Verb + Preposition + Infinitive Patterns In Italian

avatarMille Larsen
5 mins read

In my last post, I talked about the importance of learning word patterns on your way to fluency. Today, I want to focus on some simple patterns: verb+preposition patterns.

A verb+preposition pattern is any phrasing where the object of the verb is joined to the verb using a preposition. In English, we're used to such examples as: "used to", "learning to", "finishing with", "thinking of", and so on.

These are short patterns, mostly just two or three words, but bigger patterns come from smaller ones, so with a little luck some of these will turn into bigger things later on.

Verb + a + infinitive

These are verbs accompanied by the preposition a (to). This is not a definitive list, but a sample. There are many more verbs that can use this form.

  • abituarsi a - to get used to
  • aiutare a - to help to
  • andare a - to be going to
  • cominciare a - to begin to
  • divertirsi a - to enjoy oneself at
  • fermarsi a - to stop
  • imparare a - to learn to
  • invitare a - to invite to
  • mandare a - to send to
  • mettersi a - to begin to
  • pensare a - to think of
  • riuscire a - to succeed at
  • sbrigarsi a - to hurry to
  • tornare a - to return to
  • venire a - to come to

So here are a few samples of these verb+a patterns:

Si abituò a guardare la televisione a letto.
He had become accustomed to watching television in bed.

Lei finalmente tornò a sorridere.
She's finally smiling again.

In these examples, the patterns are pretty small — as I said, only two or three words. Further down, we'll look at ways to make more out of that. But first, lets look at another list.

Verb + di + infinitive

These are verbs accompanied by the preposition di (of/from).

  • accettare di - to accept
  • ammettere di - to admit to
  • aspettare di - to wait for
  • avere bisogno di - to need
  • avere paura di - to be afraid of
  • avere voglia di - to feel like
  • cercare di - to try to
  • credere di - to believe in
  • finire di - to finish
  • offrire di - to offer
  • pensare di - to plan to
  • sapere di - to know of
  • suggerire di - to suggest
  • tentare di - to try
  • vietare di - to forbid from -

So here are a few samples of these verb+di patterns:

Ho bisogno di vedere un dottore.
I need to see a doctor.

Penso di andare a Roma.
I am thinking of going to Rome.

Once again, these are some pretty small patterns. But now let's see how to make those bigger.

Making mountains out of molehills

Italian gives us a really nice way to make a lot out of a little with those compound tenses, especially that easy, convenient little gem called il passato prossimo — the simple past tense.

You remember that the passato prossimo is formed by using the verb avere (or essere, for verbs of motion) plus the past participle. So where the list above had suggerire di, the simple past form can become avere suggerito di which is more wieldy already.

So now we can start making some useful phrases:

Hai finito di mangiare?
Have you finished eating?

Come sei venuto a sapere di questo libro?
How did you come to know of this book?

These are pretty useful phrases! And if you say them a few times, use them in a few conversations, write them in a few chat windows, etc., they will become patterns in your head, which you can speak automatically while your mind is forming the next thought.

But if we pick some reflexive verbs, we could possibly even form some slightly bigger patterns.

Mi sono divertito a provare a giocare a golf.
I had fun trying to play golf.

Ci siamo abituati di andare al lavoro in anticipo.
We got used to going to work early.

Now we're looking at some pretty useful phrases! Ci siamo abituati di is a sizeable four-word instance of the abituarsi di pattern, just as mi sono divertito a is for the divertirsi a pattern.

These are thoughts that people express all the time, in any language. If you google them, you find millions of hits. We're just getting started here. There are many more patterns to discover. This is where language really starts to get fun.