You already know buongiorno and ciao. But do you know how Italians really greet each other?
It’s a bit different to how they teach it in textbooks.
In this week’s episode, you’ll learn how to say hello like Italians do. By the end of the lesson, you’ll know:
- When Italians use ciao, buongiorno and buonasera – not always as simple as it seems!
- One handy word for when you’re not sure which one to use
- Two situations where you shouldn’t say hello in Italian
To help you remember what you learnt in today’s lesson, below you’ll find bonus materials like word lists, quizzes and flashcards. But first…
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Remember and practice using what you learnt with the bonus materials for today’s episode.
Today’s Italian words
Buongiorno = hello/good morning/good afternoon
Buonasera = good evening
Ciao = hi
Salve = hello/goodbye
Pronto = a word Italians use when they answer the phone (it literally means ready)
Chi è? = Who is it?
Take the Quiz!
How much did you learn? Find out in the 5-minute Italian quiz!
Click here to take the quiz for this episode: Italian greetings: How Italians really say hello to each other
Remember the vocabulary from your 5 Minute Italian lessons by downloading the digital flashcard pack.
- Download the flashcards: How Italians really say hello to each other
- Not sure how it works? Click here to watch the tutorial.
Please note: This is not a word-for-word transcript.
Katie: So you probably know how to say ciao and buongiorno. But do you know how Italians really greet each other? It’s not always the same as how they teach it in Italian courses. In this week’s episode, you’ll learn when Italians use buongiorno, buonasera and ciao, and one handy trick for when you’re not sure which one to use. Find out in this week’s episode of 5 minute Italian.
Ciao a tutti e benvenuti a 5 minute Italian, hi everyone and welcome to 5 minute Italian. I’m Katie…
Matteo: And I’m Matteo. Ciao.
K: And in today’s episode, we’re going to learn how to greet people the way that Italians do. So imagine you’re on holiday in Italy, you wake up and the first thing you think about is going to a cafè and getting a coffee. You walk in, you turn to the barrista and you say…
K: Ah so what’s the difference between buongiorno and ciao? Because we often hear that buongiorno is formal and ciao is informal. But what does that actually look like in day to day situations?
M: Well, it depends on the place and the people. For example, if it’s a posh place, or if the person is a lot older, then it’s a good idea to say buongiorno. If it’s a laidback atmosphere, people will sometimes say ciao, even if it’s the first time they meet.
Also how formal you are as a person – I’m quite a laidback person, so I like to say ciao when I can, and if I can see that the other person is laidback too, I’ll use ciao, even if I’ve never met them before. But I know some people who are very formal and say buongiorno wherever they go.
Textbooks will say that you should always say buongiorno to people, unless they’re a close friend or a child, then you can say ciao. But it’s not quite as simple as that.
You can certainly use ciao with people you don’t know if it the situation feels quite informal. One good trick is to follow the lead of the other person – look at them, smile and then use the same greeting they use.
A good rule of thumb is: if it’s a posh place or the person is a lot older than you, you know you need to say buongiorno. In other situations, you can smile and follow the other person’s lead.
K: So back to our day in Italy. Now it’s the afternoon and you decide to go into a shop. You walk in, turn to the comessa, the saleswoman and you say…
K: Then in the evening, you go to a restaurant, turn to the cameriere (waiter) and you say…
K: Right, so we use buongiorno in the morning and the afternoon and buonasera in the afternoon. When does it change?
M: Well, the main thing I think is that it’s all about the light in the sky. So if there’s light in the sky, unless it’s after 5 or 4ish, you can always say buongiorno. After 4 or 5 and if the sky is quite dark, you can go with buonasera.
K: There’s one handy word that you can use in most situations. It’s a one-size fits all word for morning, evening, formal, informal. If you don’t know which one to use, you can use…
K: And it also means bye which is handy.
K: Now 2 bonus ways to say hello, that are different to in English. When Italians answer the phone, they don’t say hello, they say…
K: Which literally means “ready”. Which can seem quite funny when you’re not Italian because they answer the phone and say “ready!” pronto. The next one is when you answer the buzzer in your apartment.
M: We don’t say hello, we just say chi è which means “who is it”.
K: That’s all we have time for today, thanks for listening. And if you’d like to get more mini Italian lessons delivered to your inbox, don’t forget to subscribe by following on the link in the below. Grazie, and ciao for now, see you next time, or as we say in Italian, alla prossima!
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