Basic Italian Words and Phrases

Stefano

Italian language tutor, course author. MEng, MBA. Member of the International Association of Hyperpolyglots (HYPIA). After learning 12 languages, I can tell you that we all master languages by listening and mimicking. I couldn't find an app to recommend to my students, so I made my own one. With my method, you'll be speaking Italian from Lesson 1.

Summary

Dive into the heart of Italian language with this comprehensive guide! From greeting friends with a casual “ciao” to expressing heartfelt “ti amo” to your amore, you’ll master the art of Italian conversation in no time. 🇮🇹

  • Greetings: Whether it’s a sunny “buongiorno” or a cool “ciao“, knowing how to say hello in Italian sets the mood for a great chat. Remember, “ciao” is your go-to for hellos and goodbyes! 😊
  • Checking In: Ask “Come stai?” to friends or “Come sta?” in formal situations to show you care. Italians will appreciate the gesture as much as a good espresso! ☕
  • Gratitude: Shower your thanks like confetti with a simple “grazie” or go big with “grazie mille!” to really show your appreciation. 🎉
  • Politeness: Sprinkle your Italian with a dash of courtesy using “per favore” when asking for a favor. It’s like saying “please” with an Italian twist! 🙏
  • Apologies: Slip up? A sincere “scusa” to friends or “scusi” in formal settings will smooth things over. It’s the Italian way to say “my bad”! 🤷‍♂️
  • Farewells: Parting is such sweet sorrow, but a well-placed “arrivederci” will leave them looking forward to your next encounter. 👋
  • Curiosity: Unleash your inner detective with “cosa“, “che cosa“, or “che” when you need to ask “what” in Italian. It’s all about the context! 🔍
  • Romance: Whisper “ti amo” to your lover, but reserve “ti voglio bene” for family and friends. Love in Italian is all about the details! 💖
  • Celebrations: Wish someone a “buon compleanno” on their birthday or simply say “auguri” to celebrate any special occasion. 🎂
  • Compliments: Call things (or people) beautiful with “bello” or go full-on Italian and exclaim “bellissimo!” for that extra flair. 🌟
  • Toasting: Raise your glass and say “cin cin” to cheer with the locals. It’s the Italian “cheers” that gets any party started! 🥂
stefano lodola cover
Play Video about stefano lodola cover

”Hello” in Italian

The most popular “hello” in Italian is ciao. It can be used at any time of the day.

Interestingly, it can also mean ”bye”.

Here’s a video with the pronunciation of ciao.

Correct italian pronunciation of ciao, hi

Another option is salve, but it’s more formal.

It’s a safe choice whenever you don’t know whether to sound formal or informal. For instance, you would say salve to the cashier at a shop.

There are other ways of saying “hello,” depending on the time of the day.

Buongiorno means “good morning” or “good day”. Buon pomeriggio means “good afternoon”, but it’s pretty formal. Buonasera can be used as a good evening greeting.

Learn more about how to say “hello” in Italian.

“How Are You?” In Italian

There are different ways to ask “how are you” in Italian, just like in English.

In English, we can also say, “how is it going?”, ”what’s up?”, “how are things?” etc., even though some of them are more informal than others.

In Italian, we can ask the following questions:

  • Come stai? (How are you? – informal)
  • Come sta? (How are you? – formal)
  • Come va? (How is it going?)
  • Tutto bene? (Is everything good?)

You can answer the first three questions with the following words:

  • Bene (I’m well)
  • Male (I’m bad)
  • Come al soltito (As usual)
  • Tutto bene (Everything’s good)

And to the last question, you can just answer (yes) or no (no).

Find out about other ways of asking “how are you?” in Italian.

“Thank you” in Italian

The most common way to say “thank you” in Italian is grazie. It can be used in every situation, be it formal or casual.

You can use it to thank one person or many.

Also, you can say grazie when you either want to accept or refuse an offer.

Here are a few other more emphatic ways to say “thank you” in Italian:

  • Grazie mille!
  • Grazie tante!
  • Molte grazie!
  • Grazie infinite!
  • Grazie di cuore!

You can answer in the following ways to say “you’re welcome”:

  • Prego
  • Non c’è di che
  • Di niente
  • Di nulla

How to say thank you Italian

Learn more about how to say thank you in Italian.

“Please” In Italian

Knowing how to say “please” in Italian is very important since you probably want to sound polite.

In fact, per favore is one of the first phrases you will learn in any Italian course.

It’s easy to remember its meaning because favore sounds a bit like a favor. Per favore literally means “for a favor”.

You can use it in every casual situation with your friends, family, and colleagues.

You’ll also hear per piacere, which means exactly the same.

Per cortesia is less common and more formal.

If you want to beg someone, you can say:

  • Ti prego (informal)
  • La prego (formal)
  • Vi prego (to more than one person)

The verb pregare literally means “to pray”. Italy is a relatively religious country.

However, this expression is used by everyone and has lost its religious meaning.

Find out more about how to say “please” in Italian.

“Sorry” in Italian

Learning how to say “sorry” in Italian is also important. It’s always good to accept our mistakes and say sorry.

In Italian, the two most common ways to say “sorry” are:

  • Scusa (informal)
  • Scusi (formal)
  • Scusate (to more than one person)

As you can see, scusa is informal. So, you can say it to your friends, relatives, or people you know well.

You can say scusi to someone you don’t know very well or an elder person.

Scusate is used both in formal and informal settings and is used to address more than one person.

Here’s another common expression:

  • Mi dispiace

Mi dispiace is slightly different because you can use it even if what happened wasn’t your fault.

It’s a bit deeper since we use it to express sadness or empathy.

How to say sorry Italian

Read more about different ways to say “sorry” in Italian.

“Goodbye” in Italian

As we already mentioned, you can say ciao if you want to say “bye” in an informal way. However, ciao also means “hi”.

There are other ways to say goodbye, which don’t strictly mean “goodbye,” but you can use them as a goodbye greeting.

  • Arrivederci (goodbye – it’s very formal)
  • A domani (see you tomorrow)
  • A presto (see you soon)
  • Ci vediamo (see you)
  • Alla prossima (see you next time)
  • Buonanotte (good night)

Learn more about how to say “goodbye” in Italian.

“What” in Italian

“What” is a very simple, short, and common word. It’s also very useful, right?

In Italian, there are three different ways to say “what” as in “what are you eating?”.

  • Che cosa
  • Cosa
  • Che

All three forms of saying “what” is correct, and they are interchangeable in spoken Italian.

However, if you go to Italy, you might hear a form more often than the others, depending on where you go.

Che cosa is used all over Italy, but it’s probably more common in formal contexts.

Cosa alone is used more often in cities in Northern Italy like Milan and Genoa, but also in Sardinia (which is the second-largest Italian island).

Che is more commonly used in central Italy, like Florence and Rome, and in the South of Italy, like Catania.

Just so you know, cosa literally means “thing”. So, cosa could be considered a shortened version of che cosa, which literally means “what thing?”.

Read more about how to say “what” in Italian.

“I love you” in Italian

In Italian, there’s a big difference between what you say to the person you’re in love with and other to people you love, like your parents, friends, and siblings.

If you want to tell your partner you love them, you can say:

  • Ti amo

However, you wouldn’t say it to other people. Instead, you can say:

  • Ti voglio bene (to one person)
  • Vi voglio bene (to more than one person)

Volere bene literally means “to want (somone) good/well”, which doesn’t make sense but you probably get the meaning of “wanting someone in a positive-but-not-romantic way.

If you love someone a lot, you can say:

  • Ti voglio un mondo di bene (literally, “I want you a world of good”).

This expression is mainly used among teenagers.

How to say i love you italian

Find out about other ways to say “I love you” in Italian.

“Happy birthday” in Italian

These are the most common phrases to wish someone a happy birthday:

  • Buon compleanno
  • Auguri 
  • Tanti auguri

Buon compleanno literally means “good birthday”.

Auguri doesn’t really mean “happy birthday”.  Instead, it’s a more general way of wishing someone happiness.

If you want to be more emphatic, you can say tanti auguri.

Auguri is the plural of augurio which means “wish”. So, it could be translated as “good wishes”.

Auguri is a little more versatile than buon compleano and is often used on other special occasions.

Read more about how to say “happy birthday” in Italian.

“Beautiful” in Italian

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

Italy is such a beautiful country that you can not know how to say “beautiful” in Italian.

There are many ways to talk about beauty in Italian.

You may have heard the phrase ciao bello or ciao bella, which means “hello, beautiful”, in many TV shows or if you’ve been to Italy.

Let’s look at the different ways of saying “beautiful”:

  • Carino (nice)
  • Bello (beautiful)
  • Molto bello (very beautiful)
  • Bellissimo (extremely beautiful)
  • Stupendo (great)
  • Meraviglioso (wonderful)

As you can see, some of them are more emphatic than others.  Carino is not as strong as bello but bellissimo is much stronger than bello.

Just so you know, all these words end in o because they’re masculine singular. If you’re referring to a woman or an object that’s considered female, you have to say carina, bella, molto bella, etc.

Read more about the different ways to say “beautiful” in Italian.

“Cheers” in Italian

Let’s now talk about what Italians say when they have a toast.

In English, people say “cheers”. Let’s find out what Italians say!

The most popular way of saying cheers in Italian is cin cin (pronounced as “chin chin”).

If you find yourself at an Italian party, you will definitely hear this phrase.

Sometimes, cin cin is followed by alla tua salute (singular) or alla vostra salute (plural) meaning “as to your health”.

Also, alla tua or alla vostra without salute is perfectly acceptable too, as the meaning is implied. It’s a similar meaning to “here’s to you!”.

Alla nostra is also common. In addition, you can say beviamo alla nostra, which means “Let’s drink to us!”

You can use it at an office party, graduations, or to celebrate after sporting events!

Salute is a formal way of saying “cheers” in Italian and is often confused with saluti which means greetings. You can use salute in almost any formal environment.

How to say cheers in Italian 1

Read more about how to say “cheers” in Italian.

Learn in the car with Think in Italian
Play Video about Learn in the car with Think in Italian

FAQs on Basic Italian Words and Phrases

How to say thank you in Italian?

The most common way to say thank you in Italian is "grazie".

What are the different ways of saying "how are you?" in Italian?

In Italian, you can ask "how are you?" in different ways such as "come stai?" (informal), "come sta?" (formal), "come va?" and "tutto bene?".

What is the meaning of "per favore"?

"Per favore" literally means "for a favor" and is the Italian equivalent of "please".

What are the three different ways to say "what" in Italian?

The three different ways to say "what" in Italian are "che cosa", "cosa" and "che".

What are the two most common ways to say "sorry" in Italian?

The two most common ways to say "sorry" in Italian are "scusa" (informal) and "scusi" (formal). "Scusate" is also used to address more than one person.

Italian word of the day
contento
Example
Finalmente abbiamo finito! Sono proprio contento.
Finally we’re done! I’m really glad.
Follow me to fluency​

Receive my free resources once a week together with my best offers! 

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lesson and other resources.

Leave a Reply

Share:

Take a free lesson today!

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lessons and other resources.

I’ll also deliver my free resources my best offers to your mailbox (opt out at any time).

Read more about How to say in Italian
Try my courses for free​
Stefano

Log in

Reset password or get in touch.

Not a member yet? Join today!

How long to fluency?

Find out how long it will take you to master Italian!
Get on the right track in 3 minutes.

dolce vita logo

We're already friends!

Coming from Luca and Marina?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
all language resources

We're already friends!

Coming from All Language Resources?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
GRAB A COUPON NOW, REDEEM IT LATER
50% OFF

To receive free resources once a week together with my best offers, just tell me where to send everything. Opt out at any time.

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lesson and other resources.