Saying “hello” is the first step to establishing a connection and creating a good impression when interacting with Italian speakers. You might be planning a trip to Italy, meeting friends, or simply fascinated with the language. No matter the reason, learning to say “hello” in Italian can be quite helpful. Italian greetings not only convey politeness but also reflect the warm and welcoming nature of the Italian culture.
In this blog post, we will guide you through the various ways to say “hello” in Italian, from the most common Italian greetings in formal and informal situations to typical body language and gestures. Get ready to immerse yourself in the art of Italian greetings and embrace the joy of saying “hello” in this captivating language.
A positive first impression can go a long way, especially in Italian culture. The right type of greeting portrays a sense of respect, effort, and charm that native speakers appreciate, making it a perfect way to endear yourself to your new Italian coworker or the locals you meet while traveling. The more Italian greetings you know, the more creative you can be with your conversation starters!
The Italian language is like many others in that formality, gender, and time of day can influence the way people speak to each other. However, there are some basic ways to greet people regardless of their social status, your relationship with them, or the position of the sun in the sky.
Although the first word that comes to mind when you think of Italian greetings might be ciao (which we’ll get to in a bit), there’s a more versatile word that can be used to greet people in any context: salve.
Salve translates to hi or hello and can be used at any time of the day, and although it leans toward formal, it’s acceptable to use in formal or informal settings. This is a great go-to greeting if you’re not sure exactly how polite you should be.
Before we get into the nuances of formal and informal greetings, here’s a shortlist of other common expressions you might hear in Italy:
Come sta? How are you? (Formal)
Come stai? How are you? (Informal)
Come va? How’s it going? (Informal)
Buongiorno Good morning (Formal)
Buonasera Good evening (Formal)
Pronto, chi par la? Ready, who is speaking? (When answering the phone)
In informal situations, the famous ciao is perfectly acceptable. This is one of the most common casual ways to greet a friend or family member, and you can use it again to say goodbye! However, it’s not suitable for use with strangers or people older than you.
If you’re trying to get someone’s attention, you can use Ehi! or Ehila!, which are a lot like the English “Hey!” Use these when you bump into someone you know in public or as a general interjection.
Ehi! / Ehilà! Hey!/Hey there!
If you’re hanging out at a restaurant or café with friends, family members, or peers, you’ll generally use the informal tu (you) form (don’t worry about these forms and their conjugations for now — start by simply memorizing a few expressions).
Come stai? How are you?
Da quanto tempo! How long! (As in “Long time no see!”)
Come va la vita? How’s life?
Ciao bella/bello Hi beautiful/handsome
Ciao cara/caro Hi dear
Felice di vederti Nice to see you
Piacere di conoscerti Nice to meet you (if you’re being introduced to a friend of a friend)
Language is constantly evolving, and young people are partially responsible. Keeping up with their lingo helps keep things fresh and might even make you seem hip to the kids. However, it’s best to limit your use of slang to especially informal situations with close friends.
Weilà Hey/Hey there
It pays to be a bit more careful in formal situations, as using the wrong type of greeting may be offensive. Formal situations use lei (you) — but again, you can focus on learning a few of these formal Italian greetings before you worry about conjugations.
When speaking to a stranger, a figure of authority, or someone older than you, it’s common to use time-based greetings. Buongiorno means “good morning” and is a popular greeting used throughout the morning and afternoon. It can be one word or two (buon giorno) and is sometimes abbreviated as buondí (or buon dí as two words) or simply giorno — but it’s best to say the whole phrase in formal settings.
Buonasera is the evening counterpart to buongiorno. It means “good evening” and, although it varies by region, a good rule of thumb is to switch to buonasera (or buona sera) around 5 pm.
Buongiorno Good morning
Buon pomeriggio Good afternoon (Literal translation, but not a common saying)
Buonasera Good evening
If you’re not sure whether to use buongiorno or buonasera, there are plenty of different ways to formally say hello that don’t depend on the time of day. Come sta? means “How are you?” and can be used in any formal context. Mi scusi means “excuse me” and is a good starter when you want to ask a stranger for directions, for example.
Come sta? How are you?
Mi scusi Excuse me
If you’re in a business meeting or other professional situation, there are a few other important Italian words and phrases to know. Combine these elements with the above expressions to communicate appropriately in the workplace.
Egregio Sig./Sig.ra Dear Mr./Mrs. (when writing an email or letter)
Piacere di conoscerla Nice to meet you
Mi chiamo My name is
Here are some example greetings you can use to interact in an Italian office or welcome a new Italian partner to yours:
Salve, signora, piacere di conoscerla.
Hello, ma’am, nice to meet you.
Buongiorno, signore, come sta?
Good morning, sir, how are you?
Benvenuti in ufficio!
Welcome to the office!
Just like in other languages and cultures, speaking with the right level of formality is critical in Italian. Mixing up the tu and lei forms in conversation can make you seem disrespectful to elders or cold to your friends and family. Be formal when addressing strangers, people who are older than you, or people you don’t know very well in the workplace, but keep it casual with close friends and family in informal settings.
Italian people are known for “talking with their hands” and may use many gestures throughout a conversation. Italian culture appreciates expressiveness and contact, both physical and eye-to-eye.
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you can complement your greeting with a handshake. Be sure to smile and maintain direct eye contact while you do so. If you’re talking to someone you know well, il bacetto (which we’ll get to below) may be expected. In other cases, a simple pat on the back will do.
It’s polite to stand up when greeting an older person. Men may stand up when an older person or woman enters the room for the first time, and children might do the same for adults.
Much like la bise in France, il bacetto is the practice of kissing the air next to someone’s cheeks as you greet them. Il bacetto generally involves two air-kisses, starting with the left cheek. Although not everyone participates, this is a common practice in Italy regardless of gender.
Like in many other countries, you’ll find that certain cultural elements vary as you travel to different parts of Italy. It helps to understand these differences and learn the nuances of individual regions so you can impress anyone you meet from Venice to Catania.
Because of the shape of the country, northern Italy is situated to the northwest, while southern Italy extends to the southeast and then wraps back around toward the west — like a boot winding up to kick a ball. The entire country uses the same time zone, however, meaning different regions may experience different levels of sunlight despite the clock showing the same time. It helps to keep this difference in mind when choosing time-based greetings like buongiorno and buonasera.
Additionally, men in southern Italy are less likely to participate in il bacetto when greeting each other, typically opting for a pat on the back instead.
Some Italian greetings can be simplified or abbreviated, and you may find that certain regions of Italy are more prone to using those truncated expressions. Here are a couple of commonly shortened Italian phrases:
Buongiorno Good morning/day
Piacere di conoscerla/conoscerti Nice to meet you
Each region of Italy has its own dialect, and many have more than one. The best way to get to know these dialects is to travel throughout Italy, but in the meantime, here are some phrases you might come across:
Friuli Venezia Giulia Mandi Hello (Literally short for “May the Lord accompany you”)
Naples Salute Good health (Like English “Cheers”)
Sicily Sá benedica God bless you
With a little practice, you’ll be saying “hello” in Italian with the confidence and enthusiasm of a native Venetian. iTranslate makes it easy to learn and practice new languages, giving you the translation tools you need to become fluent, comfortable, and excited to explore. Ci vediamo (goodbye) and grazie (thanks) for learning with us!
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