How to say hello in Italian in 27 classic and fun new ways

Gaia Zol

Have you ever dreamed of going to Italy? To explore the coast on a Vespa or to join a wine tasting tour in the Tuscan hills?

Perhaps you dream of getting on a gondola in Venice, up and down the canals of this timeless city. Or you’d rather go to Sardinia and spend a vacation on the beach or to the Alps to enjoy a hiking adventure. Maybe you want to master the Italian language. Whatever your Italian dream is, it’s essential you know how to say hello in Italian.

Learn to say hello in Italian and explore the coast on a Vespa.

Italians are proud people who like a smile and a nice greeting. When you say hi in Italian, you will create an instant connection with the person in front of you. 

And yes, there might be (at least) 27 different ways to greet someone in Italian, but don’t feel scared - embrace it and have fun! With this easy guide, you will master pronunciation and local inflections in no time. Ready, pronto?

Why is it important to know how to say hello in Italian?

Woman saying hi in Italian when ordering a coffee.

The greeting is the first word or phrase we use when we meet someone. One smile and a kind word go a long way, even in Italy. Imagine you are going to a restaurant in Naples, the home of pizza, to try a traditional slice of margherita.

You‘ll need to know how to greet the waiter in front of you. Or perhaps you are getting a cappuccino early in the morning, before setting out to discover Milan’s Dome, you say “hi!” in Italian to kick off your order for that delicious foamy goodness.

Simply, saying hi creates a connection. And, from that simple connection, you might find a new friend or even a romantic partner, why not?

Firstly, how do you actually say “hello” and “hi” in Italian?

You already know the most popular term to say hello in Italian. Drum roll …

It’s ciao, of course.

Don’t over think the pronunciation, at least in this case. Once you learn how to say ciao, you are ready to go. The term “ciao” doesn’t have a time stamp. You can use it from morning to night and it’s a conversational and informal word. It means both hi and hello, so you can make two friends with one gift.

However, you might need to use a more formal way to say hi in Italian. That’s why we are here.

27 other ways to say hi in Italian

By now, you have noticed that Italian and English are quite different, both in pronunciation and spelling, because Italian is a Romance language. Once again, no worries. Let’s break down a few basic rules about Italian pronunciation and English phonetic spelling.

Vowels

The Italian language has seven vowels: one each for a, i and u; two each for e and o. This, compared to the 15 sounds of English.

In Italian, a sound written with a single letter has a single value. For example, a as in “father” and e as in “next.” The vowel u is pronounced as the “oo” in “mood.” Check out this video for more information on the vowels.

Consonants

Italian has double consonants, like the double l in “bella.” It’s a longer sound that you can create by holding the position of your mouth when you pronounce the consonant. Then, release and finish the word. There are hard and soft sounds, for example:

  • Hard example: ricotta (a type of cheese)
  • Soft example: piccione (pigeon)

Want more? Learn about Italian consonants with this video.

Accents

Although the correct grammar terms are: acute and grave. The former has a longer sound while the latter is shorter. The most famous word with an accent? It has to be caffè, aka coffee, which you pronounce: è - caffè – kaf-feh. Add a bit of milk and foam to it and it’s a “macchiato,” with the double consonant.

While you can’t learn Italian pronunciation in ten minutes, with practice you will - and may even sound as fluent as a local. Now, let’s take a look at how to say hello in Italian on different occasions.

Casual and informal Italian greetings

EnglishItalianIPA pronunciation
Hi, how are you?Ciao, come stai?ˈtʃaoˈkome ˈsstai̯
How is it going?Ciao, come va?kˈome vˈa?
Hi, are you doing well?Ciao, va tutto bene?t͡ʃˈao, vˈa tˈutːo. bˈɛne?
Hello, friend!Ciao!
Hi, long time no see!Ciao, da quanto tempo!t͡ʃˈao, dˈa kwˈanto tˈɛmpo!
Hello, nice to meet youCiao, piacere di conoscertit͡ʃˈao, pjat͡ʃˈere dˈi konˈoʃertɪ

Please note: Italian spoken language never uses words such as”friend” or “mate” to greet.

Formal Italian greetings

EnglishItalianIPA pronunciation
Good morningBuongiornobʊond͡ʒˈɔrno
Good afternoonBuon pomeriggiobwˈɔn pomerˈid͡ʒːo
Good eveningBuona serabʊˈɔna sˈera
Good nightBuona nottebʊˈɔna nˈɔtːe
Good morning, how are you today?Buongiorno, come stai oggi?bʊond͡ʒˈɔrno, kˈome stˈaj ˈɔd͡ʒːɪ?
Good afternoon, how is your day going?Buon pomeriggio, come va la tua giornata?bwˈɔn pomerˈid͡ʒːo, kˈome vˈa lˈa tˈua d͡ʒornˈata?
Good evening, did you have a good day?Buona sera, hai passato una bella giornata?bʊˈɔna sˈera, ˈaj pas͡sˈato ˈuna bˈɛlla d͡ʒornˈata?
Good night, see you tomorrowBuonanotte, a domanibʊonanˈɔtːe, ˈaː domˈanɪ
Hello, in a formal settingSalvesˈalve
Goodbye, when you might see those people again.Arrivederciarɾivedˈɛrt͡ʃɪ

Common Italian greetings for different situations and places

You might also need to send a message, an email, or answer a phone call. Also, different places in Italy might have their own dialect. Here’s how to say hi in Italian during these situations.

ContextEnglishItalianIPA pronunciation
Answering the phone:Hi, yes, this is she/heBuon giorno, sì, parla con lei/luibwˈɔn d͡ʒˈorno, sˈiː, pˈarla kˈon lˈɛi/lˈui
You’ve answered the phone but the person isn’t talking:Tell meDimmi tuttodˈimmɪ tˈutːo
Sending a formal email:Hello, I write to..Salve, scrivo per..
Making a reservation at the restaurant to finally try the saffron risotto:Good morning, I’d like to make a reservationBuon giorno, vorrei fare una prenotazionebwˈɔn d͡ʒˈorno, vorɾˈɛi fˈare ˈuna prenotat͡siˈone
Lost in Rome? How to ask for directions from a stranger:Hi, excuse meSalve, mi scusisˈalve, mˈi skˈuzɪ
  • In the region Friuli Venezia Giulia the word to use is “mandi,” which literally means “may God accompany you”.
  • In Naples, locals let their creativity unleash. So, the phrase “bye, take care” becomes “Statte buono”.
  • You’ve met a charming Italian during your vacation but it’s time to say “goodbye.” You say “addio” with a smile and many memories.

Seasonal greetings:

EnglishItalianIPA pronunciation
Merry ChristmasBuon Natale!bwˈɔn natˈale
Happy New Year!Buon anno nuovo!bwˈɔn ˈanno nʊˈɔvo
Happy birthday!Buon compleanno!bwˈɔn kompleˈanno

FAQs for Italian greetings

What’s the difference between greeting a friend versus a colleague or professional acquaintance in Italian?

A man greeting a colleague with a formal hello in Italian.

When you greet a friend, you can always use the word “ciao,” no matter the time of day, place, or context. On the other hand, with a more formal and business setting, it’s better to use terms such as “buongiorno” or “salve” as a greeting.

What are some Italian greeting faux-pas?

While the English language uses the phrase “good afternoon,” Italians don’t. Sure, the translation is “buon pomeriggio” but it’s not used in conversations. One more thing to be aware of is “ciao bella.” While it sounds cute and adorable in theory, in practice it’s rude.

Does the way to say hi in Italian change depending on the region?

Sometimes it does, although “ciao” is universal. But being able to say hello in the local dialect will ensure a deeper connection.

There are many ways to say hi in Italian and now you know so many

People greeting each other at a dinner party and saying hello in Italian.

Sure, learning a new language can be a challenge, but with practice and a good attitude, you’ll master the basics in no time. You’ll also find your own learning rhythm and discover your own vocabulary memorization tricks, such as using music to help you learn.

Whatever method you choose to learn, there is nothing more basic and useful than “hi” so you can be ready for your next Italian adventure.

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