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Question
Dear Maria,

I hope you had a wonderful vacation!!

Can you please help me with the following sentence:
“Il bambino è dalla nonna.”

I saw this sentence used as a caption under the picture of a young boy and an older woman.

I am thinking that this sentence might be translated as – “The boy is at his grandmother’s.”    Would you please tell me if this is the correct translation.

There are several things that make this sentence hard for me to understand.  

Can you please tell me why the preposition “da” (articulated as dalla) is being used in this sentence.  I do not understand why “da” is used to indicate “at” in this sentence, when so many other times either the preposition “a” or the preposition “in” is used with the verb “essere” to indicate “at”.

I am also wondering about the elliptical phrase “nonna” that I think stands for  “la casa di sua nonna” (his grandmother’s house)  Can the words “la casa di sua ” be omitted from this sentence and understood by context?   

The elliptical phrase also makes the use of the preposition “da” in this sentence even more confusing to me,  because I had previously thought that the preposition “a”   (not “da”) is used with the noun “casa” to express “at” with a verb of staying such as “essere”.  

Is it possible that it is more correct to use the preposition “a” in this sentence and say: “Il bambino è alla nonna”  

Would it also be acceptable to say either:  “Il bambino è dalla casa di sua nonna”  or  “Il bambino è alla casa di sua nonna” depending on what is the correct preposition.

Thank you so much for your help.  I feel so fortunate, that with your expert help, I can learn so much from this one sentence.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

The sentence  “Il bambino è dalla nonna”, used as a caption under the picture of a young boy and an old woman, means exactly:”The little boy is at his grandmother’s”, just to indicate that this little boy is at his grandmother’s house.

When in fact we say “Il bambino è dalla nonna” or e.g. “Marco è da suo padre”, “Ho lasciato la mia valigia da mia madre”, “Era dalla parrucchiera “, “Adesso sono dal dottore”, “In questo momento mio marito è dal barbiere”, “Mangeremo da “Vittorio”,  etc., we want to denote that someone is at somebody’s place, so that “Il bambino è dalla nonna”, “Marco è da suo padre”, “Ho lasciato la mia valigia da mia madre”, “Adesso sono dal dottore”, “Era dalla parrucchiera”, “In questo momento mio marito è dal barbiere”, “Mangeremo da “Vittorio”   stand for “Il bambino è a casa della nonna”, “Marco è a casa di suo padre”, “Ho lasciato la mia valigia a casa di mia madre”, “Adesso sono nello studio del dottore”, “Era nel negozio/salone della parrucchiera”,  “In questo momento mio marito è nel negozio del barbiere”, “Mangeremo nel ristorante di Vittorio”, since in these sentences the preposition “da” (simple or articulated) is being used instead of “a casa di” or “nello studio di”/”nel negozio di”/”nel ristorante di”.

So, as you say, the elliptical expression “dalla nonna” stands  exactly for  “a casa di sua nonna” (at his grandmother’s house)  which is  omitted and understood by context.

With regard to what you say about  the preposition “a”  (not “da”) which  is used with the noun “casa” to express “at” with a verb of staying such as “essere”, it is correct when  the preposition “a”  stands before the noun “casa” like in “Siamo a casa” (We are at home), without a specification,  or “Siamo a casa di Mauro” (We are at Mauro’s home) with a specification.
In this last case we  usually say “Siamo da Mauro”(We are at Mauro’s) instead of “Siamo a casa di Mauro”.

Finally,  it is not possible to use the preposition “a” in the sentence “Il bambino è dalla nonna”,  and say: “Il bambino è alla nonna”, which is absolutely wrong, as well as it is wrong to say “Il bambino è dalla casa di sua nonna”, while it is correct to say  “Il bambino è a casa di sua nonna”, not “Il bambino è alla casa di sua nonna” where the articulated preposition is wrong.

Hope this can help you.

All the best,

Maria

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P.S. I had a wonderful vacation at my daughter’s in Pieve di Cento, a beautiful medieval town placed between Bologna, home to the oldest university in the world founded in 1088, and Ferrara which hosted the court of the House of Este until 1597, when Alfonso II d’Este died without heirs and the ducal House of Este lost Ferrara to the Papal States until 1860 when Ferrara became part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia  that later became the Kingdom of Italy under the Royal House of Savoia.

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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