Da vs Per: Italian Grammar Lesson


Key Takeaways

Unlock the secrets of Italian time expressions with our guide! Learn the nuances between “da” and “per” to speak like a native, and master the art of discussing past, present, and future events with ease.

  • Da vs. Per: Get the lowdown on when to use da (since/for ongoing actions) and per (for completed or future actions). It’s all about the context! 😉
  • Using Da: If you’re talking about an action that’s still happening, da is your go-to. It’s like saying “since” for ongoing stuff. “Sono qui da un’ora” – I’ve been here for an hour (and still am).
  • Answering with Da: When someone asks “Da quanto tempo…?” hit them with da plus the time period. “Sono in Italia da due mesi” – I’ve been in Italy for two months (and counting).
  • Using Per: Finished an action? Talking future plans? Per is perfect. “Ho studiato italiano per due anni” – I studied Italian for two years (done deal).
  • Per with Present Tense: If you’re a creature of habit, use per with the present tense to show it. “Leggo per ore ogni sera” – I read for hours every evening (like clockwork).
  • Da in the Future: Future perfect tense? Use da to imply you’ll still be at it. “Avrò studiato da tre ore quando arrivi” – I will have been studying for three hours when you arrive (and probably won’t stop).

Quick facts

When is "da" used with expressions of time in Italian?

"Da" is used to describe actions that started in the past and are still continuing.

How does "da" translate in English with time expressions?

"Da" translates to "since" in English, indicating ongoing actions.

Which tense do Italians use for "da quanto tempo" constructions?

Italians use the present simple tense for "da quanto tempo" constructions.

How do you express the duration of an ongoing action in Italian?

Use "da" followed by the amount of time to express ongoing actions.

What does "per" indicate in expressions of time?

"Per" indicates the duration of completed actions in the past or future.

How is "per" used with past and future tenses?

"Per" describes how long an action lasted in the past or will last in the future.

What does "per" mean when used with the present tense?

With the present tense, "per" indicates habitual actions.

How do you differentiate between "per" and "da" with time expressions?

"Da" is for ongoing actions; "per" is for completed actions.

How does the choice of "da" or "per" affect the meaning of a sentence?

"Da" implies continuation; "per" implies completion.

Can "da" and "per" be used in future tense sentences?

Yes, "da" implies ongoing action in the future, while "per" implies completion.

My Thoughts

“Da” and “Per” in Italian

Both “da” and “per” are Italian prepositions. They are used in several different circumstances, which is the reason why they are often confusing.

The most common translation of “da” is “by/from”, so it is used to describe the origin or source of something, while the most common translation of “per” is “for”, therefore used for the aim or recipient.

However, both prepositions are commonly used to express time, and this is where I noticed that most Italian learners have troubles.

So, let me explain you the main differences between these two words, and let me give you some tips to master them properly!

“Da” vs “Per” in Italian

What does “Da” Mean in Italian?

As I mentioned before, da is a preposition with several uses and meanings that depend on the context. Here are some of the most common interpretations:

  1. Origin or source: Used to indicate the origin of someone or something. For example, “Vengo da Roma” means “I come from Rome”.
  2. Location: It can imply being or going at someone’s place, therefore it is essential that there is a person in the place you want to mention. For example, “Vado dal parrucchiere” or “Sono da Maria” (I am going to the hairdresser) or (I am at Maria’s place).
  3. Time: When related to time, “da” is used to indicate the starting point of a period. For example, “Studio italiano da tre anni” (I have been studying Italian for three years).
  4. Cause: Sometimes, it indicates the cause of something. For example, “Tremo dal freddo!” (I’m shivering because of the cold!).
  5. Function or role: Used to describe a function or role. For example, “da presidente, devo…” (as a president, I must…).

What does “Per” Mean in Italian?

The same applies to “per“.

  1. Purpose or intention: It indicates the purpose of an action or the intended use of something. For example, “Questo libro è per te” (This book is for you).
  2. Destination: It can indicate the destination of a movement. For example, “Partiamo per Roma domani” (We are leaving for Rome tomorrow).
  3. Duration: When referring to time, it can indicate a duration. For example, “Ho lavorato per otto ore” (I worked for eight hours).
  4. Cause or reason: Sometimes, it is used to explain the reason behind an emotion or a condition. For example, “Sono triste per la notizia” (I am sad about the news).
  5. Personal perspective or opinion:. It can indicate the point of view of someone. For example “Per me sarebbe meglio la pizza” (For me, pizza would be better).

“Da” vs “Per”: Comparison

Let’s now see why these two prepositions get often confused and, more importantly, let’s see how to actually use them.

Have a look at the examples below:

Sto aspettando da 10 minuti.

I have been waiting for 10 minutes.

Ho aspettato per 10 minuti.

I waited for 10 minutes.

We use “da” with the present tense, to express something that we started in the past and are still doing in the present (I am still waiting).

We use “per” with the past tense, meaning we did something in the past for a period of time but now, in the present, we are no longer doing it (now I am not waiting anymore).

The same distinction occurs with the future tense:

Quando arriverai avrò iniziato a lavorare da 3 ore.

When you arrive I will have been working for 3 hours.

Quando arriverai avrò lavorato per 3 ore.

When you arrive I will have worked for 3 hours.

In the first example, I will still be working when you will arrive and, precisely, I will have worked for three hours already. So, for instance, I know that you are arriving at 17 and I will start working at 14.

In the second example, I will start working at 14 and finish at 17, but you will arrive at 18, and I will already have finished to work.

“Da” and “Per” with Expressions of Time

In English, da and per can be translated as since and how long.

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

As mentioned before, da is always used to describe an action that started in the past and is continuing up to the time of speaking.

Da quanto tempo sei sposato?

For how long have you been married? (Since how much time have you been married?)

Da quando vivi in Italia?

Since when have you been living in Italy?

To answer this, you will simply need to use the preposition da followed by the amount of time or the moment of the past when the action has started:

Sono sposato da 3 anni.

I have been married for 3 years.

Vivo in Italia dal 2021.

I have been living in Italy since 2021.

Opposingly, per is used to talk about thinks that are no longer happening in the present.

Per quanto tempo hai studiato italiano?

For how long have you been studying Italian?

Ho studiato Italiano per 2 anni quando ero piccolo.

I studied Italian for 2 years when I was a child.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Ready to Practice

Now that you have a clear picture of the main differences between “per” and “da” I bet you are looking forward to practice them during your Italian conversations.

Make sure you know when something has happened, since these two prepositions rely on the time when actions took place. Beside this, have fun and enjoy your Italian learning experience!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

What is the difference between "da" and "per" in Italian?

When translating from Italian to English, the word "da" can often be translated as from, since, or for. Similarly, the word "per" is commonly translated as for.

How do you use "da" in Italian?

The usage of "da" in Italian language is versatile as it can be employed to indicate the origin of a movement or the source of someone or something. Additionally, it can be used with time phrases to express the duration of an event or activity.

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
Follow me to fluency​

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free courses and other resources.

Leave a Reply

Try my courses for free​
[TheChamp-Login redirect_url="https://www.thinkinitalian.com/app/"]
Click to learn Italian words in the text

Click any highlighted Italian word to hear its pronunciation, see its translation, and ask the AI assistant to explain it.

clickable sentence
clickable sentence 2
How long to fluency?

Find out how long it will take you to master Italian!
Get on the right track in 3 minutes.

dolce vita logo

We're already friends!

Coming from Luca and Marina?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
all language resources

We're already friends!

Coming from All Language Resources?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
50% OFF

To receive free resources once a week together with my best offers, just tell me where to send everything. Opt out at any time.

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lesson and other resources.