How Do You Say Hello in Italian

Updated on March 10, 2019
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Robert writes informative articles about language and culture.

How Do You Say Hello in Italian?

If you are traveling to Italy, there are a few must have phrases and words you should know in order to break the ice with the locals and get the most out of your trip. One of the most essential words is "hello" because it is usually the first thing people say to each other and it is the start of almost every interaction and introduction.

However, the way you say hello will vary depending on the context, social situation, and who you are greeting. Understanding when to use a certain word is just as important to having the right vocabulary.

This is a brief tutorial that explains how to say hello in Italian.

Exploring Beautiful Italy
Exploring Beautiful Italy

Hello in Italian

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Just like in English, Italian has many ways to say hello, depending on whether you are in a formal or informal setting.

The Most Common Ways to Say Hello in Italian

Here are some of the main words you should learn:

  • buongiorno - good day / hello
  • buona sera - good evening / hello
  • buona giornata - good day / hello
  • ciao - everyone knows this one
  • salve - greetings / hello

1. Buongiorno


Buongiorno literally means "good day". It is a standard greeting used when you are introduced to a person you do not already know, especially in a formal setting. For example, if you are greeting a government official or professional you would say hello formally by using "buon giorno." You can also use this when first approaching a sales clerk or someone behind a counter that you are dealing with on business such as buying tickets.


2. Buona Sera

Buona sera (sometimes spelled buonasera) means literally Good Evening, It is used in much the same context as buongiorno, except the use of buonasera should be reserved for when you are saying hello to someone in the evening or, in some regions of Italy, the late afternoon.

Please note that buona sera is a formal greeting and you would normally only use it to say hello in a formal setting or when exchanging hellos with a person who is older or has more authority or social status than you. Using it among friends, especially younger people would be considered overly formal and stiff, even pretentious.

3. Buona Giornata

Buona giornata means "Good day" but has a slightly different meaning than buongiorno, which also can be translated as "good day". The difference is subtle: the best way to explain it is that "buona giornata" is wishing that the person's entire day will be good. It is considered a formal/polite expression.

3. Ciao

Ciao is an Italian word that almost everyone knows. It means "Hi" (or "Bye" depending on the context) and is used in informal, friendly settings.

This is the most common way to say hello in Italian. You can use the same word to also say goodbye.


4. Salve

Salve is a formal, very polite way of saying hello in Italian. You would use salve when greeting people in authority or in a formal setting. You would not use it to say hello to a friend or acquaintance.

Salve is a difficult word to translate to English; it is derived from the imperative form of the Latin word, salvare which means to be well. So by saying "Salve!" you are literally saying "Be well." It is a formal, polite greeting.

5. Pronto!

Pronto is used to say hello in Italian when you are answering the phone. It literally means "ready" and is meant to convey to the other person that you have answered the phone and are listening.

You would only use "pronto" to say hello when you are answering the phone or introducing yourself when the other person answers. You would never use this when speaking to someone in person.

Although it is customary to say pronto when answering the phone in Italian, you can also use other expressions such as ciao, etc, especially if you know the other person you are speaking to.

You will notice that I put an exclamation point after the word "pronto". This is because you would usually say it with a little bit of emphasis. But don't over do it, You should never yell "pronto" unless you have a really bad connection and are trying to make yourself heard.

Pronto!

Saying hello on the phone is different than greeting someone in person. Never say "pronto" to the person in front of you!

Don't be shy - Even if you are not fluent in Italian, using a few words with the locals will help break the ice.
Don't be shy - Even if you are not fluent in Italian, using a few words with the locals will help break the ice.
ITALIAN WORD FOR HELLO
ENGLISH TRANSLATION
WHEN TO USE IT
Buona sera
hello / good evening
formal / polite / evening or night only
Ciao
Hello / Hi
informal / friendly
Salve
hello / Be well
formal
Pronto!
hello! (note special use)
Only on the phone.
Buongiorno
hello / Good Day
formal / polite
Buondì
hello / howdy
informal / dialectal
This chart explains "how to say hello in Italian" and best phrase to use in which context.
Saying Hello Is the Best Way to Get to Know the People of Italy
Saying Hello Is the Best Way to Get to Know the People of Italy

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    © 2019 Robert P

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