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Pronto (answering phone)

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by Teafrog, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. Teafrog

    Teafrog Senior Member

    London
    UK English (& rusty French…)
    Hello there

    Firstly, I have to admit that I speak no Italian (I usually frequent the Fr-Engl or Engl only forums), secondly, I realise this will be a dumb question for 99.9% of you, so please bear with me; I am genuinely puzzled…
    This Q came about from a post (from an Iranian forer@) on the English only forum about "how to answer the phone", in case you were wondering. I started thinking about the various ways people answer, and…
    How's that for an intro? :D

    It is my understanding that "pronto" is the standard response when answering the phone in Italy, and that it means "ready" or "quick". Could someone explain to me the logic of this (there must be one), where it comes from and if there is an alternative way to answer the phone? Every other European nationalities seems to be happy with just "hello" :confused:

    I did warn you that it would be a weird Q… :eek:. Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. Realman83 Senior Member

    Golfo Aranci
    Italian
    I sincerly don't know if there's a logic behind our "pronto"... Maybe a question like "Are you ready to talk?" after the silence between the telephone number dialing and the answer of the person that is calling you... That's my guess. In fact when you answer the phone you use "pronto" as a question. It is "pronto?". And when you talk after someone said to you "pronto?", you'd generally use again "pronto" as an answer to that question before telling something more..

    Es:
    A: "Pronto? Chi parla?" (Pronto? Who's speaking?)
    B: "Pronto, buongiorno sono il signor X..." (Pronto, good morning i'm mr X)

    I said "generally" because you can even omit the "pronto" of the person B.

    Es:
    A: "Pronto? Chi parla?" (Pronto? Who's speaking?)
    B: "Buongiorno, sono il signor X..." (Good morning, i'm mr X...)


    Now, it comes to my mind a sentence that someone says after he answered the phone and nobody answered back.
    Es:
    A: "Pronto? Chi parla?"
    B: No answer (maybe it's a joke or he hung up the phone)
    A: "Maybe he wasn't ready (pronto) at all!"
     
  3. callmechia

    callmechia Junior Member

    Long Island, NY
    United States, English
    I've often wondered about this myself. It is a bit strange.

    I would like to point out that even females use "pronto", so it is not an adjective in that the answerer is describing him or herself;
    otherwise, according to Italian grammar, females would say "pronta".

    That is to say, the person is not announcing to the caller that he or she is "ready" to take the call.

    I've never heard anyone answer the phone (casually, not a business, that is) with any other response!
     
  4. Stynella

    Stynella Senior Member

    Venice
    Italy, Italian
    You can also answer the phone saying "si?", but usually "pronto" is much more used.
     
  5. Grtngs

    Grtngs Senior Member

    Italia
    I read somewhere that in the beginning of the telephone era, whenever you wanted to call someone you had to call an operator who would then put you through and say that the call was "ready". I really don't know if it's an urban legend though.

    G
     
  6. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Yes, I also knew the explanation given by Grtngs, the operator informed that other user was ready (pronto = collegato, disponibile).
     
  7. Teafrog

    Teafrog Senior Member

    London
    UK English (& rusty French…)
    Ah ah! - That could explain it :cool:, thanks for that. I knew there must be some logical reason for it. Only the Italians answer the phone by saying "ready". Does anyone know of any nationality answering the phone by something else that "hello"?
    I'm glad I wasn't the only one puzzled by that :D. I must say I was rather hesitant in asking what seems, at first glance, an idiotic Q :eek:.

    I wasn't even aware that a woman should, technically, answer "pronta" :).

    So, at the end of the day, it means "I'm ready to listen to you, go ahead and speak" Right?
    But why should the caller (sometimes) respond with "pronto" as well :confused:, is it to indicate that all is in order and both parties are ready to speak to each other?!
     
  8. Ellena Senior Member

    California
    USA (California), English
    Interesting thread. I have always wondered that, too. I never realized that the first "pronto" was a question.

    I sometimes listen to Italian radio talk shows. I have never heard anyone say "pronta". but it seems to me that when there is more than one receiver of the call (a host and guest or two hosts, like a morning show) they do say "pronti". Is that correct or have I misunderstood it?

    Thanks!

    Ellena
     
  9. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    No, it's used as a set phrase, invariable, it's always 'pronto', you'll never hear 'pronta/e/i'. ;)
     
  10. furs

    furs Senior Member

    Lombardia
    Italian - Trieste dialect
    Necsus, I do sometimes hear 'pronti' as opposed to 'pronto'. Actually, I do occasionally use it myself, when I am in a joking mood.
     
  11. Stiannu

    Stiannu Senior Member

    Torino (Turin), Italy
    Italy, Italian
    Yes, me too. I occasionally use pronti, it sounds funnier and it means something like siamo pronti = we are ready (with the surprise of re-attributing an actual meaning to the standard pronto, which had lost any meaning).

    In the past, answering the phone with Sì? was just a movie attitude, never found in true life (like people who hang up the phone without saying goodbye or see you, I'm sure there was a thread about this); but with mobile phones, it is becoming widespread, together with ehi, dove sei? (=where are you?), etc.,

    BTW, pronto only means ready in Italian. It means quick or soon (and NOT ready) only in Spanish.
     
  12. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Well, in a joking mood it's possible, yes. But I've never heard someone who says 'pronti' answering seriously the telephone...
     
  13. Realman83 Senior Member

    Golfo Aranci
    Italian
    I agree with you when you say that it's a set phrase and you'll never hear pronta/e/i (maybe pronti as a joke), but you can't deny that "pronto" is said with the intonation tipical of a question. And when "pronto" is said with a flat voice it's because everybody knows that it's obviously a question!
     
  14. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Did I deny it? :confused::)
     
  15. callmechia

    callmechia Junior Member

    Long Island, NY
    United States, English
    Yeah, what Realman said.

    The "question" part of it has kind of lost its meaning, hence often you will hear people answer "pronto." without the questioning intonation.

    Or, you will hear "pronto!" as if they were announcing that they themselves were pronto, which is kind of what I said in my first post.

    But apparently the original meaning of the word has lost its origins so much, that the word is treated like any old greeting.

    Hello?
    Hello.
    Hello!

    Same thing.
     
  16. Realman83 Senior Member

    Golfo Aranci
    Italian
    Sorry, i didn't notice your quoting of the Ellena's message (is it right this sentence?) :)
     
  17. ljm22 New Member

    English - British
    Pronto=hello... Note that the English word 'hello' (or 'hallo') was an expression of surprise before the telephone came along, not a greeting. Alexander Graham Bell apparently favoured 'ahoy!' as a logical greeting, hailing the other caller.
     

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