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Italian expression of the day: 'Di fretta'

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
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 mad panic after drinking three cups of coffee and forgetting the time. Speeding towards a traffic light that’s just about to turn red. Rushing headlong into an office to file paperwork two minutes before it closes for lunch.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

If you live in Italy, the answer is probably yes. Today’s phrase, di fretta, is certainly one I'd use to describe how the Italians in my life tend to do things.

It sounds a bit like the English verb 'fret', meaning worry. This seems fitting, since even if doing things in this last-minute manner isn't making you stressed, it's probably making the people around you feel like tearing their hair out.

Di fretta (roughly pronounced 'dee fret-tah' - hear it here) is an adverbial phrase meaning 'hastily', 'rushed' or 'in a hurry'. It’s a synonym of the more formal precipitosamente.

- Un lavoro fatto di fretta 

- A rushed job

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

You could 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! 

But be careful.

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


Put simply:

Di fretta means hastily, in a rush

In fretta means quickly, rapidly

What's the difference? See for example:

- Vado di fretta

- I’m in a rush (at the moment).

- Vado in fretta

- Literally “I go quickly” - I’m a fast walker/driver, generally speaking.


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

- Parli troppo in fretta

- You speak too quickly (in general, and probably also right now)

Don't panic if you get it wrong. It's easily done, and you'll probably still be understood. Italian native speakers themselves can sometimes say “sono in fretta” when they want to say they're in a rush, even though it's not grammatically correct.

Sono di fretta is the right way to tell someone you're in a rush.

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

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