I'm a bit confused as to when we are supposed to use "da" (or di/a) in sentences that are like "It's adjective to do smth".

For example on duolingo it says "Il libro non è impossibile da leggere" but it has "È difficile conoscere se stessi". I'm having trouble understanding why one needs da but the other doesn't. Note that I'm kinda framing all of this Italian grammar in French since it seems to be closer than English given that it also uses "de/à" but it never drops them in these contexts like Italian seems to.

Thanks for any help given!

1 Answer 1


Going just by the two examples you give, they are actually quite different sentences. In Il libro non è impossibile da leggere (which is not the smoothest Italian sentence anyway), the subject is il libro. The rest describes something that the book isn't (impossibile) and a limitation about this impossibility. So we have something like “The book isn't impossible as regards its reading”. Similar, and better sounding, sentences might be Questo pesce è buono da mangiare or La meccanica quantistica è una scienza facile da capire.

The sentence È difficile conoscere sé stessi, on the other hand, has a different structure. Here conoscere sé stessi is the subject, and it's this self-knowledge that is difficult.

It is sometimes possible to phrase a concept in both ways. So, for instance, you might say Non è impossibile leggere questo libro: now the subject is the whole expression leggere questo libro.

[Notice that English too has something akin to this distinction, but it is less clear due to the ubiquity of the particle “to”. The sentences “This book is hard to read” and “It's hard to read this book” correspond to the two cases, and the difference becomes apparent if we consider more than one book: “These books are hard to read” and “It's hard to read these books”. Only in the first case the verb is plural (“are”) since “these books” is its subject.]

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