Planning a trip to Italy? Well, maybe now it's not the best time to travel (I am writing this article in January 2021), but I am sure we will start traveling again soon. This gives you extra time to study and practice your Italian, so make sure you learn these 25 phrases before you come to Italy. They will be extremely useful!
You should also know the greetings before you come to Italy, but I haven't included them in the list as I wrote an entire article on those that you can check out here.
I am sure you know this word already, but do you know how to pronounce it correctly? Make sure you pronounce every single vowel, especially the "i" and "e" at the end. It's not gra-tsi but gra-tsi-eh. You can hear the pronunciation of this word on my YouTube video attached to this post.
Grazie is very nice, but you can also use grazie mille (thank you a lot, lit. thank you a thousand) if you want to be extra nice.
Since you know how to say thank you now, we should also learn how to say you're welcome, right? Very easy: prego!
This word can actually be used in a lot of different ways; its main use is as you're welcome, however, it also means go ahead both when you're talking to someone and you want them to express their idea, but also when you're walking into a store and you let someone enter or pass in front of you to be nice.
Prego is also used to say come in when someone is knocking on your door.
4. Scusa and Scusi
Sorry, excuse me
I am sure you've heard this word as well, or perhaps you've heard scusi that is a very popular Italian word abroad. Scusa and scusi both mean the same thing (sorry or excuse me) but scusa is informal, while scusi is formal.
This means, that you will be using scusa with people you know well, your friends and family, or eventually, people that you don't know but are about your age or younger. On the other hand, you're going to use scusi in a formal setting, for example at work, with people much older than you and university.
Scusa and scusi means both sorry and excuse me. So you can use it both to apologize but also to get someone's attention. Let's say you are on the metro in Roma and you accidentally step on your friend's foot, so you want to apologize and say: scusa.
Now, let's say you are still on the metro and you see an old lady dropping her wallet. She didn't realize it, so you pick it up for her and you get her attention saying scusi to give her wallet back.
In the first case, you would use scusa because you're talking to a friend, in the second case you would use scusi if you are talking to a woman older than you.
Scusa and scusi can also be used at the restaurant to get the waiter's attention or to a person on the street to ask for directions.
5. Scusami and Mi scusi
Sorry, excuse me
These two words are basically the same, but they add the pronoun "mi", just to add a bit more emphasis on the person that is speaking.
6. Mi dispiace
I am sorry, I feel sorry
This word is also very popular but many students still use it incorrectly.
Mi dispiace can be used to apologize but remember that is very emotional. We usually use it when our friend tells us about something bad that happened to him/her, so we say that we feel sorry for what happened. Let's say for example that they've run out of pasta and wine at home, so we say mi dispiace!
You can also use it to apologize but remember that it's more emotional than just scusa.
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7. Per favore or Per piacere
These two expressions don't need much explaining. They just mean please. They are completely interchangeable so you can use them in the same way.
Let's say you walk into a bar to get your caffè and say: "Scusi, prendo un caffè, per favore/per piacere" (Excuse me, I'll have a coffee, please).
8. Come ti chiami?
What's your name?
Don't you want to know people's names? Remember that Come ti chiami? is informal. If you want to use the formal version go for Come si chiama?
9. Mi chiamo Stefano
My name is Stefano
To answer the previous question you just need to add your name to mi chiamo (my name is lit. I am called). In my case, mi chiamo Stefano.
10. Come stai?
How are you?
This is the easiest way to ask someone how they're doing. Remember that this expression is informal. If you want to be formal, you just need to get rid of the "i" and say "come sta?".
11. Sto bene, grazie! E tu?
I am good, thanks! What about you?
12. Sto benissimo, grazie!
I am very good, thanks!
13. Sto alla grande, grazie!
I am very good, thanks!
This is just an alternative to benissimo. I love this expression as it's very positive and happy.
14. Come va?
How is it going?
This expression is very similar to come stai, but we're using the verb "va" (from andare = to go) as you would in English (How is it going?).
15. Va tutto bene, grazie!
Everything is going well, thanks!
This is one potential answer to "come va?".
16. Dov'è + place?
Where is + place?
You want to make sure you know this expression as it is going to be very useful during your next trip.
Let's not kid ourselves, you're not going to use it to ask for directions. You're never going to say something like "Dov'è il colosseo?" to a random person on the street. We have phones and everyone uses maps.
But, let's say you are at a restaurant and you want to ask where the restroom/toilet is. You can't use your phone for that! For instance, you could say Dov'è il bagno? (Where's the bathroom?). Or, let's say you just got to the hotel you're staying at and you want to ask where the breakfast room is, so you say "Dov'è la sala colazioni?".
17. Quanto costa?
How much is it? How much does it cost?
This expression is used to ask for the cost of an item. If you are asking for the cost of multiple items, then you want to use the plural version "Quanto costano?".
How much is it? How much does it cost?
This expression is very similar to the previous one, but it's usually used when you're asking for the total amount you are supposed to pay.
"Quanto costa?" is usually used to ask for the cost of a specific item, whereas "quant'è?" is used to ask for the total amount of money you need to pay at the cashier.
The only problem with this is that the person is going to answer with numbers. If you don't know numbers, try to learn them before your next trip to Italy as they are going to be useful for a lot of different things.
19. Mi può dare + item ?
Can you give me + item ?
Let's say you are in a bakery and you want to buy that amazing arancino (click here if you don't know what that is) that is staring at you.
To ask the baker to give you that arancino you can just say "Mi può dare un arancino?". If you don't know the name of the thing you're buying, you can say "mi può dare quello?" (Can you give me that?) and just point the thing you want.
To be nicer, you can add the expression please that we learned before: per favore or per piacere.
I would like...
This verb can be used in several different ways. You could use it at a restaurant to order your food, for example "Vorrei una lasagna, grazie" (I would like a lasagna, thank you!).
This expression is just an alternative to the previous one, and again it can be used at a restaurant, bar, pizzeria... "Prendo" literally translates as "I take".
22. Ci può portare il conto?
Can we have the check/bill?
Well, that's pretty straightforward. You would use it to ask for the bill/check at the restaurant. You can also add per favore or per piacere in there to make it nicer.
P.S. We don't usually tip waiters in Italy, so it's not something you should worry about.
23. Di dove sei?
Where are you from?
Super useful expression if you want to initiate a conversation with someone.
24. Sono di + city or Sono + adjective
I am from + city / I am + adjective
If you get asked "Di dove sei?" you want to make sure you answer correctly.
You have two options. You either say Sono di + the name of city you're from or Sono + adjective of nationality. Let me give you a few examples:
Sono di Roma = I am from Rome
Sono di Milano = I am from Milan
Sono americano = I am American
Sono francese = I am French
Make sure you look up your adjective of nationality so that you will always know what to answer.
You can translate your adjective of nationality using my favorite Online Dictionary: WordReference. I love this dictionary as it's very detailed and gives a lot of examples.
If the adjective you find ends in -o then you will have to change based on your gender.
For instance, if you are an American man, the translation is going to be americano. But, if you are a woman, you want to change that to americana.
If the adjective you find ends in -e, then you won't have to worry about it. For example, francese, French, works both for men and women.
P.S. We don't capitalize adjectives of nationality.
25. Scusami, non parlo molto bene l'italiano.
I am sorry, I don't speak Italian very well.
These sentences are going to help you to get started, but of course, you might find yourself in a situation in which you need to switch to English. But before you do that you you may want to apologize for not speaking Italian very well. But let me add something... YET.
You don't speak Italian very well YET.
And if you would like to take your Italian to the next level, make sure to check out my Online Italian Course for Beginners. I am sure you'll love it!
I hope you enjoyed these phrases for your next trip to Italy and I'll see you soon!