Italian Verbs with ‘DI’ and ‘A’

Certain verbs in Italian can sometimes be found in conjunction with the prepositions di or a. For example,

Iniziare a fare qualcosaTo start doing something
Finire di fare qualcosaTo finish doing something

Because these Italian prepositions do not appear in the English versions of the verbs, this can cause confusion. 

To clarify, let me say that prepositions are not used by all Italian verbs. Most verbs won’t be followed by a preposition. However, some very common verbs are followed by ‘a‘ or ‘di‘ and the infinitive verb. 

For example, the verbs

  • finire di
  • continuare a
  • iniziare a
  • sperare di, and others. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know whether a verb will use the prepositions di or a. The only way to remember it is to memorize which verbs use ‘a‘ and which verbs use ‘di‘.

Italian Verbs followed by ‘A’ (+ infinitive verb)

cominciare ato start doing something
iniziare ato start doing something
continuare ato keep doing something
provare ato try to do something
incoraggiare ato encourage to do something
aiutare ato help to do something
riuscire ato manage to do something
abituarsi ato get used to doing something
convincere ato persuade to do something
imparare ato learn to do something
sbrigarsi ato hurry up to do something
mettersi ato start doing something
Italian verbs followed by the preposition ‘a’

When using these verbs, follow the pattern verb + preposition + infinitive, if the subject of both verbs is the same. To get a better understanding of how these verbs work, let’s put them in sentences:

Examples: 

Ho imparato a suonare il piano a 12.I learned to play the piano at 12.
Luca ha iniziato a giocare a tennis l’anno scorso.Luca started playing tennis last year.
Mia sorella mi ha incoraggiato a studiare italiano.My sister encouraged me to study Italian.
Non ho mai provato a cucinare questo dolce.I have never tried to cook that dessert.
Finalmente mi sono abituata a guidare negli Stati Uniti.I finally got used to driving in the United States.

Italian Verbs followed by ‘DI’ (+ infinitive verb)

finire dito finish doing something
terminare dito finish doing something
smettere dito stop doing something
cercare dito try to do something
pensare dito think about doing something
immaginare dito imagine doing something
ricordare / ricordarsi dito remember to do something
dimenticare / dimenticarsi dito forget to do something
proporre dito propose doing something
consigliare dito recommend doing something
sperare dito hope to do something
chiedere dito ask to do something
domandare dito ask to do something
scegliere dito choose to do something
decidere dito decide to do something
Italian verbs followed by the preposition ‘di’

When using these verbs, follow the pattern verb + preposition + infinitive, if the subject of both verbs is the same. To get a better understanding of how these verbs work, let’s put them in sentences:

Examples: 

Ieri ho finito di lavorare a mezzanotte.I finished work at midnight yesterday.
Ho deciso di iscrivermi a un corso di karate.I decided to sign up for a karate course.
Marco ha deciso di cambiare lavoro.Marco has decided to change his job.
Spero di superare l’esame.I hope to pass the exam.

It’s important to note that:

We only need to use propositions when our verb is followed by another verb. There are no propositions required for some of the verbs on the list because they can be followed by a direct object (a noun).

Let’s see the use of iniziare and finire with or without prepositions.

When “iniziare” is followed by a noun, it doesn’t need any preposition. 

  • ho iniziato un nuovo libro (I began a new book)

 When “iniziare” is followed by a verb, it does need the preposition “a”

  • ho iniziato a leggere un nuovo libro (I began reading a new book)

When “finire” is followed by a noun, it doesn’t need any preposition. 

  • ho finito il corso di italiano ( I finished the Italian course)

When “iniziare” is followed by another verb, it does need the preposition “di”

  • ho finito di lavorare alle 2   (I finished working at 2)

All these verbs are followed by the prepositions di or a, only if the subject of both verbs is the same.

  • Spero di superare l’esame (I hope to pass the exam)

If the two verbs have different subjects, the sentence will follow the pattern: verb + che +  conjugated verb

  • Spero che Lucia passi l’esame (I hope Lucia passes the exam)

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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