The use of prendere and portare can be really tricky.
These two verbs are frequently translated as ‘to take’ in English and this makes students really confused when they need to use them. With this post, I want to try and see if I can help you figure out how to distinguish these two verbs.
I know that understanding how to use prendere and portare might seem quite difficult but it is actually very easy – at least for an Italian speaker like me! Jokes aside, there is a clear difference between these two:
Portare can be translated into English as ‘to bring’, it basically refers to the action of taking something or someone somewhere. Prendere can be translated into English as ‘to get’ and refers to the action of taking something or someone towards us.
When I need to explain these two verbs to my students, I always use the example of the kids and school. When you take the kids to school in the morning, you use the verb portare: “io porto i bambini a scuola” (I have the kids with me and I take them somewhere else). When you pick them up in the afternoon, you use the verb prendere: “io prendo i bambini da scuola” (the kids are not with me, so I go get them somewhere).
Another example can be that of a cake. If you need to go to a party and have baked a cake, you can say “io porto la torta” (you use the verb portare because you have the cake with you and you take it somewhere else). If you don’t have the cake but need to get it from a bakery, you say “io prendo la torta in pasticceria“. You can combine these two sentences by saying “prendo la torta in pasticceria e la porto alla festa” (you don’t have the cake, you get it from the shop and then bring it to the party).
Let me give you more examples:
It can be roughly translated into English as ‘to bring’. It describes the action of taking something or someone somewhere else.
Domani porto la macchina dal meccanico perché ha un problema (Tomorrow I am taking the car to the mechanic because it has a problem)
Francesca ha portato in biblioteca alcuni vecchi libri (Francesca has taken some old books to the library)
Devo portare mio marito in aeroporto, parte per la Spagna (I have to drive my husband to the airport, he’s leaving for Spain)
Mi porti gli occhiali? Non ho voglia di alzarmi dal divano (Can you bring me my glasses? I don’t feel like leaving the couch)
Il corriere ha portato un pacco e l’ha lasciato alla reception (The courier has delivered a package and left it at the reception)
It can be roughly translated into English as ‘to get’. It describes the action of taking something or someone towards us.
Mi accompagni a prendere la macchina dal meccanico? (Can you take me to the mechanic to get my car?)
Dove hai preso quel libro? L’ho preso in biblioteca (Where did you get that book? I got it from the library)
Vado a prendere mia mamma in aeroporto, torna dalla sua vacanza in Egitto (I am picking up my mom at the airport, she’s returning from her holiday in Egypt)
Ho preso gli occhiali che erano sul tavolo e glieli ho portati (I have taken the glasses that were on the table and brought them to him)
Quanto torni puoi prendere il pacco per me che è alla reception? (Can you get my package at the reception, when you come back?)
I hope this post was useful. If you have questions about the use of prendere and portare, just leave them in the comments below!
As I always do with posts about the Italian language, I have created a downloadable pdf file for you to keep for future reference. You will find it in Your Italian Toolbox, the private page on my site where I upload all language learning materials, under the section Grammar. If can access the page by simply subscribing to my newsletter.
If you are interested in working on Italian grammar and want to focus on some specific topics, I suggest you check Ti aiuto io, my online Italian language tutoring service.
If you purchase Ti aiuto io, I will work as your private tutor, giving you tasks and homework and spending time over Skype with you to clarify and work together on each topic. 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.
ANNALINDA RAGAZZO says
I have a question. I think I understand your explanation regarding using portare ( to bring) versus prendere (to get).
So my question is when you want to order something for “take away”… for example, a coffee… I think you use the term ” porta via”. Why? It would seem prendare would be more appropriate in that instance.
Actually, it should be “da prendere e portare via” (you go to the restaurant, you get the food and you take it home with you). We just say “da portare via” as a quicker option, if you see what I mean.
I hope it is clear!