Difference between PRENDERE and PORTARE

What is the difference between prendere and portare in Italian? English speakers often confuse the two. Are there any situations where you have to use one or the other? Are these verbs even interchangeable?

In this lesson, we will look at how to use these verbs with the help of many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn all you need to know about the difference between prendere and portare!

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Prendere and portare in Italian

Many students confuse prendere with portare and vice versa. At first glance, these verbs are synonyms for “to take”. In reality, however, the difference between prendere and portare in Italian is very clear and they are not interchangeable.

Prendere means “to take, to grab” and describes a unique movement where you take something and keep it close to you.

To take

Fabrizio prende una birra dal frigo.
Fabrizio grabs a beer from the fridge.

Portare, on the other hand, means “to bring” and describes a two-way movement. You take something and you move it elsewhere.

To bring

Ogni mattina porto i miei figli a scuola.
I take my children to school every morning.

mom taking a struggling kid to school

Still confused about the difference between prendere and portare in Italian? Let’s take a closer look at each verb.

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

How do you use prendere in Italian?

As we said, prendere translates as to take, to grab or also to get and to pick up. You can take your phone to make a call, you can take a pair of scissors to cut some paper, etc. You take an object (or a person) and keep it close to you, without leaving it somewhere else.

Lorenzo prende un libro dallo scaffale.
Lorenzo takes a book from the shelf.

Vado al supermercato a prendere del latte.
I’m going to the supermarket to get some milk.

A che ora devo venirti a prendere alla stazione?
What time should I pick you up from the railway station?

woman searching for someone

Prendere, like the English verb to get, is often used as an informal synonym for comprare, to buy.

Dove hai preso queste scarpe?
Where did you get these shoes?

Prendere is also used to translate the English expression “have + food” when ordering something in a bar or restaurant.

Prendi qualcosa? – Prenderò del tè al limone.
Will you have something? – I’ll have some lemon tea.

Some very common expressions with prendere in Italian are…

  • prendere lucciole per lanterne, to make a blunder
  • prendere per oro colato, to take as gospel
  • prendere due piccioni con una faca, to kill two birds with one stone
  • prendere con le pinze, to take sth with a pinch of salt
  • prendere tempo, to stall

How do you use portare in Italian?

Portare, unlike prendere, cannot be used to translate “to grab” or “to pick up” because it describes two movements: first you grab or pick up an object (or someone), then you take it somewhere else. Basically, you move something/someone.

For example, you could say…

La mamma porta il lenzuolo in lavanderia.
Mom takes the sheet to the laundry.

Che cosa ti porto? – Portami un’aranciata!
What can I get you? – Bring me an orange juice!

Hai portato Elena alla lezione di danza?
Did you take Elena to dance class?

4 girls dancing

Some other common expressions with portare in Italian are…

  • portare rispetto, to pay respect
  • portare a termine, to finish
  • portare fortuna, to bring luck
  • portare pazienza, to be patient
  • portare in tavola, to serve (some food)

FAQs on the difference between prendere and portare in Italian

What’s the difference between prendere and portare in Italian?

Prendere describes a one-way movement towards the subject.
Portare describes a two-way movement where the subject takes something (or someone) and brings it somewhere else.

Are prendere and portare interchangeable?

No, they are not. They describe two completely different kinds of movement.

And that’s the end of our lesson on the difference between prendere and portare in Italian!

What next?

Now that you’ve seen the difference between prendere and portare in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

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