The many meanings of a seemingly simple word. Prego!

One of your New Year’s resolutions may be to learn a new language. If that language is Italian, in our opinion you have chosen well! But even if all you need is to learn some “survival Italian” to help you through a trip, some seemingly simple words can be confusing. “Prego” is one of them.

Here are some common uses for it:

“You’re welcome” as a reply to someone’s “Grazie”.
“Please go first” when someone gestures for you to go first, through a door for example.
“Please sit down” when someone gestures to a chair.
“Please come in”, when someone opens a door when you knock.
“How can I help you?” in a shop, said by the salesperson.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the “Prego” sauce ranges are not available in Italy! Here, when people are in a hurry to serve pasta, while the pasta cooks, they often use storecupboard ingredients to whip up a quick puttanesca sauce or just good old “aglio, olio, pamigiano”: gently flavouring a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil in a pan with a couple of cloves of garlic and a chilli pepper, just a minute or two over a low flame so that nothing burns, and tossing with spaghetti and a good handful of grated parmesan cheese.