Updated: Jan 20
Do you know how to say "hello" in Italian? And what about "Good Morning" in Italian? Well, maybe you already know "Ciao" and "Buongiorno" but there are so many other ways to greet someone in Italian. In today's article, we'll cover formal and informal Italian greetings. Are you ready?
In today’s article, we will be talking about some of the most common greetings we use in Italian. We will cover greetings you can use when you meet someone and also some useful words you can use to be nice when leaving a place! Let’s get started!
Well, I am sure you know this greeting already. It’s very common and it’s very popular around the world. Correct me If I am wrong, but I think “Ciao” is also used in English, to say goodbye, right?
Ciao means two things: hi and bye. So you can use it both when you meet someone but also when you’re leaving.
Remember that ciao is informal, so you can use it with your friends, family, or in general, people you know well. However, if you’re talking to someone you don’t know that is older than you, or is in a higher position (at work, at university) compared to you, then it’s better not to use ciao!
Fun fact: did you know that ciao comes from an old venetian greeting (s-ciao) that used to mean “I am your slave”?
Maybe you know this one already! Before we get to the meaning of this word, don’t forget to pronounce every single letter when you’re saying buongiorno. You can check out the pronunciation in my YouTube video about this topic.
Buongiorno simply means good morning. It can be used formally or informally and it’s used... well, in the morning! Let’s say you walk into an Italian bar (= coffee place) in the morning to get your caffè (= espresso) and cornetto (= croissant) and say: Buongiorno!
We usually tend to use buongiorno until lunchtime (so usually 1 PM), then we would switch to buon pomeriggio (good afternoon) or buonasera (good evening)
3. Buona giornata
All right, let’s say you walked into the bar, got your coffee, and now you’re leaving. You want to wish the barista, who’s prepared for you that amazing espresso, a nice day!
How would we do that?
Well, it’s very simple: buona giornata! And yes, buona giornata simply means “Have a good day”.
Notice that here we are using the word giornata and not giorno. This is because giorno refers to the whole day (24 hours), that’s why when we say buongiorno we are actually wishing that person a good beginning of the day.
Giornata refers to the period of light, or eventually that period of the day where activities take place. That’s why when we say buona giornata, we’re wishing that person a good day, in terms of what they are going to do during that day!
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Buonasera (or buona sera) means good evening. It’s both formal and informal (even though it’s mostly used in formal settings) and it is used in the evening, of course.
Many students ask me what’s considered evening in Italy!
Well, that is a very good question and it depends!
Yes, it depends on the season and the region. As a rule of thumb, buonasera should be used after 5 PM, but would you honestly say buonasera when you are sunbathing on a beach in Puglia at 5 PM in August?
I mean, in the summer, I tend to start saying buonasera as late as 8 PM! So again, it really depends!
Look at the sun? Is it still up in the sky? Then go for buon pomeriggio (= good afternoon!)
5. Buona serata
Well, this doesn’t need much explanation as it is the evening version of buona giornata. Yes, buona serata simply means have a good evening!
This is very important to remember! Buonanotte means goodnight, and it's used when you are actually going to bed.
This is because the word notte (night) refers to that period of the day when we actually sleep. This is why we can't use buonanotte to wish someone to have a good night, but we need to use buona serata instead!
Have you ever heard this one? Salve is actually the same as ciao.
It means hi when you’re meeting someone and bye when you’re leaving. However, salve is a little bit more formal than ciao.
Technically, salve is considered informal. But, since we are not learning what’s written in textbooks but what people actually say, I have to tell you that salve is becoming more and more formal.
People, especially younger generations, tend to use salve to be formal. I personally use salve mostly when I enter a store, a bakery, or bar. Places where I don’t want to be super formal, but not even as informal as ciao!
8. A dopo!
Now, let’s talk about a way to say bye to your friends when you’re leaving. A dopo is a great way to do that in Italian.
A dopo means later. You can just say a dopo or eventually also say ci vediamo dopo (see you later) or ci sentiamo dopo (talk to you later).
P.S. If you use the expression a dopo, you are implying that you will see, talk, meet that person later, later that day! It’s not like the English "later", where "later" means in 5 minutes later or never again.
A dopo in Italian actually means later that day! So use it only when you know you’re going to meet, or call, that person later that day!
9. A presto!
Not sure when you’re going to meet or talk to that person again? Or maybe you’re not sure you want to talk to that person ever again.
Well, a presto is the best way to go! A presto, also used in combination with ci vediamo presto (see you soon) and ci sentiamo presto (talk to you soon) means soon.
Here we come to the last word of today: arrivederci. This word means goodbye, and I am sure you've heard it before since it's a very popular Italian word abroad as well.
The only thing you need to remember about this word is that it's formal! I would never use arrivederci with my family and friends. Keep this in mind!
Bonus: Baci sulla guancia 😘
What do we do when we meet someone? Do we hug, handshake? Nah, we kiss!
We call it bacio sulla guancia, kiss on the cheek.
We love it. Right to left, cheeks touch and we make a kiss sound with our mouth. Very common among women and men and women but it’s becoming more common also among men!
I haven’t "cheeks kissed" someone in such a long time because of the health emergency we are living in and I miss it, but I am sure we’ll start kissing again soon.
P.S. If you don’t want to go for the kiss right away, go for a handshake. Do not go for a hug. Hugs are a bit too much for Italians. You would give someone a hug if you really love them, or you’ve known them for a long time.
A kiss is much more appropriate… yes, a kiss is much more appropriate.
P.P.S. Kind of weird I know but that’s what Italians do! And you want to be a real ITALIANO right? Well, then check out my Italian Course For Beginners here.