Prendo or Porto: What’s the difference?
When it comes to describing movement, the difference between prendere and portare is not obvious to native English speakers. In my private classes, students frequently default to prendere when they should be using portare.
Why is this the case?
Because both the Italian verbs prendere and portare are frequently rendered as “to take” in English. As a result, while it may appear natural to always translate “take” into prendere, this is incorrect. Many times, instead of using prendere, it’s necessary to use portare.
The verb portare means “to bring” in Italian. And it’s used to describe the action of taking something or someone somewhere.
- Ti porto una birra? – Can I get you a beer?
- Porto mia moglie alla stazione – I’m taking my wife to the station
- Porto i miei figli a scuola in macchina – I take my kids to school by car
- Ti porto a casa – I’ll take you home
Portare is also used when you take something or someone with you:
- Portami un regalo da Roma! – bring me a gift from Rome!
- Porta la macchina – bring the car
- Porta i tuoi amici alla festa – bring your friends to the party
In all the foregoing phrases, we’re taking something or someone somewhere (or to bring) In all these phrases, I couldn’t use the verb prendere, because this would have had a whole different meaning.
In fact, prendere describes the action of taking someone or something toward us. In other words, to pick someone up, to collect, or get something.
- Ti prendo alle 8 – I’ll pick you up at 8
- Vado a prendere Marco all’aeroporto – I’m going to pick up Marco at the airport
- Prendo i bambini da scuola alle 9 – I pick up the kids from school at 9
- Devo prendere la macchina dal meccanico – I have to get the car from the mechanic
What’s a good way to learn and internalize this subtle but important difference?
Memorize these two sample phrases and use them as a guide when you make your own sentences.
- Porto i miei figli a scuola – I’m taking my my children to school
- Prendo i miei figli da scuola – I’m taking my children from school
Other meanings of prendere
Remember that prendere can have a variety of meanings depending on the situation.
We use prendere to say that we are having food and drinks.
- Prendo un cornetto e un caffè – I’ll have a croissant and an espresso
We use prendere with the meaning of buying or getting something.
- Ho preso un nuovo paio di occhiali – I’ve got a new pair of shades
We use prendere with the meaning of to catch or to grab something, like
- Prendi la palla – grab the ball