When speaking a foreign language, the important thing is to make yourself understood. Sometimes, however, unless someone makes a point of correcting you, you might spend years saying something that sounds right to you and gets the appropriate result or response. Then un bel giorno (one fine day) you realize with horror that you’ve been using the wrong word all this time and no one has ever corrected you because they understood anyway. This can easily happen with common words like fare (to make, to do) and prendere (to take, to have), because Italian and English have different conventions about how they get paired with nouns to mean something specific. It’s easy to fare confusione (get mixed up).
For example, you or I might make an appointment, but when Francesca gets serious about buying a new car, she “takes” an appointment:
Dobbiamo prendere quindi un appuntamento per andare dal notaio.
So we have to make an appointment to go see the notary.
Caption 27, Francesca: alla guida - Part 1 of 4
And while most English speakers make decisions, Italians “take” decisions:
Siamo preoccupati, perché dobbiamo prendere delle decisioni molto importanti.
We're worried, because we have to make some very important decisions.
Caption 41, Marika spiega: Proverbi italiani - Part 2 of 2
Do you take a nap in the afternoon? Well, the nonno in Medico in Famiglia “makes” a nap.
Io ho fatto solo venti minuti di pennichella...
I took a nap for just twenty minutes...
You want to take a trip to Sicily, but if you call an Italian travel agent, remember that Italians “make” trips.
Salve, vorrei fare un viaggio alla Valle dei Templi ad Agrigento.
Hello, I'd like to take a trip to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
Caption 2, Pianificare: un viaggio
All this talk about fare brings to mind a popular Italian proverb:
Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare.
Between saying and doing, there’s an ocean in the middle. [Things are easier said than done.]
Bearing this proverb in mind, we could say that repeating a list of which verbs to use when and where is il dire (saying). It will only get you so far. Fare is a catch-all word, a little like “have” or “get,” having so many shades of meaning that you can’t possibly absorb them all in un colpo solo (in one fell swoop). Fare means “to do,” “to make,” “to give” (see the lesson on Gifts and Giving), “to be,” and more (see the lesson on Making It Happen). Prendere is less of a catch-all verb, but also has several meanings like “to get,” “to catch,” “to have,” and “to receive.” So when you are watching Yabla videos and come upon the verb fare or prendere, pay special attention to how the verb gets paired with the noun in the specific context, and then make it your own: Listen for it, repeat it, write it, conjugate it, make up sentences with it. This is il fare (doing). It will gradually start to feel right.
The following are just a few more examples in which fare and prendere are paired with nouns in ways we might not expect:
Ce la farai! (You’ll get it!)
For more on proverbs see: