Italian is a relatively formal language, especially compared to Spanish. When greeting someone in Italian, you will usually say buongiorno (BUON YOOR-no), which means “good morning”. At night, you could change to buona sera (BUO-na SE-ra), which means "good night." Although you may already be familiar with the word ciao (bye) for saying "hello," this word is never used between strangers. Reserve it for friends and family or people your age or minors that you know.
Method 1 of 3: Use standard greetings
Step 1. Say buongiorno to greet people during the day
When greeting strangers, as well as relatives, friends, and older acquaintances, buongiorno (BUON YOOR-no) is the most common daytime greeting. Essentially it translates to "good morning."
As with most Italian greetings, you can use buongiorno both as "hello" when you first meet someone and as "goodbye" when you leave
Step 2. Go to buona sera later in the day
After 4:00 p.m. roughly, it is no longer considered appropriate to say buongiorno. If you are going out to dinner or meeting people in the evening, use buona sera (BUO-na SE-ra) to say “good night” to the people you greet.
Italians normally take a nap (a riposo) in the afternoon between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. m. Any time after the riposo has passed is generally considered overnight
the Italian r is vibrant simple. A single vibrating r is a slightly shorter and choppy sound than a multiple vibrating r, but it is not the same sound as an English r. For a closer approximation, pronounce the Italian r as ad, with the tip of the tongue touching the top of the back of the front teeth.
Step 3. Ask about the person's well-being
A greeting does not normally end in a simple "hello." To ask “How are you?” Say come sta (CO-me sta) if you are talking to a stranger, especially if he or she is older or in a position of authority. If you are going to talk to someone your age or younger, or to a friend or acquaintance, use come stai (CO-me STA-i), the most informal way.
The standard response to come sta is bene grazie (BE-ne GRAT-si-eh), which essentially means "I'm fine, thank you." If the other person asks you first how you are, could you answer with bene grazie, e you? (if you are the same age or younger) o bene grazie, e lei? (if you are going to speak formally)
In formal situations, such as a business meeting, asking how this might be considered too direct and personal. If the person has traveled to meet you, it is appropriate to ask about their trip. You could also congratulate him on an achievement or let him know that you admire him as a leader or expert in his field.
Step 4. Reach out when meeting someone for the first time
Italians have a warm and friendly culture and use physical contact much more than you might be used to. When greeting someone, even casually on the street, it is common to shake hands with the other person.
- If you are a woman, in many parts of Italy it is usual for you to extend your hand first when greeting someone who introduces himself as a man.
- When shaking hands with someone, look them directly in the eye and smile. Italians don't normally place their other hand over yours, but they might grab your arm or upper arm.
Italians normally greet their 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 only for relatives. If you are unsure of the custom, follow the other person's lead.
Step 5. Use soon to greet people on the phone
If you answer the phone in Spanish, you would normally say "Hello?" In Italian, the custom is to say soon (PRON-to), which technically means "ready."
Pronto is only used as a greeting over the phone. If you use it in any other context, they will probably look at you weird
Method 2 of 3: Try Slang or Casual Greetings
Step 1. Use ciao to greet friends
Despite the fact that ciao (bye) is probably one of the most universally known Italian greetings, it is used exclusively with friends and family that you know very well. Ciao is never used with strangers. Also, you should never use it with people older than you or in a position of authority; they will see it as disrespectful.
- You may also be familiar with the phrase ciao bella (chao BEL-la), which means "hello, beautiful." This phrase is normally used flirtatiously, although it could also be used between friends. However, be careful to use it with acquaintances; you could give them the wrong idea.
- You can also use ciao when you arrive and when you leave, as a "hello" or a "goodbye."
Step 2. Greet a group of friends by saying ciao a tutti
In all but the most informal situations, you are normally expected to greet each person individually. Even with a group of friends, you should still greet each one individually if you don't know them very well.
Step 3. Switch to save if you are not sure of the context
Salve (SAL-ve) means “hello” and is generally appropriate in any situation. Although many words and phrases in Italian are considered to be either respectful and formal or casual and informal, salve is used in both contexts.
If you have known someone for a long time and they are very close, they will probably consider salve as too formal. In such a situation, it is preferable to use ciao
Step 4. Say beautiful when greeting minor people
Bella technically means "beautiful" or even "cute", but young people in Italy also use it as a general greeting, similar to ciao. However, this is relatively youthful slang, so avoid using it with people over 30 or if you are over 30. You will sound immature.
Bella is often followed by an Italian word that means "boys" or "guys," such as bella lì or bella zio
Step 5. Add come butta to ask “What's up?
"To the other person in Italian. No one is going to look at you weird if you just say like this. But if you want to sound a little cooler and blend in better with Italian friends your age, you could try saying come butta (CO-me BUT-ta), which is a bit more casual.
Avoid this type of jargon in public settings, such as when greeting a waiter at a restaurant, even if they appear to be about your age or younger. In such a situation, this phrase may be considered too direct and the person may find it disrespectful or even condescending
Method 3 of 3: Introduce yourself
Step 1. Tell the person your name after the initial greeting
When meeting someone for the first time, it is usually recommended to follow a greeting by saying your name. To do it in Italian, say mi chiamo (my ki-A-mo) followed by your name.
If you want to ask what the other person's name is, you could say come ti chiami (informal) or come si chiama (formal). If you initially said your name first, you can also use e tu (informal) or e lei (formal), which mean "and you?" and "and you?", respectively
Step 2. Let the person know that you are delighted to meet them
After knowing someone's name, it is respectful to say piacere (pi-a-SHER-re), which means "nice to meet you." You can also say piacere di consoscerti (informal) or piacere di consocerla (formal).
If you are meeting someone your age and talking casually, you could say incantate (or incantate if you are a woman) instead. It is similar to the word "enchanted" in Spanish and usually has a flirtatious connotation
Italians are a bit more formal than Spanish or English speakers. If you are talking to an older person, address them by title and last name unless they tell you otherwise.
Step 3. Explain where you are from
Especially if you are a tourist traveling in Italy, the person you just met will probably want to know where you came from. To tell someone where you are from, you can say vengo da (VEN-go da) or sono di (SO-no di), followed by the name of your country (or even the city, if your hometown is known).
To ask where someone is from, you can say di dove sei (informal) or di dov'è (formal)
Italians might also tell you that they are from a particular city. As in Spanish you could say "I'm from Madrid", Italians could say sono Milanese or sono Romano.
Step 4. Talk about your command of Italian
At this point in a conversation, if you only know a few words in Italian, you should let the person you speak with know. Then you can find out if he speaks Spanish or another language that you speak fluently. On the other hand, if you want to practice your Italian, you can ask him to continue speaking Italian with you. Some phrases you could use include:
- "Parli spagnolo?" (informal) or "Parla spagnolo?" (formal): "Do you speak Spanish?"
- "Può parlare più slowly?": "Speak a little slower, please"
- "Parli un'altra lingua oltre l'italiano?": "Do you speak a language other than Italian?"
- “Parla italiano con me”: “Speak Italian with me”.
the accents above the letters simply indicate which syllable of the word is stressed. They do not change the sound of the letter.