Italian expression of the day: ‘Di fretta’

Italian expression of the day: 'Di fretta'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
When learning this Italian phrase, take the time to make sure you get it right

Dashing around in a panic after drinking three cups of coffee and forgetting the time? Speeding towards a traffic light that’s just about to turn red?

Today’s phrase, di fretta, is one I'd use to describe how the Italians in my life often do things.

It sounds a bit like the English verb “fret”, meaning worry, and if you’re not getting anxious yourself, you might be stressing someone else out.

Di fretta is an adverbial phrase meaning “hastily”, “rushed” or “in a hurry”. It’s a synonym of precipitosamente.

– Un lavoro fatto di fretta 

– A rushed job

In other words, it’s the opposite of piano piano, or con calma.

And you can use the phrase to describe yourself:

– Non posso fermarmi a chiacchierare con te: sono di fretta!

– I can’t stop and chat with you, I’m in a rush! 

(Said no Italian ever.)

But beware.

The similar adverbial phrase in fretta looks like it means the same thing at first. However, you can’t use it in exactly the same way – that little preposition makes a difference.

Di fretta means hastily, in a hurry.

In fretta means quickly, rapidly

For example:

– Vado di fretta

– I’m in a rush

– Vado in fretta

– Literally “I go quickly” – I’m a fast walker/driver.

Confusion arises because in fretta can also be used when talking about someone rushing, or going too quickly, but in that case you'd usually add troppo:

– Parli troppo in fretta

– You speak too quickly

It's easy to get wrong. Even Italian native speakers themselves might make the mistake of saying “sono in fretta”, which is not grammatically correct.

Sono di fretta however is fine.

And once Italian habits start rubbing off on you, no doubt you’ll be using this one a lot.

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