Italian 101: Greetings

So the first few Italian classes I’ve had was pretty intense. I don’t really know what else I expected from an “intensive course”. I have a suspicion my biggest mistake was missing the first, introductory class. Whether that is the truth or not, I feel better telling myself that’s why it’s so damn difficult: “I must have missed a lot of basics in the first class…”

First of all, it’s a really difficult language to learn (up there with Chinese I tell you). Secondly, the lecturer only speaks to us in Italian! Only when one of us really gathers some courage to ask what on earth she is talking about, does she explain a teensy bit in English. That helps, but also not really as most of the time it doesn’t help to try and translate everything like sentence construction etc. back to English – that just causes even more confusion.

For some reason she keeps peering at me with squinted eyes over her thin reading glasses and usually asks: “Ilse, capisci?” (Ilse, do you understand?) Unfortunately I mostly always have the same reply (which is probably my best Italian sentence thus far): “No, non capisco…”  (I don’t understand). Perhaps my extremely confused fascial expression gives me away.


All is not lost however, at least I know some basic Italian by now, and so can you. Hooray! Today we’ll start with basic greetings:


  • Ciao! [pronounced chaa-o] – hello or cheerio. This is useful because if you really don’t know anything at least people will think you are friendly (perhaps a bit weird and too friendly). You should actually use Ciao only if you are familiar with someone.
  • A bello! (for greeting a guy) [pronounced ah beh-llo] / A bella! (for greeting a girl) [pronounced ah beh-lla] – Hey beautiful! According to ‘Hide this Italian Book‘ you’ll hear this greeting a lot in southern Italy and if you want to sound like a local, you’d better shout it.
  • Arrivederci [pronounced a-rree-vay-dehr-chee] – goodbye. Another handy one which can be used to be a tad more polite with people you don’t necessarily know.
  • Buongiorno [pronounced bwon-jor-no] – good morning.
  • Buonasera [pronounced bwo-na-say-ra] – good evening.
  • Buonanotte [pronounced bwo-na-no-ttay] – good night.
  • A presto! [pronounced ah press-toh] – see you soon.

[Tip #1: Usually people greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on each cheek]

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