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Tuesday, 23 October, 2007

Q:
I read: “Ho dato qualcosa allo zio”, “Ho dato qualcosa alla mamma”, “Ho dato qualcosa a Paolo”. Why “allo zio” and “alla mamma” instead of “a zio” and “a mamma”?
Where and when do I use this allo or alla?

A:
In case of parents and some relatives in italian (e.g., mamma, papà, zio, nonno/a) you can use both the simple and compound preposition: “a” and “a”+<article>, so mamma, nonna, zia (female) both “a” and “alla”, for male parents both “a” and “allo/al”.
So this works in these cases of parents and relatives:
“dai a/alla mamma/zia/nonna il regalo”
“dai a/al papà(/babbo)/nonno il regalo”
“dai a/allo zio il regalo” (”a zio” without his name is a bit strange in formal italian, but quite common specially when addressing to kids)

By the way this works only with such family roles, for instance you can’t say:
“dai a fratello” or “dai a sorella”.
You can say “dai al fratello” or “dai alla sorella” but you must indicate “di chi?”, “whom brother/sister?” e.g. “dai al fratello di Gino il regalo”.
Same for “nipote” and other relationships (genero, cognato, etc..)

So a general rule could be:
always use only the simple preposition for personal names
“ricetta a Paolo”
and compound preposition for other nouns:
“ricetta al dottore”, “ricetta alla dottoressa”
papà, mamma, etc.. are simply an exception, just as if they were personal names and in fact they replace the first name of the parent.



One Response to “Compound prepositions and family members”

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