The meaning of prego + 6 ways to use this very polite word


Key Takeaways

Discover the versatile Italian word “prego” and master its multiple uses to charm locals on your Italian adventure! From polite responses to granting permission, this guide unpacks the magic of prego in everyday Italian interactions. 🇮🇹✨

  • You’re Welcome: Stumped on how to respond to grazie? Just say prego! It’s the Italian go-to for “you’re welcome,” reflecting a wish for heavenly rewards. 🙏
  • Invitation: When someone asks “Permesso?” to enter a room, hit them with a warm prego! It’s like rolling out the red carpet for their entrance. 🚪🎩
  • Customer Interaction: Working in service? Greet customers with prego to kickstart a helpful interaction. It’s like saying, “How may I assist you?” with Italian flair. 💁‍♀️🛍️
  • Granting Permission: Use prego to graciously allow someone to speak or use something. It’s the polite Italian nod for “go ahead” – unless you’re being sarcastic, of course. 😉👌
  • Requesting Clarification: Didn’t catch that? A puzzled prego? is your ticket to getting things repeated. It’s the Italian “I beg your pardon?” with a twist of confusion. 🤷‍♂️🔁
  • After You: Being a gentleman or a gentlewoman? Let others pass first with a courteous prego. It’s the Italian way of saying “after you” with grace. 🚶‍♂️🚪

Quick facts

What does "prego" mean in Italian besides "you're welcome"?

"Prego" can mean "please," "go ahead," "I beg your pardon," and is also the first person singular of "to pray."

How do Italians invite someone into their home using "prego"?

When someone asks to enter, Italians say "Prego, si accomodi pure," meaning "Please, make yourself comfortable."

How do shop assistants use "prego" with customers?

Shop assistants use "prego" to start interactions, like "Prego, come posso aiutarla?" which means "Please, how can I help you?"

Can "prego" be used sarcastically?

Yes, "prego" can be used sarcastically, as in "Prego, ma fai pure!" meaning "Please do, go ahead," when someone asks for something cheeky.

How do you use "prego" to ask for repetition?

Simply say "Prego?" to indicate you didn't understand and need something repeated.

When is "prego" used to mean "after you"?

"Prego" is used to let someone go ahead, such as when stepping aside in a supermarket.

What is a more formal way to say "you're welcome" in Italian other than "prego"?

"Non c'è di che" is a formal expression meaning "there is nothing to thank for."

How do you say "don't mention it" in Italian?

Use "Si figuri" (formal) or "Figurati" (informal) to say "don't mention it."

How do Italians express willingness to help anytime?

They say "In qualsiasi momento," meaning "at any time," to show ongoing support.

What phrase implies "of course, obviously" in Italian?

"Ci mancherebbe altro!" is used to express that helping was a pleasure and no thanks are needed.

My Thoughts

What does prego mean in Italian?

Prego is the first person present tense conjugation of the Italian verb pregare, which means “to pray” or “to beg”. But what does that have to do with being polite?

The thing is, prego can also have other meanings depending on the context. It can be used to say “you’re welcome” in Italian, to give permission, or to ask to repeat something.

All these meanings of prego are somehow linked to the idea of wishing for something to happen. Or, if we want to try a more literal translation: “[I] pray [that you… / that this…]”.

Generally speaking, prego is mostly used as a formal courtesy expression that can be used with both strangers and acquaintances in many everyday situations, such as when you enter a store.

Let’s see some of them.

All the different meanings of prego

Here’s a list of all the things that prego can mean in Italian. If you know some German, you’ll find that this word can be used as the Italian equivalent of bitte.

Let’s dive in!

To say you’re welcome in Italian

When someone says “thank you“, Italians reply with prego. That’s how you say “you’re” welcome in Italian. I know that’s not a very intuitive reply, but there’s a reason behind it.

When they want to thank someone, Italians say “grazie“. In ancient times, this expression meant that the speaker wished for you to be rewarded by heaven for your good deeds.

Now you see why someone would reply “I pray for it” to such a blessing?

To invite someone in

If someone asks you permission to come inside your house or place of work, you can say prego to invite them in.

A: “Permesso?” B: “Prego, si accomodi pure”

A: “May I come in?” B: “Prego, make yourself comfortable”

Just be careful not to say that if the other person has very sharp fangs and pale skin.

To start interacting with visitors or customers

You can also say prego to start interacting with customers who enter your place of work. Let’s say you’re a shopping assistant or a tourist guide.

In that case, when someone approaches you while you work, the right thing to say is:

Prego, come posso aiutarla?

Please, how can I help you?

Give permission to say, do, or use something

Prego can also be a formal way of giving permission.

When someone wants to join a conversation or expresses an interest in what you’re doing, you can say prego to give them permission to speak.

For instance, if you’re teaching a class and one of your students asks permission to make a question, the right answer is:

Certo, prego!

Sure, prego!

The same applies when someone asks to use something that is yours. Even then, an Italian will say:

Prego, fai pure!

Sure, go ahead!

You can even say it sarcastically.

A: Non ti dispiace se finisco tutti i tuoi cioccolatini, vero? B: Prego, ma fai pure!

A: You don’t mind if I finish all your chocolates, do you? B: Please do, go ahead!

When you don’t understand what others say or “I beg your pardon”

Prego can be used as a fixed expression to say “I beg your pardon” or “Excuse me?”.

If you are new to speaking Italian, you may not always understand the people you’re talking to. Maybe they talk too fast, or they used a word you don’t know.

In that case, you just have to say “Prego?”, and they’ll understand they have to repeat what they said.

Again, you can also do it sarcastically, or to express amazement/disbelief at something.

A: “Ehi, hai appena vinto 10.000€!” B: “Prego?”

A: “Hey, you just won 10.000€!” B: “I beg your pardon?”

A: “I tuoi capelli sono orribili oggi!” B: “Prego?!”

A: “Your hair looks awful today!” B: “Excuse me?!”

To Say “After you”

“Prego” can also mean “after you.”Let’s say you are about to step aside and say “please” as a gesture to let them go in first. Where you’re at a supermarket and someone is about to enter, you step aside and say “please” as a gesture to let them go in first.

Prego means “go ahead”.

Other ways to say you’re welcome in Italian

Italians have many ways to express gratitude and say thank you. Similarly, there are several ways to say you’re welcome in Italian.

If prego is the most common one, you might be curious to know that there are eight more ways to put it.

Check out the list below for more ways to be polite and natural when speaking Italian.


Prego is the most common and easiest way to say you’re welcome in Italian.

Besides meaning you are welcome, prego also means please in some situations and is the first person singular of the present tense of the verb pregare (to pray).

Grazie per il tuo aiuto! Prego!

Thanks for your help! You’re welcome!

Di niente/ Di nulla

Both di nulla and di niente mean “it was nothing,” with nulla and niente being synonyms for “nothing.”

They’re both popular and neutral terms that can be used in formal and casual situations, although di nulla is a little more formal.

Grazie per il passaggio! Di niente!

Thanks for the ride! It was nothing!

Si figuri/ Figurati

Figurati (you informal) and Si figuri (you formal) means don’t mention it!

These expressions aren’t just used to say you’re welcome in Italian. When a friend thanks you for a present, for example, using figurati rather than prego is far more common.

Grazie del regalo! Figurati!

Thanks for the gift! Don’t mention it!

Difference between “Si Figuri” and “Figurati”

The combination figurati is made up of the imperative form of the verb figurare (to appear or figure) and the pronoun ti (informal you). Its formal expression is “Si figuri”.

Figurati means “don’t mention it.” It can, however, mean a range of things:

It could be an exclamation that means “No way!”

Cosa? Figurati!

What? Certainly not!

Non ricorda le cose sue, figurati le mie.

She has trouble remembering her personal belongings, let alone mine.

Figurati, a quindici anni io già lavoravo.

Imagine that, at the age of fifteen, I was already working.

Non c’è di che

Use non c’è di che when you want to be polite. You’ll make a good impression (fare bella figura) because it’s more formal than prego.

It’s a contraction of the Italian phrasenon c’è di che ringraziare,” which means “there is nothing to thank for.”

Because the sentence is missing a critical part, there is no literal translation to English.

Non so come ringraziarti! Prego, non c’è di che!

I don’t know how to thank you! You’re welcome, don’t mention it!

Non c’è problema

This is a neutral expression that means you’re welcome in Italian.

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It occurs in two variants: non c’è problema and non c’è nessun problema, and translates to “there is no problem.”

Grazie per avermi accompagnato a casa. Non c’è problema. È stato un piacere.

Thanks for taking me home. No problem. It was a pleasure.

In qualsiasi momento

This shows a willingness to assist whenever a need arises.

It’s not appropriate for formal contexts because it appears vague. It’s very informal and can be interpreted to mean “at any time.”

Grazie per aver aiutato Alice! Prego, in qualsiasi momento.

Thanks for helping Alice! You’re welcome anytime.

E di che?

E di che? is used in informal situations and is more casual than prego and di nulla. It might be translated as “for what?” in English.

Grazie per l’ aiuto! E di che?

Thanks for your help! What [are you thankful] for?

(Ma) Ci mancherebbe altro!

Ci mancherebbe altro! is a phrase that means “of course, obviously.”

You can use it when you do someone a favor, and they are extremely grateful. In other words, ‘ci mancherebbe altro’ implies ‘I did it with pleasure, don’t mention it!’

Grazie per aver pagato la cena! Ma ci mancherebbe altro!

Thanks for paying dinner! Don’t mention it!

Tutti i modi per dire PREGO in italiano! - How to say YOU ARE WELCOME in Italian!

Other Important Uses of Prego

We have mentioned at the beginning of our article that “prego” is one of the favorite expressions to say you’re welcome in Italian.

It can, however, be used in different common situations.

Let’s have a look at it.

  • When you want to encourage someone to do something, you might use the word prego to mean “please.”

Prego si segga.

Please, take a seat.

  • It also means “I pray.” It comes from the verb pregare (to pray).

Prego ogni sera.

I pray every night.

  • You can use it when you just want to say “after you” (for example, on a bus).
  • When you don’t understand what someone has said, this is a suitable reply. In this situation, it means “pardon me.”

Check out more uses of prego in this article.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

How do you use "Prego" in Italian?

You use "prego" to say "you're welcome", to give permission, to invite someone in, or to ask to repeat something.

Where does the word "Prego" come from?

The word "prego" comes from the Italian verb "pregare", which means "to pray" or "to beg".

Do you use "Prego" when someone says grazie?

When someone says "Grazie" ("thank you"), you say "Prego" to mean "you're welcome".

Is the word Prego formal or informal?

"Prego" is a very polite word and can be used both in formal and informal situations.

Does "prego" means sorry?

Prego" doesn't directly translate to "sorry" in Italian. It's primarily used to express "you're welcome" or to politely offer something. "Sorry" in Italian is typically expressed as "mi dispiace" or "scusa" (informal) / "mi scusi" (formal).

Why do Italians say prego?

Italians say 'prego' as a polite way to say 'you're welcome.'

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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