How to use PRONTO, PRESTO and RAPIDO correctly in Italian!

In this lesson we want to talk about three widely used words that can often create a bit of confusion for those who are learning Italian: PRONTO, RAPIDO and PRESTO. These three terms have, in fact, similar meanings and, sometimes, they can be used in the same contexts. However, you must be very careful because they are not actually interchangeable and require completely different structures.

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PRONTO, PRESTO and RAPIDO: meanings and differences


The word “pronto” can have different meanings according to the context in which it is used:

  1. One of the most frequent uses is when answering the phone. When taking a call, in fact, we say: “Pronto?(Hello?) or “Pronto? Chi è? Chi parla?” (Hello? Who’s this? Who’s talking?). In this case, “pronto” is invariable, it never changes. For example, you can’t say “pronta” or “pronti”, but you can only say “pronto”, regardless of who is on the other end.
  2. As an adjective, “pronto” can mean “preparato” (ready), therefore is used to indicate that something or someone is in a condition to carry out a specific function or task. For example: “Il pranzo è pronto!” (“Lunch is ready”), “Sono pronta per uscire!” (I’m ready to go out) oppure “Le camere non sono ancora pronte” (The rooms are not ready yet) and so on. In these instances “pronto” must agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to, just like all the adjectives.
  3. Lastly, “pronto”, as an adjective, can also be used in another context to indicate that someone is or is not mentally prepared to face an event, a challenge, a situation. For example, we can say: “Hai visto la foto della tua ex con il suo nuovo ragazzo?”(Have you seen your ex’s picture with her new boyfriend?) – “No, non sono pronto per vedere una cosa del genere. Non l’ho ancora superata.” (No, I’m not ready to see something like that. I’m not over her yet)


The adjective “rapido” (quick), instead, simply means “veloce”(fast). For example, we could say: “Mio padre ha già scelto il colore della sua nuova macchina: è un uomo molto rapido nel decidere” (My dad has already chosen the colour of his new car: he’s very quick when it comes to making a decision). Or: “Ho fatto un rapido calcolo e non credo di avere abbastanza soldi per un viaggio in Giappone”.  (I did a quick calculation and I don’t think I have enough money for a trip to Japan) Or even: “Ho dato una rapida occhiata al giornale e ho visto la foto di tuo nonno. Cosa è successo?” (I had a quick glance at the newspaper and I saw your grandfather’s picture. What happened?)


Finally, the adverb “presto” can have different meanings:

  1. First of all, “presto” is used to indicate that it’s not time yet, it’s not the right time to do something. For example, we can say: “Non ho ancora iniziato a studiare per il prossimo esame. Mancano due mesi, è ancora presto”.  (I haven’t started studying for my exam yet. I have two months left, it’s still early) Or: “Passo a prenderti alle 6?” – “Così presto? La cena è alle 8!”. (Shall I pick you up at 6? – That early? Dinner’s at 8!)
  2. “Presto” can also be used to indicate the early morning hours: “Domani devo svegliarmi presto”. (Tomorrow I need to wake up early)
  3. “Presto” can also be used when doing something earlier than usual: “Mi dispiace ma devo proprio andare. Stasera devo andare a letto presto”. (I’m sorry but I really have to to go. I need to sleep early tonight)
  4. Lastly, “presto” is often used when taking leave, by saying “A presto!” (See you soon) Or “Ci vediamo/sentiamo presto!” (I’ll see/talk to you soon!).

Here’s a short conversation including all the three words:

– “Pronto? Chi parla?” (Hello? Who’s this?)
– “Ciao Rocco, sono Graziana! Sei pronto per la festa di stasera?” ( Hi Rocco, I’m Graziana! Are you ready for tonight’s party?)
– “Prontissimo! Sai a che ora inizia?” (More than ready! Do you know when it starts?)
– “Sì, inizia alle 8!” ( Yeah, it starts at 8 pm!)
– “Alle 8? Così presto? Io finisco di lavorare alle 7! Vabbè, vuol dire che mi farò solo una doccia rapida, così da esser pronto per le 7:45. Comunque ti faccio sapere più tardi a che ora ti passo a prendere!” (At 8 pm? That early? I get off work at 7 pm! All right, it means I’ll have a quick shower so I can be ready by 7:45 pm. Anyway, I’ll let  you know later what time I’m going to pick you up!)
– “D’accordo, però ti avviso: domani devo svegliarmi presto, quindi dobbiamo ritirarci presto! ( Okay, but I’m warning you: toomorrow i need to get up early, so we need to go home early!)
– “Non ti preoccupare!” (Don’t worry!)
– “Perfetto, a presto!” (Great, see you later!)

Write down some sentences containing these three words to check if you have understood how to use them correctly! If, instead, you want to have a grammar recap, don’t miss our video about the 26 most important and  useful rules of the Italian grammar!

Finally, we would like to remind you that we have developed Italiano in Contesto, the first Italian course in the world entirely based on the Contextual Method which enables you to learn a language as if you were in the country where it is spoken, in a natural and appropriate way. Through contextualized video-lessons, Italiano in Contesto will make you experience everyday life situations and provide you with vocabulary and fundamental structures to speak Italian fluently, just like a native speaker! Furthermore, Italiano in Contesto gives you the chance to do automatic exercises to verify your actual knowledge on the contents of the course and to write down all your questions and doubts to Graziana and Rocco who will answer them directly. We wanted to offer everyone the possibility to sign up to Italiano in Contesto; for this reason, with the coupon code PRONTO you will only pay 50€ to have complete and unlimited access to it!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!