“Hello” in Italian: A Complete Guide to Formal and Informal Greetings

“Hello” in Italian: A Complete Guide to Formal and Informal Greetings

Do you want to learn how to say “hello” in Italian? In this lesson we’ll see all the different greetings, so you will learn more than just a simple “ciao”!

Italian people put a great emphasis on the so called “buone maniere”, the good manners. It is very important in Italy to address people with the right salutation according to the time of the day and the type of relationship you have with them.

We’ll see all the different Italian greetings, so you’ll be able to greet people appropriately during your next trip to Italy!

How to say Hello in Italian

Even if you’re at a beginner level you will surely know that the most common way to say “hello” in Italian is “ciao”. Ciao is a friendly greeting which you can use every day. The equivalent of ciao in English is “hello”.

Ciao is used in many situations, meaning both “hello” and “goodbye”, but mainly in informal settings, i.e., among family members, relatives, and friends. It sounds inappropriate in formal contexts, for instance when greeting elder people, your boss at work or someone you don’t know very well.

Saying Good morning, Good afternoon, and Good evening in Italian

If a simple ciao doesn’t seem enough, you can use different greetings according to the time of the day. Saying “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good evening” is a safer bet when greeting someone you’re not very close to, or when entering a shop or restaurant.

Buongiorno (good morning) is a very good way to greet someone, because it’s appropriate in both friendly situations and formal contexts. Sometimes you can also hear its shortened form “buondi”. Buondi has the same meaning, with “buon” meaning good and “di” meaning day.

Buon pomeriggio is a formal greeting for the afternoon time. It is not as commonly used as buongiorno and buonasera, many people in fact don’t say it at all and replace it with one of those two greetings.

Buonasera is another greeting which can be used either in formal and informal situations. It is used when meeting someone in the evening, however, the ideal time of the day to use buonasera varies greatly from region to region. Usually, people start saying buonasera after 2/3 pm.

The last one is buonanotte (good night): a formal and informal greeting, used to say goodbye before going to sleep.

When to use Buongiorno, Buon pomeriggio and Buonasera?

In different areas of Italy we go from good morning to good evening at different times of the day. In southern Italy people can start saying buonasera around 4-5 pm, while in northern Italy you can even hear it around 2pm!

Generally, in Italy you can start saying buonasera after lunchtime, when in English it would be really unusual to say good evening. As we’ve seen before, buon pomeriggio (good afternoon) is almost never used, so people tend to switch directly from buongiorno to buonasera.

How to say Goodbye in Italian

We’ve seen many different ways to say “hello” in Italian, but how to say “goodbye”? In informal contexts, you can just use a friendly “ciao”. Depending on the situations, you can use other different greetings to say goodbye to people. Let’s look at each one by one:

  • Arrivederci: It is a formal way to say goodbye, only used when you leave (and not when you meet a person). Its meaning is that you wish to see someone again soon. You use it with people you are not quite familiar with, or elder people. A variant is “arrivederla”, which is even more formal and expresses a tone of respect.