Pronto in context
Let’s review this sketch that illustrates the use of “pronto”.
“Am I speaking to Mr. Aldo Baglio?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Look, this is the Financial Police talking.”
“… Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number!”
This is a scene from a sketch by the famous Italian comedy trio Aldo, Giovanni & Giacomo. In this excerpt, two of the main characters make a prank call to their friend.
A: “Pronto Dante, sono Lorenzo. Ti va di venire per un caffè?” B: “Sì, pronto Lorenzo! Va bene, arrivo subito.”
A: “Pronto Dante, it’s Lorenzo. Do you wanna come over for a coffee?” B: “Yeah, pronto Lorenzo! Fine, I’ll be there in a minute.”
This, however, is not the only meaning of pronto. The English have borrowed this word, but now we use it to mean “quickly”.
Anyway, even this is not the main meaning of this word in Italy. Let’s talk about it!
How do you use pronto in Italian?
Does pronto mean quickly or ready? The answer is both!
Like the English, Italians can use pronto to mean “quickly” or “speedy”, too.
This meaning of pronto is probably the reason why this word is used in the Italian term for first aid: pronto soccorso (which is also the way people call emergency rooms).
Anyway, this usage is now becoming obsolete and is mostly used for fixed expressions like:
Ti auguro una pronta guarigione!
I wish you a speedy recovery!
Ha proprio i riflessi pronti!
He really has quick reflexes!
Now, when Italians say pronto, they mean “ready” most of the time.
Pronti, partenza… via!
Ready, set… go!
La cena è pronta!
Dinner is ready!
Siamo in ritardo di venti minuti e non sei ancora pronto?! Sbrigati!
We’re twenty minutes late, and you’re not ready yet?! Hurry up!
Sono pronto ad affrontare l’esame.
I’m ready to take the exam.
So, in short, pronto can mean both “quick” and “ready”. You can find people on the web who list other meanings of pronto, but those are all related to the first two.
I find that turning every situation into a specific case is a bad way to learn a language, a bit like flashcards.
It’s much better to understand the logic behind using a particular word rather than memorizing a bunch of useless situations that only end up being confusing, am I right?
Go call your Italian friends!
Understanding the meaning of pronto will allow you to be more confident during everyday conversations and learn a lot of Italian expressions like the ones you’ve read so far.
I’ll teach you some more soon. In the meantime, if you want to have a laugh, go watch the comic sketch I mentioned earlier.
It’s called “Il viaggio in Subaru baracca“, and you can find it on Youtube. Try to see how many words you can understand!
Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!