Origin and Etymology of Pronto
The word pronto comes from the Italian verb prontare, which means “to prepare” or “to make ready.”
The word first appeared in the Italian language in the 16th century, and its use as an adverb meaning “quickly” or “ready” became more widespread in the 19th century.
Pronto in Context
“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!”
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 one of many meanings of pronto. The English have borrowed this word, but now we use it to mean “quickly.”
Anyway, there are other meanings 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 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 mainly used for fixed expressions like:
Ti auguro una pronta guarigione!
I wish you a speedy recovery!
Ha proprio i riflessi pronti!
He has quick reflexes!
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 “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.
Turning every situation into a specific case is the wrong way to learn a language, like flashcards.
It’s much better to understand the logic behind using a particular word rather than memorizing a bunch of hopeless situations that only end up confusing, am I right?
Common Mistakes When Using Pronto
Despite its versatility, the Italian word pronto can be tricky.
Here are some common mistakes that people make when using “pronto” in conversation:
Using it as an adjective
“Pronto” is an adverb that modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs but should not be used to describe a noun or pronoun.
For example, saying: “This dress looks pronto,” is incorrect, while “I’m pronto to go” is appropriate.
Confusing it with “presentable”
Another mistake people make is using pronto as a synonym for “presentable” or “good-looking.”
For instance, saying: “Make sure you look pronto for the meeting,” is incorrect, while saying, “Be ready and prepared for the meeting,” is more appropriate.
Using it incorrectly in greetings
While pronto is a common way to answer the phone in Italian, it should not be used as a greeting when meeting someone in person.
Saying pronto when greeting someone is incorrect and may confuse or offend the other person.
Overusing pronto in conversation can make it lose its impact and annoy the listener.
Using the word sparingly in the appropriate context is essential so it doesn’t lose its meaning.
Pronunciation can also be a challenge when using pronto. The correct pronunciation of “pronto” in Italian is “prawn-toe,” not “prawn-tow.”
Mispronouncing the word can confuse and detract from the conversation’s effectiveness.
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 laugh, watch the comic sketch I mentioned earlier. It’s called “Il viaggio in Subaru baracca“; you can find it on Youtube.
Try to see how many words you can understand!
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