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I'm a complete beginner to Italian and my current understanding is that da generally means from and a means to. Why is it then that Duolingo has the translation for "Do you go to the mechanic" as "Vai dal meccanico" and rejects "Vai al meccanico"? Could someone clear up when and where to use da and a when it comes to location?

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    Related: italian.stackexchange.com/q/10877.
    – Charo
    Feb 15 at 8:54
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    Does this answer your question? Venga da me - meaning of "da"
    – apaderno
    Mar 15 at 14:37
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    @apaderno: Please stop randomly deleting tags. There is an ongoing discussion on this topic on Meta (italian.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1495/…). Please expound there your opinion on what certain tags should be deleted.
    – DaG
    Mar 15 at 15:18
  • @DaG It is not "randomly deleting tags." It is deleting tags that do not apply to the question. This question is not about grammar, but usage. (Could someone clear up when and where to use da and a when it comes to location?) I still have to understand why there are people who think that removing tags is forbidden.
    – apaderno
    Mar 15 at 15:36
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    Apparently your judgment on what applies and what doesn't apply isn't universal, since I and other users and moderators don't agree. Nobody says it's forbidden; it's just that a flurry of unexplained edits may puzzle people. Please explain your reasons answering (better than just commenting) in Meta.
    – DaG
    Mar 15 at 22:32

2 Answers 2

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When referring to a person, it is "da", so it's: "Vado a Napoli", but "Vado dall'orologiaio". This may be confusing for English speakers because "da" can also mean "from" as in "dalle 3 alle 5" ("from 3 o'clock to 5 o'clock"). But when referring to a person it means "to"

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In Italian, the question of which preposition is used to indicate location in a place or motion to a place is quite complex. Three prepositions, in, a and da, are used not interchangeably. And in certain cases we must use preposition + noun, while in others the pattern preposition + definite article + noun is mandatory, giving rise to what in Italian are called preposizioni articolate (see this post).

The usage of in and a has been covered in other questions and anwsers. See

For what concerns preposition da, in Grammatica e pratica della lingua italiana per studenti stranieri (edizioni ELI, 2006), Federica Colombo states the following:

La preposizione da può esprimere [...] un complemento di stato in luogo o moto a luogo, quando il luogo è indicato dal nome di una persona, da un pronome o dai nomi di professione come panettiere, fruttivendolo, ecc.:

  • Sono stato da Giovanna.
  • Vengo da te sabato sera.
  • Passo dal panettiere e poi vengo a casa.

That is, as you can see in the previous examples, the preposition da is used to introduce a complement that expresses location in a place or motion to a place when the place is indicated by a person's name, by a pronoun or by names of professions such as panettiere, fruttivendolo, etc.

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