How to say Hello in Italian and Goodbye in Italian

If you’re planning to visit Italy after your Italian studies, you will for sure need to know how to say Hello in Italian and Goodbye in Italian to people. You’ll figure out that the words and phrases you use most frequently will be the common Italian greetings. So be ready because with this article you will learn much more than just a simple ciao. Let’s start!

Italians will really appreciate your efforts trying to greet them in a suitable way depending on the different situations. You know you’re saying it right if they continue the conversation, expecting you to keep up.

Italian culture is very friendly and  the fact of greeting another person is an essential way of showing respect. You should also consider that Italians communicate with non-verbal greetings. So, what does it mean?

It means that Italians are known for their non-verbal communication and gestures. A stereotype very common about them is that they talk with their hands. It is almost unbelievable how they believe that sometimes they can say even more with gestures than with their own words, so basically it’s part of their culture.

Italians start communicating with their bodies from the very moment they get to know you and they want to greet you: they shake hands, they hug, they smile…

However, it is important to understand that there is not just one way to answer to this question “How do I greet someone when I’m in Italy?”.

On the one hand, the most common informal ways of greeting with non-verbal communication are: to greet friends with a tight hug or a kiss on each cheek: usually, you’ll start with a kiss on the right cheek, followed by one on the left. In rare occasions you we will see people giving a third kiss or just a single kiss (on the right cheek).

Wrongly, a lot of people believe that Italian men don’t kiss.The truth is that in Italy two male friends greet each others with pecks on the cheeks, too, or with a slap on the back. So greeting with a kiss is a type of greeting more intimate, and it denotes friendship or a prior acquaintance.

On the other hand, if we have to greet someone in a formal context or just when meeting someone for the first time, a hand shake (la stretta di mano) is much more appropriate than kissing.

Shaking hands is also a recognized greeting in almost every Western culture. La stretta di mano, as we said before, it is used between people who are introduced for the first time and simply want to greet with a simple: “ nice to meet you” (in Italian, we say “piacere).

So remember that the handshake is a formal greeting expressing a polite approach, whereas the kiss implies more intimacy and familiarity. Don’t forget, however, that a handshake can also hold several nuances of meaning, depending on the way you do it. When shaking your hands do it firmly and tightly because giving a flabby hand is not very polite as it means that you don’t want to have contact with the other person or you are simply not interested in them. A weak handshake can also suggest that you are not a very strong or confident person.

Moreover, there are some frequent gestures used when people meet and it can be useful to understand them. Here you can see another video with some of these popular gestures.

The greeting sentences that you will learn with this article, will quickly become methodical as you use them day in and day out with everyone you come across. Also knowing them can make a good impression, whether you’re speaking formal or informal Italian.

If you are a new language student, the first thing you will learn is how to say hello in Italian (or any other language), so today we’ll also see how to say hi, good morning, bye, see you later…

So for example, it’s not the same to greet your friend or your father (informal Italian) than your boss or teacher (formal Italian).

Here we can see a list with the most common Italian greetings:

Hello in Italian

  • Ciao: it means hi. It is the most common way of saying hello in Italian, but also goodbye informally. It’s considered fairly informal and is usually used in casual situations or among friends and family. You should never use it in a formal context and anyone with whom you’re using Lei(the formal version of you) neither. It is used when meeting and leaving friends.
  • Salve (pronounced salveh): it means hello in Italian. It is less common than ciao but it’s more appropriate to use between people you are not on familiar terms with. To put it in the perspective of a native English speaker, ciao is like “hi” while salve is closer to “hello.” is borrowed from Latin and was used frequently by the Romans during Caesar’s time.
  • Buongiorno (pronounced bwonjorno): literally means good day, it is used for formal and polite greetings. It can be used in the morning or afternoon, and it is a polite way to greet both friends and family and also strangers or new acquaintances. You can always use buongiorno, except in the evening. Another common way to say “good day” or “have a nice day” is buona giornata (pronounced bwona jornahta). This is also used, for example, when leaving a shop.
  • Buon pomeriggio(pronounced bwon pomereejoh): it means good afternoon. It should be used in the afternoon after lunch and before dinner (after 1pm until around 4pm).

Goodbye in Italian

  • Ciao: it means goodbye (and also hello in Italian). It is used among close friends and young people, but it isn’t considered polite when addressing strangers unless they use it first.
  • Arrivederci: it means goodbye. It’s used in a formal context when addressing several people.
  • Arrivederla: it means goodbye. It’s used in a formal context when addressing only one person.
  • Buonasera (pronounced bwona serah): it means good evening. it can be used any time after lunch onwards and throughout the evening. You can use buonasera in the evenings and is a polite greeting that can be used with everybody.
  • Buonanotte: it means good night. It’s said before going to sleep.

Other ways to say goodbye in Italian are:

A dopo see you later Informal
A presto see you soon Neutral
A domani see you tomorrow Informal
A fra poco see you in a bit Informal

With this video you can practice all these new terms of greetings in Italian.

And last but not least…

Remember that greet someone in a polite way is very important for Italians so if you are presented to somebody, for example, if a friend is introducing you their sister or parent, it is polite to shake hands. Even though cheek kissing is another common type of greeting in Italy, as it is in most European countries. However, in Italy cheek kissing (firstly left side and then right) is reserved for greeting people you know well and is less common among men. So remember that when you meet someone for the first time, handshakes are much more common. As you get to know the other person, you move more into cheek-kissing territory.

It’s also important to say piacere (nice to meet you). You’ll make a good impression and this will be a good start!

And one last point that you should consider is that Italians are very polite people and always say hello when meeting anyone. This includes when you pass someone in the street, buying tickets for the train or shopping, and so on. To an Italian, entering a shop is similar to entering a person’s home, so never forget to say a greeting. Doing this way, you’ll make a good impression when travelling in Italy, always make sure to greet the shopkeeper when you enter, even if they’re serving someone, and make sure to say thanks (grazie), and goodbye (arrivederci) as you leave.

Italians always take into account titles, it means that they should generally be used when addressing or writing to people, particularly when the holder is elderly. For example:

Dottore is usually used when addressing anyone with a university degree ( dottoressa if it’s a woman) and employees may refer to their boss as director ( direttore) or presidente. Professionals should be addressed by their titles such as professor ( professore), doctor ( dottore), engineer ( ingegnere), lawyer ( avvocato) and architect ( architetto).

If you don’t know someone’s title, you can use signore (for a man) or signora (woman); a young woman may be addressed as signorina, although nowadays all women tend to be addressed as signora.

After all this information and some practice, now you should be able to say hello in Italian depending on the particular circumstances. Before reading this article, would you have imagined the existence of so many different ways to say hi and bye in Italian?

A presto!

Other topics