Last week, while I was chatting with a student, I got asked one of the simplest questions ever.
I was having a Chiacchieriamo session with a lovely lady I get to catch with every morning at breakfast time. She has been living in Italy for a few years now and has a very good command of the language but is still struggling with some very simple things.
For example, she told me she struggles with how to use prego in Italian and asked me if I could help her figure out when and how to properly use it in conversation and daily life. As I began answering, I realized that such a little harmless interjection has multiple uses that you understand only when you have been using Italian for a while.
So I thought it could be interesting for you if I wrote a post about it, listing the most common ways of using “Prego!” in the Italian language.
The most common way of using it is to reply back when someone tells you “Grazie!“. It translates the English ‘You’re welcome’ and it is polite to always use it whenever somebody thanks you. If you are fed up with using “prego” and want to try something different, you can reply using “di niente“, “non c’è di che“, “figurati” or “si figuri” if you want to be formal, or “ci mancherebbe“.
But there are other ways of using it.
For example, if you are at home, somebody rings your doorbell, you open the door and it’s a friend of yours. Well, if you want to let him or her into your house, you will surely say “Prego, accomodati” (Please, come in!).
Or let’s imagine that you are in a queue, waiting to board a plane, for example. An old lady arrives and asks you if she can go first because her legs are tired. If you speak Italian, you’ll say “Prego“, which basically means ‘Of course, please go first’.
In general, anytime somebody asks you permission to do something and you want to say it’s ok, just say “Prego!“. There’s a free seat on the train and somebody asks you if he or she can take it? Just say “Prego“. When someone asks you to borrow something from you, if you agree just say “Prego“. If you are in trouble doing something and someone asks you if he or she can do it for you, say “Prego” and let this kind person help you.
In another situation, let’s imagine that you are waiting in line in a big department store, all the cashiers are busy, so you wait for your turn. When a cashier is ready to serve the next customer, she or he will likely say: “Prego!“, meaning ‘please come forward’. This use of “prego” you will hear it all the time in offices, bars, shops, whenever you are waiting for your turn to be served.
These are all the different uses of prego that came to my mind but I am sure that there are some I forgot. This goes to show how many nuances there are in the use of certain expressions and words in a language.
But tell me, are there expressions or words you used wrongly causing embarrassment and laughter? I am dying to know!
If you are interested in improving your Italian language skills, I’d suggest you check Chiacchieriamo, your way of chatting with an Italian without moving from home.
Chiacchieriamo is a Skype chat which helps you practice and improve your Italian with a native speaker. If you want to give it a try, you can request a 30-minute free chat, so that we can meet each other and see if you like the service.