The Preposition ‘Da’: How to Use It

Most of the time, the Italian preposition “da” means “from,” but it can also mean “since/for,” “to,” “at,” and other things. Yes, it sounds difficult because prepositions in English and Italian do not have a binary correspondence. That is why, in my classes, I always tell my private students to learn the prepositions in context, that is, in phrases or expressions.

Da is generally used to express the following: 

Da = I’m from 

  • Da dove vieni? – Where are you coming from? 
  • Vengo dagli Stati Uniti – I come from the United States
  • I miei cugini vengono dalla Francia – My cousins are coming from France 
  • Il treno è  arrivato da Roma – The train arrived from Rome  

As you can see, when the preposition “da” means from, frequently appears with the verb “venire” which means “to come”.

  • Venire da = to come from 

Venire da is used with cities or countries, and it’s not to be confused with “essere di”, which means the same, but it’s used only with cities.

For example:

  • Vengo da Roma (city), vengo dall’Italia (country)
  • Sono di Roma (city)

Da = Since / For

Da is used with the meaning of for or since to indicate an action that started in the past and is continuing in the present. For example:

  • Studio italiano dal 2019 – I’ve learned Italian since 2019
  • Vivo a Roma da 5 mesi – I’ve been living in Rome for 5 months
  • Da quanto tempo conosci Marco? – How long have you known Marco?

As you can see from the foregoing phrases, the way to say “how long..?” in Italian, is with “da quanto tempo + present tense” and not with a past tense, like in English.

  • Da quanto tempo sei sposato? – How long have you been married?
  • Da quanto tempo studi italiano? – How long have you been studying Italian?

Time: through, from…to

 Da is also used with the preposition “a”, with the meaning of “” or “through”

  • da martedì a venerdì – Tuesday through Friday 
  • da gennaio a febbraio – January through February 
  • dalle 10 alle 11 – 10 am through 11 am

DA = to (to go to someone’s place)

Going to a place, as you may know, is translated with andare in or a. However, there’s a third way to say “go to” and it’s when you are going to someone (a person) or at the place of someone. In this case, “to” is transited with the preposition “da.”

  • vado dal dentista – I’m going to the dentist.
  • vado dai miei amici – I’m going to my friends 
  • sono andato dai miei genitori – I went visiting my parents 
  • vado da Angela – I m visiting Angela (I’m going to Angela’s place)

DA = describing a function or purpose 

Da is used in a number of different compound words. In this case, da indicates the purpose of the object.

All it takes is simply memorizing the fixed expression. 

  • una camera da letto – a  bedroom
  • una sala da pranzo – a living room
  • occhiali da sole – shades
  • vasca da bagno – bath tub 
  • scarpe da tennis – basket shoes  

DA = indicating the value of something

Sometimes, da appears in expressions to indicate the value of something, and it means “worth”.

  • un gelato da 3 euro – a 3 euro gelato
  • una villa da un milione di euro  – a one million euro villa 
  • un bottiglia di vino da 100 dollari – a 100 dollar bottle of wwine 

DA = by (passive form)

In the passive forms, da is the translation of the agent “by” in English, which means the person by whom the action was carried out.

  • L’edificio è stato disegnato da Renzo Piano – The building was designed by Renzo Piano
  • Il progetto è stato finanziato dallo Stato – The project was funded by the state

Da + infinitive  

DA often appears after the Italian adverbs molto (a lot), poco (little), niente (nothing), qualcosa (something) when they are followed by an infinitive verb. 

  • Vuoi qualcosa da bere? – Would you like to have something to drink?
  • Non ho niente da fare oggi – I have nothing planned for today
  • Hai qualcosa da dirmi?  – Do you have something to tell me? 

Verbs using the preposition ‘da’

There are also a number of verbs which use the preposition da

  • dipendere da – to depends on 
  • venire da – to come from
  • partire da – to leave from 
  • proteggersi da – to protect against 
  • pretendere da – to expect from  
  • nascondersi da – to hide from

The articulated prepositions: dal, dall’, dallo, dalla, dai, dagli, dalle

You can skip this if you’re just starting out with Italian grammar.

As you may know, in Italian, simple prepositions are distinguished from articulated prepositions. A simple preposition is a single word, such as a, di, da, su, and so on. When a simple preposition joins with a definite article, the result is an articulated preposition, such as dal, degli, sul, nella, and so on. 

Because most nouns in Italian are preceded by an article, this is a common thing in the grammar of the language, too.

When “da” is combined with the definite articles, it becomes:

DA + Definite ArticleCombined FormExampleEnglish Translation
da + ildalVado dal dentista.I’m going to the dentist.
da + l’dall’Vengo dall’ospedale.I’m coming from the hospital.
da + ladallaHo preso il libro dalla libreria.I took the book from the bookstore.
da + lodalloVado dallo psicologo.I’m going to the psychologist.
da + idaiVanno dai nonni.They’re visiting their grandparents’.
da + glidagliPrendo il pane dagli amici.I’m getting the bread from my friends.
da + ledalleArrivo dalle ragazze.I’m arriving at the girls’ place.

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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