4 Ways to Say Hello in Italian - wikiHow (2024)

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1Using Standard Greetings

2Trying Slang or Casual Greetings

3Introducing Yourself

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Co-authored byTian Zhouand Jennifer Mueller, JD

Last Updated: September 28, 2022Fact Checked

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Italian is a relatively formal language, especially compared to English. When greeting someone in Italian, you typically will say buongiorno (BWON JOOR-noh), which means "good day." In the evening, you might switch to buona sera (BWO-nah SEH-rah), which means "good evening." Although you might already be familiar with the word ciao (chow) to say "hi," this word is never used among strangers. Save it for friends and family, or people your age or younger that you're familiar with.[1]

Method 1

Method 1 of 3:

Using Standard Greetings

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  1. 1

    Say buongiorno to greet people during the day. When greeting strangers, as well as older relatives, friends, and acquaintances, buongiorno (BWON JOOR-noh) is the most common daytime greeting. It essentially translates to "good day."[2]

    • As with most Italian greetings, you can use buongiorno both as a "hello" when you initially meet someone and as a "goodbye" when you take your leave.
  2. 2

    Transition to buona sera later in the evening. After 4:00 p.m. or so, buongiorno is no longer considered appropriate. If you're out for dinner or greeting people at night, use buona sera (BWO-nah SEH-rah) to say "good evening" to people you meet.[3]

    • Italians typically take a nap (a riposo) in the afternoon between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. Anytime after the riposo has passed is generally considered evening.
    • Italian rs are trilled. A trilled r is a slightly shorter, more clipped sound than a rolled r, but it is not the same sound as an English r. For a close approximation, say Italian rs as a d, with the tip of your tongue clipping the top of the back of your front teeth.


  3. 3

    Ask after the person's well-being. A greeting normally doesn't stop with a simple "hello." To ask "How are you?" say come sta (KOH-meh stah) if speaking to a stranger, especially if they are older than you or in a position of authority. If you're speaking to someone your age or younger, or to a friend or acquaintance, use come stai (KOH-meh STAH-yee), the more informal form.[4]

    • The standard response to come sta is bene grazie (BEH-neh GRAHT-see-eh), which essentially means, "I'm well, thank you." If the other person has beaten you to the punch and asked you how you are first, you might respond bene grazie, e tu? (if they are your age or younger) or bene grazie, e lei? (if you are speaking formally).
    • In formal settings, such as at a business meeting, asking come sta may be considered too direct and personal. If the person has traveled to meet you, it's appropriate to ask them about their trip. You might also compliment them on an accomplishment or let them know that you admire them as a leader or expert in their field.
  4. 4

    Extend your hand when meeting someone for the first time. Italians have a warm and friendly culture and make physical contact a lot more than you may be used to. When greeting someone, even casually on the street, it's common to shake hands with the person.[5]

    • If you present as a woman, in many parts of Italy it is customary for you to extend your hand first when greeting someone who is presenting as a male.
    • While shaking someone's hand, make direct eye contact and smile. Italians normally don't place their other hand over the top of your hand, but may grasp your elbow or upper arm.
    • Italians typically greet friends and family with air kisses, one on the left cheek and one on the right, regardless of gender. However, in Southern Italy, men usually reserve kisses for family members only.
    • If you're unsure of the custom, follow the other person's lead.
  5. 5

    Use pronto to greet people over the phone. If you answer the phone in English, you'll typically say "hello." In Italian, the custom is to say pronto (PROHN-toh), which technically means "ready."[6]

    • Pronto is only used as a greeting over the phone. If you use it in any other context, you'll likely get some strange looks.
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Method 2

Method 2 of 3:

Trying Slang or Casual Greetings

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  1. 1

    Use ciao to greet friends. Despite the fact that ciao (chow) is perhaps one of the most universally known Italian greetings, it is used exclusively with friends and family who you know very well. Ciao is never used with strangers. You should also never use it with people who are older than you or in a position of authority – you'll be seen as rude.[7]

    • You may also be familiar with the phrase ciao bella (chow BEHL-lah), which means "hello beautiful." This phrase is typically used flirtatiously, although it may also be used among friends. Be careful using it with acquaintances, however – they might get the wrong idea.
    • Ciao can be used both when you arrive and when you depart, as a "hello" or a "goodbye."
  2. 2

    Greet a group of friends by saying ciao a tutti. In all but the most informal settings, you're typically expected to greet each person individually. Even with a group of friends, you should still greet people individually if you don't know them very well.[8]

  3. 3

    Switch to salve if you're unsure about the context. Salve (SAHL-veh) means "hi," and is generally appropriate in any situation. While many words and phrases in Italian are considered either polite and formal or casual and informal, salve is used in both contexts.[9]

    • If you've known someone for a long time and are very close to them, they will likely consider salve too formal. In that situation, you'd be better off using ciao.
  4. 4

    Say bella when greeting younger people. Bella technically means "beautiful," or even "nice," but young people in Italy also use it as a generic greeting, similar to ciao. This is relatively youthful slang, however, so avoid using it with people over 30, or if you are over 30 yourself. You'll sound immature.[10]

    • Bella is often followed by an Italian word that means "guys" or "dudes," such as bella lì or bella zio.[11]
  5. 5

    Add come butta to ask the person "what's up" in Italian. No one's going to look at you strangely if you simply say come sta. But if you want to sound a little cooler and blend in more with Italian friends your age, you might try come butta (KOH-meh BOOT-tah), which is a bit more casual.[12]

    • Avoid this type of slang in public settings, such as if you're greeting a server at a restaurant, even if they seem to be around your age or younger. In that setting, this phrase can be considered too direct and the person might take it as rude or even condescending.
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Method 3

Method 3 of 3:

Introducing Yourself

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  1. 1

    Tell the person your name after your initial greeting. When you're meeting someone for the first time, you typically want to follow up a greeting by telling them your name. To do this in Italian, say mi chiamo (mee kee-AH-moh) followed by your name.[13]

    • If you want to ask the other person their name, you might say come ti chiami (informal) or come si chiama (formal). If you've initially said your name first, you can also use e tu (informal) or e lei(formal), both of which mean "and you."
  2. 2

    Let the person know you're pleased to meet them. After you've learned someone's name, it's polite to say piacere (pee-ah-SHEHR-reh), which means "pleased to meet you." You can also say piacere di consoscerti (informal) or piacere di consocerla (formal).[14]

    • If you're meeting someone around your age and speaking informally, you might say incantato (or incantata if you present as female) instead. It's similar to the English word "enchanted," and is typically intended to be flirtatious.
    • Italians are a bit more formal than most English-speakers. If you're talking to an older person, address them by their title and their last name unless and until they tell you otherwise.
  3. 3

    Explain where you are from. Especially if you're a tourist traveling in Italy, the person you've just met will likely want to know where you're traveling from. To tell someone where you're from, you can say vengo da (VEEN-goh dah) or sono di (SOH-noh dee), followed by the name of your country (or even the city, if your hometown is well-known).[15]

    • To ask where someone is from, you can say di dove sei (informal) or di dov'è (formal).
    • Italians may also tell you that they are someone from a particular city. Just as in English you might say "I'm a New Yorker," Italians may say sono Milanese or sono Romano.
  4. 4

    Discuss your proficiency in Italian. At this point in a conversation, if you only know a few words in Italian, you should let the person you're talking to know that. Then, you can find out if they speak English or another language in which you are fluent. On the other hand, if you want to practice your Italian, you can ask them to continue speaking Italian to you. Some phrases you might use include:[16]

    • "Parli inglese?" (informal) or "Parla inglese?" (formal): "Do you speak English?
    • "Può parlare più lentamente?": "Please speak more slowly."
    • "Parli un'altra lingua oltre l'italiano?": "Do you speak a language other than Italian?"
    • "Parla italiano con me": "Speak to me in Italian."
    • Accent marks over letters merely indicate which syllable of the word should be stressed. They don't change the sound of the letter.
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Sample Ways to Say Hello in Italian

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  • Question

    How do I greet with respect?

    4 Ways to Say Hello in Italian - wikiHow (21)

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    "Salve, signore (male version) / signora (female version), è un piacere conoscerla." You can also use buongiorno, buon pomeriggio and buonasera. Don't use buonanotte (it's weird, you can use it only if that person is going to sleep, but you can't greeting someone saying buonanotte even if it's 11 PM.) And please don't say ciao in formal situations, it's rude!

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  • Question

    How do I say "monkey" in Italian?

    "Monkey" in Italian is "scimmia."

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  • Question

    How do I greet someone the first time?

    4 Ways to Say Hello in Italian - wikiHow (23)

    Community Answer

    Informal: "Ciao! Piacere di conoscerti!" ("Hello! It is nice to meet you!") Formal: "Buongiorno, piacere di conoscerLa." ("Good morning, it is nice to meet you," but "La" is a courtesy form in Italian.)

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      • Italian is a phonetic language with consistent pronunciation rules. Letters always have the same sound, so once you know how to pronounce a letter in one word, you can pronounce it in any other word.[17]


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      About This Article

      4 Ways to Say Hello in Italian - wikiHow (39)

      Co-authored by:

      Tian Zhou

      Language Specialist

      This article was co-authored by Tian Zhou and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD. Tian Zhou is a Language Specialist and the Founder of Sishu Mandarin, a Chinese Language School in the New York metropolitan area. Tian holds a Bachelor's Degree in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) from Sun Yat-sen University and a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from New York University. Tian also holds a certification in Foreign Language (&ESL) - Mandarin (7-12) from New York State and certifications in Test for English Majors and Putonghua Proficiency Test from The Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China. He is the host of MandarinPod, an advanced Chinese language learning podcast. This article has been viewed 1,544,344 times.

      6 votes - 70%

      Co-authors: 22

      Updated: September 28, 2022


      Categories: Featured Articles | World Languages

      Article SummaryX

      To say "hello" in Italian when you're in a casual situation or among people you know well, say "ciao." If you're greeting people that you don't know well, use the slightly more formal "salve," which is appropriate in most situations. If you're answering the telephone, you can say "pronto," but keep in mind that a phone call is the only appropriate situation for that greeting. You can also greet people formally using time-specific terms like "buongiorno," which means “good morning," and "buona sera," which translates as "good evening." For tips using other types of Italian greetings, read on!

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