I am a bit confused about using the infinitive of verbs.

For example:

He used a map to find the village.

Should I translate this as

Ha usato una mappa trovare il villaggio.


Ha usato una mappa a trovare il villaggio.

I have seen examples of both and I don't know which is correct.

  • 1
    And, in addition to my nit-picking below about “village” vs. “villaggio”, note that “map” too has not an exact equivalent in “mappa”. “Mappa”, properly, only should be used for a limited range of cartographic representations (those at a scale larger than 1/1000: essentially, only maps of the Catasto [land registry]); otherwise, one should use carta (geografica) or pianta (di una città etc.)
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 12:39
  • Thank you, DaG, for your contributions to my Italian language learning curve. Usually my somewhat unlearned examples are not the actual sentence I am trying to translate but merely an example. All contributions, however, are appreciated.
    – Jim's Mum
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 4:44
  • Thanks, @Jim's Mum. Of course I didn't intend to criticise you: I only seized the opportunity to mention an inaccuracy common to many Italians as well (and to myself as well, until someone pointed out this to me!).
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 7:39
  • Keep the suggestions coming, @DaG. Your English is way better than my baby Italian. I have written another entry for my blog mioitalia.com so any help to improve is welcome.
    – Jim's Mum
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 5:46

2 Answers 2


"Ha usato una mappa"

is the main/independent clause;

"per trovare il paese"

is a subordinate/dependent implicit final clause.

The implicit final clause usually requires

per + infinitive mood of the verb

If the main clause has a verb expressing movement, you can use

a + infinitive mood of the verb

For example:

"Si è messo a cercare il paese sulla mappa"

In some cases you can also use "allo scopo di", "al fine di", "onde", etc. (these are more formal, more common in writing).

Note that the subject of an implicit final clause is the same subject of the main clause; if this is not the case you need to use an explicit final clause (affinché, perché, etc.). Example: "Lui tirò fuori la mappa affinché/perché lei cercasse il paese".

Also note that in this answer I am assuming that the question is about final clauses - although there are obviously many other cases where you use the infinitive of a verb, and it would be too long to describe each case here.

  • 1
    Thank you randomatlabuser for your informative response. This has been bugging me for ages and this helps to make it much clearer.
    – Jim's Mum
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 4:31
  • 2
    Moreover, @Jim's Mum, as implicitly randomatlabuser reminds us in his examples, note that an Italian villaggio isn't exactly the same as an English “village”. The latter is often better translated as paese, paesino, cittadina, while a villaggio tends to refer to a rather primitive settlement (un villaggio di capanne) or a picturesque one (un villaggio di pescatori), apart from some specialised use (villaggio vacanze etc.).
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 20:03

Si tratta di una frase composta da una proposizione principale

Ha usato una mappa

e di una subordinata in forma implicita di tipo finale (specifica quindi un fine o scopo legato al verbo usare) che si rende con la proposizione "per" seguita dal verbo all'infinito (forma implicita, infatti) La seconda forma

Ha usato una mappa a trovare il villaggio

ritengo sia errata.

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