Da + infinitive verb in Italian
If you’ve been studying Italian, you’ve surely come across the construction da + infinito (the infinitive form of the verb).
Non ho niente da fare.
I have nothing to do.
La parmigiana è un piatto da provare.
Parmigiana is a dish to try.
This construction is used a lot, especially in spoken Italian, and it is extremely easy to learn and use!
Da +infinitive verb: Meaning
The construction da + infinito can be compared to the English “to be + participle” (to be done, to be seen, to be said, etc.).
Even if it is not always literally translated this way, it can have the same meaning as “(that needs) to be…”
C’è qualcosa da fare?
Is there anything to be done?
Firenze è una città da visitare.
Florence is a city that needs to be seen.
Marcello è una persona da evitare.
Marcello is someone to be avoided.
Giulio ha un problema da risolvere.
Giulio has a problem that needs to be solved.
Da + infinitive verb: Other meanings
Sometimes, the construction da + infinito in Italian can also mean “that can be + participle” and it is often used with an indefinite pronoun (qualcosa – something; qualcuno – someone; niente – nothing; etc.).
Have a look at the examples below:
Non c’è niente da mangiare.
There is nothing to eat (that can be eaten).
La polizia non ha nessuno da interrogare.
The police have no one to interrogate (that can be interrogated).
Non ho tempo da perdere.
I have no time to waste (that can be wasted).
This construction can also have what we call a consecutive value, meaning that it describes a consequence. This use is not widespread, but it is good to at least know it so that you do not get confused when you hear expressions like:
una storia da ridere
a story that causes laughter
una situazione da non credere
a situation that causes incredulity
Portati qualcosa da leggere ci sarà da aspettare.
Bring something to read; we’ll have to wait.
C’è qualcosa da fare?
Is there anything that needs to be done?
Non abbiamo così tanti soldi da spendere.
We don’t have so much money to spend (that can be spent).
Lucca è una città da vedere se vai in Toscana.
Lucca is a city to see (that needs to be seen) if you go to Tuscany.
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