Vuoi qualcosa "DA" bere
The common phrase "Vuoi qualcosa da bere" (Would you like something to drink?) has confused me a bit.
Why do we use the preposition 'da' which means "from" or "by"? Why do we not use "a" or "per" or "di", all of which would make a bit more sense.
What other situations would we use "da" where it might seem a little odd?
It's very tricky!
- "da" does not only mean "from" or "by", it also means "to" sometimes.
- "a" has the meaning of "to" but more in a movement/position kind of sense... you can use it when you mean that you're going or staying somewhere. "Io vado a giocare". "Io sono a casa". You can't say "Vuoi qualcosa a bere", it doesn't mean anything.
- "per" also has a slightly different meaning. You can use it to indicate something you do to achieve something or to please someone - "Ho comprato questo regalo per te", I bought this gift for you, "ho lavorato per guadagnare dei soldi", I worked to earn money - or you can use it to indicate a tool to do something: "Vuoi qualcosa per bere" would be offering you a tool to drink, that's to say a glass or a bottle. It would mean "Do you want something for drinking".
Other odd-looking uses of "da": "Carte da gioco" means "playing cards", to say that they are cards that you use to play. "Non c'è niente da fare" means "there's nothing that can be done". "Macchina da scrivere" means "typewriter". It's to say that it's the machine that you use to write. It would be a Macchina PER scrivere, but that's not how we call it.
Prepositions are often tricky, There's not a one-to-one mapping between prepositions in English and in Italian. You just have to learn the idioms. For instance, another strange use of da is in "vado da medico" -- "I go to the doctor".