The Fundamentals of Saying Hello In Italian

When it comes to greeting people in Italian, there are certain nuances you ought to bear in mind. While a simple ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ is sufficient in greeting someone in English (even someone like your priest), in Italian, this depends on how well you know the person and the relationship you share. The difference is basically in the formal and the informal usage.

Keeping it Casual:
In interacting with friends, close family members, people of the same age group, peers, shopkeepers, etc., casual is usually the way to go. ‘Ciao’, pronounced, chow, does the work of saying a casual hi/hello in Italian. However, using this casual form of greeting with everyone is not suggested, especially the elderly. What might come as a surprise to you is that ‘Ciao’ is also used as a casual term to say ‘goodbye’. Yes, the same word to say ‘Hello’ and well as ‘Goodbye’.

Going the Formal Way:
If you are to learn the Italian language as a part of your school’s curriculum, the standard form of greeting you will encounter is, ‘Buongiorno’, pronounced, bwon-JOR-no. This literally translates into ‘good day’; with ‘buon’ meaning good, and ‘giorno’ meaning day. ‘Buongiorno’, by the way, can only be used to say hi/hello and not goodbye.

In continuing to use the same format, this greeting changes with the time of the day it is used. In the late afternoon or evening it is more apt to say, ‘Buona sera’, which translates to ‘good evening’. In the morning, you will still say, ‘Buongiorno’.

Bear in mind, who you’re interacting with makes an important difference in the term you should use. For example, you really would not want to be saying ‘Ciao’ to the Pope if you chanced upon a meeting with him.

Other Variations:
As you travel to different parts of Italy, you will notice local differences when it comes to people greeting each other. In the southern part of the country you are more likely to come across the term ‘Salve’, pronounced sal-ve. ‘Mandi’, pronounced mahn-dee, is a Friulian term; and ‘Bona die’, pronounced boh-na dee-ah, is the Sardinian way of saying hi/hello.

The Physical Aspect:
Remember that native Italians are rather prone to using physical greetings when saying hi/hello. This can come in the form of a handshake in between men, and a kiss on one or both cheeks when it comes to women. When it comes to men and women interacting with each other, this depends on the relationship they share. For instance, relatives, irrespective of their genders, generally greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks.

Once you’re comfortable in using these terms to say Hi or Hello in Italian, you can take the next step and try incorporating more words to make the greeting more personalized. For instance: learn how to say ‘Ciao Bella’ next, and use it with the ladies (it simply means hello beautiful).

Understand that learning Italian is not as hard as it’s often made out to be. Start with the basics, get your pronunciation right, and practice regularly. A great thing is the online sphere has opened up a large variety of learning resources for you to choose from, and this will only help in your learning this language.

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1 Respones to "The Fundamentals of Saying Hello In Italian"

Pinaywriter said...

I only knew how to say hi using Ciao when my uncle calls. But this was good to know.

November 27, 2011 at 6:20 PM

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