It’s a fact. Greetings are one the very first things we learn in a new language. So, my question for you is: do you already know how to say hello in Italian?
You can’t come to Italy without first knowing how to say hello when you meet someone. And to do so, you need to remember something important:
when speaking Italian, you have to mark the difference between formal and informal register.
For instance, you can’t say ciao to a complete stranger. You would sound a bit awkward and rude.
Similarly, you can’t say buongiorno when you meet your best friend.
So, here’s a brief guide that will show you how to say hello in Italian in the right way.
CIAO → ciao is the most common Italian greeting and you can use it both during the day and during the evening. You can use it with your friends, when talking to young people and more generally in informal contexts. You can also use ciao if you are an adult and are talking to a child, or if you are a young boy or girl and are talking to someone your age.
BUONGIORNO → you can use buongiorno during the day and in formal contexts. You can also use it with people you have just met or you barely know, with your teachers and with strangers.
BUONASERA → buonasera is used during the evening in formal situations. Like buongiorno, you need to use it with people you are not intimate with.
SALVE → the greeting that ‘saves’ you. You can use salve when you want to be polite but not too formal, according to the context. Like ciao, salve is used both during the day and the evening, but with people you are not intimate with when you don’t want to sound too formal.
Now that you know how to say hello in Italian, I would like to give you a small and simple exercise:
think about the people you meet during the day, like your friends and parents, your boss or the cashier at the supermarket. What greeting would you use with each of them?
You can write your answer in a comment or email me to receive a feedback.
See you soon! 🙂