologici) e quelli causativi (fare, lasciare ). Alcune trattano insieme i verbi servili (modali), gli aspettuali e i causativi.
Eccone una selezione:




italianofacile (pdf):

April 7, 2017

The one thing to keep in mind is that the preposition usually "belongs" to the verb in front of the infinitive.
So if you see a sentence like, "Lei chiede di parlare con nonna." (She asks to speak with grandma) then split the sentence into "chiede di" and "parlare", NOT "chiede" and "di parlare".
In other words, it is always "chiede di" if she is asking something "of" another person; chiede di parlare, chiede di aiutare, chiede di trovare, etc.
Because if you change the first verb to "andare", then "Lei va a parlare sua nonna." (she (physically) goes to talk to her grandma), or va ad aiutare, va a trovare, and so on.

It also depends if it is a noun or another verb (in the infinitive form) following the first verb, which was why you play "at" a game (noun); "Gioco a tennis"; since it is impossible to find a verb infinitive that naturally follows "to play".

I'm not sure how accurate this list is, but it could be of some use (I'll make edits as more comments occur revealing the mistakes-- I copied this list from the internet):

  • The following verbs require the preposition di before the infinitive that follows it:

accettare, cercare, coprire, decidere, dimenticare, dire, domandare, evitare, finire, impedire, pensare, permettere, pregare, preoccuparsi, proibire, promettere, rendersi conto, ricordarsi, rifiutare, ringraziare, rischiare, sapere (in the sense of knowledge), scegliere, smettere, sognare, sperare, tentare.

  • The following verbs require the preposition a before the infinitive that follows it:

abituarsi, aiutare, andare, cominciare, continuare, divertirsi, esitare, forzare, imparare, impegnarsi, incominciare, incoraggiare, insegnare, invitare, mandare, mettersi, persuadere, prepararsi, provare, rinunciare, riuscire, servire, stare.

  • The following verbs require the preposition da before the infinitive that follows it:

allontanarsi, dipendere, divorziare

  • The following verbs require no preposition before the infinitive that follows it:

the "modal" verbs: potere, dovere, volere; and amare, ascoltare, desiderare, guardare, lasciare, osare, preferire, sapere (in the sense of knowing how to), sembrare, sentire, vedere.

  • The following verbs require the preposition a or da before the Noun that follows it, depending on if movement is "to" (a) or "from" (da):

partire, venire

April 6, 2017

I see that you don't really need any lingots, but I gave you one anyway because I admire your diligent research. Thanks!

April 6, 2017

It would be nice if there were some rule that captures native speaker intuition, but I believe they are really random lists of a word type that uses a specific preposition. If you hear and read the language enough, you will surprise yourself by using the correct preposition. If anyone has anything better, I will be happy to learn the rules too.

April 6, 2017

The small words are the ones that always trip me up, as well.

The ones that I've (finally) learned to recognize are for Provare and Giocare, which both use "a":

Provo a finire (I try to finish)
Gioco a tennis (I play tennis)

It's an odd thing to remember, but:

Gioco a tennis sul campo da tennis (I play tennis on the tennis court).
You might think it would be campo di tennis, but apparently not.

April 6, 2017

In this case, you can think "da" as "for the purpose of". Campo da tennis = court to (play) tennis Auto da corsa = race car

April 6, 2017
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