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Why do we say:

Ho molte cose da fare!

Where in French, I woud say:

J'ai beaucoup de choses à faire!

Compared to French, the use of "da" here puzzled me.
If possible, I want to understand the intuition of choosing "da" and not "a". Thank you in advance.

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    Welcome to Italian.SE! – Charo Apr 10 at 17:29
  • @Charo, Thank you! – user11731289 Apr 10 at 17:30
  • In Catalan it's also "tinc moltes coses a fer" with preposition "a" (or "he de fer moltes coses"), whereas in Spanish we say "tengo muchas cosas que hacer". – Charo Apr 10 at 17:35
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    While it may be interesting to try to find out why da is used in Italian in such sentences, the comparison with French is not too meaningful. There is almost no correspondence between the use of Italian and French prepositions to begin with. French à may correspond to Italian a (à Paris=a Parigi), con (à l'encre rouge=con l'inchiostro rosso), da (as above), di (à qui est...?=di chi è...?) and so on. [to be followed] – DaG Apr 10 at 20:16
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    Vice versa, Italian da may correspond to French de (da Milano=de Milan), à (as above, and several other cases, such as: dagli occhi azzurri=aux yeux bleus, riconoscere da...=reconnaître à... etc.), par (fatto da...=fait par...), chez (da noi=chez nous) and so on. – DaG Apr 10 at 20:18
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The construction with preposition "da" + infinitive can be used in Italian, among other functions, to indicate "che bisogna", that is, a necessity or something which is felt as very convenient. You can use "da non" + infinity to express "che non bisogna".

Here are some examples from the book Nuovo Contatto C1. Corso di lingua e civiltà italiana per stranieri (Loescher Editore, Torino) di R. Bozzone Costa, M. Piantoni, E. Scaramelli e C. Ghezzi:

un libro da leggere (= un libro che bisogna leggere)
un film da non perdere (= un film che non bisogna perdere)

In the same way, the sentence "Ho molte cose da fare" means "Ho molte cose che bisogna fare".

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Often the particle "da" is used to denote the use or destination of something:

  • Palla/Pallone da calcio (ball for playing soccer/football)
  • Vestito da sposa (suit for a bride)
  • Tabacco da fiuto (tobacco to be sniffed)

...and many more.

In this phrase, "molte cose da fare", the particle da suggests that the cose still are to be done, they are destined to be carried out.

This preposition is used also with other verbs:

  • Cose da comprare (things that can or should be purchased)
  • Cose da prendere (things that can or should be taken)
  • Cose da sapere (things that one should know)

On the other hand, sometimes the preposition "a" is used the same as in French, like in

  • Vuoto a perdere (one-way container/bottle; the bottle will be lost [perdere])
  • Apertura a strappo (tear opening)

but this usage is more found in ready-made periphrases than in constructions a speaker elaborates. Sometimes it is easy to understand why "da" is preferred, for example "bastone da passeggio" (walking stick) is not referred to as "bastone a passeggio", which would mean that the stick is taking a walk by itself (maybe accompanied by its owner!).

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