The Italian verb prendere (to take, to catch, to get…and others)

Italian language

Article title and picture of a girl catching a ball

Written by Federica  in Italian language

What is the meaning of prendere?

The Italian verb prendere has many different meanings and, for this reason, it’s a key one to learn in Italian.

Here is a list of possible translations for prendere, as well as examples of its use.

1. Prendere as to catch (a cold, a bus, a fish…)

  • Ho preso il raffreddore durante il viaggio in aereo – I caught a cold during the plane journey
  • Ha preso un pesce gigantesco – He/ she caught a massive fish
  • Prendiamo il treno delle 7:30 – We catch the 7:30 train (in this sense, prendere doubles up as to take)

2. Prendere as to take

  • Finalmente ha deciso di prendere in mano la situazione – He finally decided to take responsibility for the situation/ to act on the situation

Note: this expression is very close to the English phrase to take matters into your own hands . In English, however, this means that you decide to deal with a problem because someone else has failed to do so. In contrast, the Italian phrase does not say your own hands (as opposed to someone else’s). It simply means to take action/ to take responsibility.

  • Puoi prendere tutto quello che vuoi, è gratis – You can take anything you want, it’s free
  • Si è preso troppe responsabilità e adesso ha un esaurimento nervoso – He took on too many responsibilities and now he has burnout
  • Prendo lezioni private di italiano – I take private Italian lessons

3. Prendere as to have and to get (in the sense of to buy/ to order)

  • Prendiamo due gelati – We’ll have two ice-creams
  • Puoi fare un salto al negozio e prendere due bistecche? – Can you pop into the shop and get two steaks?

4. Prendere as to get (in the sense of to receive/ to obtain/ to win)

  • Ho preso una multa nel parcheggio del supermercato – I got a fine in the supermarket car park
  • Ha preso una borsa di studio molto prestigiosa – He/she got a very prestigious bursary
  • Ho una bellissima notizia: ho preso il posto di lavoro! – I have some amazing news: I got the job!

5. Prendere as to earn (slightly informal)

  • Sai quanto prende all’ anno? – Do you know how much he/ she earns a year?

Note that this meaning of prendere is slightly informal. The more formal verb for to earn is guadagnare.

Photo of women gossiping at work
Illustration of the Italian phrase “Sai quanto prende all’ anno?” – Do you know how much he/ she earns a year?

6. Prendere as in to have network or to catch fire

  • Il telefono qui non prende – The phone has no signal here
  • Con il caldo, l’erba prende fuoco molto velocemente – With heat, the grass catches fire very fast

Top tip: if you are an English speaker, there is something about prendere which might be confusing for you. When the English verb to take is used for to take someone or something somewhere (e.g. she took her to school in the morning) the Italian prendere is not the correct translation. Instead, you should use the verb portare. This is something that I often see students of Italian be confused about.

What conjugation does prendere belong to?

Prendere belongs to the second Italian conjugation. Its infinitive form ends in -ere (prendere), the past participle form is preso (irregular) and the gerund ends in -endo (prendendo).

Is prendere regular or irregular?

Prendere is an irregular verb, therefore its verb endings don’t follow a regular pattern throughout the conjugation, although the only irregularity lies in the past participle, which is preso (rather than prenduto) and some of the remote past conjugation.

Does prendere use an essere or avere auxiliary?

Italian compound tenses such as the present perfect (passato prossimo) require the main verb to be preceded by an auxiliary, essere or avere

The verb prendere takes the avere auxiliary in compound tenses (for example, hanno preso un gattino –they got a kitten), but takes the essere auxiliary when, in certain expressions, the speaker chooses to use it reflexively (for example, mi sono presa un raffreddore – I caught a cold).

Italian set phrases with prendere

Prendere is a very common verb in Italian, so it’s not surprising that there are quite a few set phrases which use it. Here are some of them:

  • Prendere in giro = to take someone for a ride

This expression translates almost literally into English because the Italian fare un giro means to have a stroll, a drive, a ride, in the sense of wandering round for pleasure with no particular aim.

  • Mi prendi per scemo? = do you think I’m a fool?

As you can probably already see, this sentence literally reads as do you take me for a fool.

  • Prendere una brutta strada = to go down the wrong path
  • Prendere piede = to get a foothold / to become widespread
  • Prendere il sole = to sunbathe
  • Prendere il sopravvento = to overwhelm / to overtake / to get the better of someone
  • Prendere una svolta = to take a turn (more often figurative)
  • Andare a prendere = to (go) and pick up / to go and get

Top tip: an easy-to-remember verb that is derived from prendere is riprendere. It means to recover (physically or psychologically). For example, non si sono ancora ripresi dalla fatica di ieri– they still haven’t recovered from the hard work yesterday

Synonyms of prendere

Synonyms of prendere vary depending on how prendere is used and what it means in context.

Below is a table showing possible synonims of prendere. Note that some of these are not an exact match of prendere, but we’ve tried to go with the closest possible match.

English phraseItalian phrase using prendereItalian phrase using a synonym of prendere
To catch a bus Prendere un autobus Salire su un autobus
To catch a fishPrendere un pesceCatturare un pesce
To catch a coldPrendere un raffreddore Contrarre un raffreddore
To have a beerPrendere una birraOrdinare una birra
To get some breadPrendere del paneComprare del pane
To get a bursaryPrendere una borsa di studioVincere una borsa di studio
To get a salaryPrendere un salarioGuadagnare un salario
To have signal PrendereAvere segnale
Table showing different meanings of the verb prendere and a possible synonym for each

There are two main nouns which are related to the verb prendere:

  • La presa (di corrente)- the electric socket.

For example:

C’è una presa vicino al letto? – Is there a socket near the bed?

Is there a socket near the bed?
Picture of a plug socket to illustrate the Italian phrase "is there a socket near the bed"
Illustration of the Italian phrase “C’è una presa vicino al letto?” – Is there a socket near the bed?
  • Presa di coscienza – when someone becomes aware of an inner process/ feeling, etc… (psychological)

The complete conjugation of prendere

In the table below you can see the complete conjugation of prendere in all tenses and moods.

Present indicativeprendoprendiprendeprendiamoprendeteprendono
Present perfect indicativeho presohai presoha presoabbiamo presoavete presohanno preso
Imperfect indicativeprendevoprendeviprendevaprendevamoprendevateprendevano
Past perfect indicativeavevo presoavevi presoaveva presoavevamo presoavevate presoavevano preso
Remote past indicativepresiprendestipreseprendemmoprendestepresero
Preterite perfect indicativeebbi presoavesti presoebbe presoavemmo presoaveste presoebbero preso
Simple future indicativeprenderòprenderaiprenderàprenderemoprendereteprenderanno
Future perfect indicativeavrò presoavrai presoavrà presoavremo presoavrete presoavranno preso
Present conditionalprendereiprenderestiprenderebbeprenderemmoprenderesteprenderebbero
Past perfect conditionalavrei presoavresti presoavrebbe presoavremmo presoavreste presoavrebbero preso
Present gerundprendendoprendendoprendendoprendendoprendendoprendendo
Past gerundavendo presoavendo presoavendo presoavendo presoavendo presoavendo preso
Present subjunctiveprendaprendaprendaprendiamoprendiateprendano
Present perfect subjunctiveabbia presoabbia presoabbia presoabbiamo presoabbiate presoabbiano preso
Imperfect subjunctiveprendessiprendessiprendesseprendessimoprendesteprendessero
Past perfect subjunctiveavessi presoavessi presoavesse presoavessimo presoaveste presoavessero preso

Table showing the complete conjugation of the verb prendere in all Italian tenses.