Does "tenersi pronto" in the following sentence mean "to be ready" or "to get ready"?

Voglio che lui si tenga pronto per andare al cinema.

Collins dictionary says that it means "to be ready", but I have been told that it is used when one expects something to happen and thus it translates to English better as "to get ready". Which translation is more accurate?

  • 4
    In normal spoken Italian the pronoun subject “lui” is not used in such a sentence, unless emphasis is needed.
    – egreg
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 8:53
  • @egreg The sentence "Voglio che lui..." seems natural and correct to me. Am I missing something? Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 16:34
  • @linuxfansaysReinstateMonica Correct? Yes. Natural? I'd say no, generally, unless one needs particular emphasis on “lui”. Online resources tend to abound on subject pronouns, contrary to common Italian usage.
    – egreg
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


The meaning of the locution tenersi pronto is slightly different from both "to be ready" and "to get ready". It is however closer to the first.

Tenersi pronto means something like "to stand in readiness". It has the connotation that the subject is ready to do the action at a moment's notice, without need to be forewarned. However, unlike to be ready it also has the implication that the subject should be also prepared to wait some time.

In the context of the example sentence, it implies to me that the person should be dressed, have their shoes on and have their coat somewhere close by, and that he's just waiting for someone to ring the bell or to call them to go to the cinema.

  • 3
    Maybe "to be prepared"? Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 12:19
  • Is there a different usual expression for "to get ready" or is "tenersi pronto" also used in contexts where English would use the former (eg a mother telling her son to get ready for school) ? Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 14:05
  • 2
    @AlanEvangelista To get ready in Italian is prepararsi (or, at best, approntarsi although that is a bit literary), and it has nothing to do with tenersi pronto.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 14:13
  • 1
    @AlanEvangelista I'd argue that tenersi pronto is way closer to being alert than to being ready. Though it might imply you need to prepare something and doesn't necessarily imply danger.
    – Bakuriu
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 19:05

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