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Basic Italian Greetings: Formal and Informal Ways to Greet in Italian 

 September 19, 2018

By  Janey

Greetings are the very first words we utter when we meet someone. And when you’re meeting for the very first time, knowing how to greet properly helps you make a great first impression! Here in this article, we’ll be talking about basic Italian greetings. Learn how to say hello and other greetings in Italian whether for formal or informal situations.

Let’s begin!

How to say “Hello” in Italian

You’re probably already familiar with “ciao”, but it’s not the only way to say hello in Italian. In fact, some situations call for other more appropriate ways of saying hello. Let’s take a look at the different ways to say hello!

Ciao!

Ciao means both hi and goodbye. Cool, right? Fewer words to memorize. But wait! Contrary to what some people think, you can’t really use ciao with everyone and at all times.

Think of it as like saying hi in English--it’s not very appropriate to say it in highly formal situations. But when you’re with friends or family or in a casual setting, feel free to say ciao!

In some cases, Italians can even say it over and over at the end of conversations, like “ciao ciao ciao ciao ciao!”

You can also say “Ciao a tutti!” (hi to all!)  and “Ciao ragazzi!” (hi guys!) when addressing a group of people. It means, “hi everyone!” or “bye everyone” depending on the context.

Salve!

This might be somewhat uncommon to hear for non-Italians, but if you find yourself in a situation where you are among people you are not really familiar with, “salve” is the proper way to say hello.

If ciao is more like “hi” in English, salve is somewhere near the more formal “hello”. It can also be used to say goodbye, just like ciao. Now say it with me, “sahl veh”. There you go.

Italian greetings for different times of the day

While ciao and salve can be used any time of the day, you also need to learn how to greet people during specific times of the day. Time-specific greetings are considered even more formal than salve but you can still use it in casual situations among your friends.

How to say “Good morning” or “good day” in Italian

Buongiorno!

In the morning until early afternoon, you say, buongiorno as a way of greeting. Take note that though the word is made up of two words buon (good) and giorno (day), it’s spelled as a single word.

Quick tip: Buongiorno is used as a greeting, but if you want to wish someone a nice day, you say “buona giornata!”

How to say “Good afternoon” in Italian

Buon pomeriggio

When it’s past noon, you can still hear Italians say buongiorno, but the more accurate greeting would be buon pomeriggio which you’re likely to encounter in places like Bologna.

However, this is used less often as most would either just say buongiorno until early afternoon and buonasera after siesta time.

How to say “Good evening” in Italian

Buonasera

It might seem a bit early to greet someone a good evening when work resumes in the afternoon--or even at four in the afternoon--but that is the case in Italy.

You could also say buonasera to say goodbye, but “buona serata!” (have a good evening!) works just as well.

How to say “Good night” in Italian

Buonanotte
When it’s late in the evening and you’re turning in for the night, you say buonanotte to greet someone good night and sweet dreams.

How to say “how are you?” in Italian

Of course, greetings don’t end the moment you say hello or good day. You always have to follow it up with some form of “how are you?” Let’s take a look at the formal and informal ways to say it in Italian.

Come sta? - How are you? (formal)

The polite way to ask someone how they’re doing is “come sta”.

Come stai? - How are you? (informal)

When you’re among friends or family, you can say come stai? Instead of come sta? Sta and stai come from the Italian verb stare which means “to stay” and stai is the informal tu form.

Come va? - How's it going? (informal)

Another informal way to ask how someone is doing, when you’re with people close to you, you say “come va?”

Ways to respond to “how are you?” in Italian

Now let’s talk about how to respond when someone asks how you’re doing.

Bene, grazie!Fine, thanks!
Molto bene, grazie!Very well, thanks!
Bene, grazie, e lei?Good, thanks, and you?
Non c’è male.Not bad.
Così così.so-so
Va benissimo, grazie.It’s going very well, thanks.
Tutto a posto!Everything’s going well!

Conclusion

There you have it, now you know how to greet someone in Italian. Learn more Italian words and phrases by reading and listening to Italian short stories. Check it out below!

 FUN AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO LEARN ITALIAN

  • 10 entertaining short stories about everyday themes
  • Practice reading and listening with 90+ minutes of audio 
  • Learn 1,000+ new Italian vocabulary effortlessly!

Janey


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