Leçons Italien

Thèmes

Lessons for topic Greetings

I say hello; you say goodbye

We’ve all heard the informal greeting ciao ("hi" or "bye") and the more formal buongiorno ("good morning" or "hello"). But when is the right—or wrong—time to use them? And what are the variations and alternatives?  

 

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Buongiorno: when do we say this?

 

In Il Commissario Manara: Un delitto perfetto, a freshly transferred Commissioner is greeting his new boss. He certainly wouldn’t say ciao. He says buongiorno. If it were after noon (technically after 12 noon, but more likely later) he would say buonasera ("good evening," "good afternoon," or "hello"). 

Buongiorno. -Si può sapere, di grazia, che fine ha fatto?

Good morning. -Can one know, may I ask, where you have been?

Caption 22, Il Commissario Manara S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto - Part 3

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At the market, Agata is addressing the vegetable vendor with respect (and vice versa). It is polite to add signora (ma’am) or signore (sir) when addressing someone you don’t know well, or when you don’t know their name. Agata’s friend just says a general buongiorno ("good morning") to everyone (a little less formal but still perfectly acceptable): 

Signora buongiorno. -Buongiorno Signora. -Buongiorno.

Madam, good morning. -Good morning, Ma’am. -Good morning.

Caption 21, L'isola del gusto: Il macco di Aurora - Part 1 of 7 

 

Ciao and arrivederci

 

Agata and her friend Catena are still at the market. Catena says buongiorno since she doesn’t know anyone at all. Agata just uses her vendor’s name (Giuseppe) to greet him, and he greets her using the familiar form:

Buongiorno. -Giuseppe! -Ciao Agata.

Good morning. -Giuseppe! -Hi Agata.

Caption 8, L'isola del gusto: Il macco di Aurora - Part 1 of 7

 

Another vendor is saying goodbye to her customers: ciao to those to she knows well and arrivederci (literally, "until we see each other again") to those she doesn’t:  

Grazie. Arrivederci, ciao.

Thanks. Goodbye, bye.

Caption 37, L'isola del gusto: Il macco di Aurora - Part 1 of 7

 

Pronto (telephone only)

 

One version of "hello" has a very limited application: pronto. It literally means "ready," and it's how Italians answer the phone:

Pronto, Sicily Cultural Tour. Buongiorno.

Hello, Sicily Cultural Tour. Good morning.

Caption 1,  Pianificare: un viaggio

 

One more option: Salve

 

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Still another way to greet someone is salve (hello). Less formal than buongiorno, it is still polite and you can use it all by itself. It is especially useful when you’re not sure how formal to be or whether it is morning or afternoon/evening, and when you don’t know or remember the name of the person you are addressing.

Salve, vorrei fare un viaggio alla Valle dei Templi ad Agrigento.

Hello, I'd like to take a trip to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.

Caption 2,  Pianificare: un viaggio

As you go about your day, try imagining how you might greet the people you meet if you were speaking Italian. Keep in mind the hour, and how well you know the person—and, remember, when in doubt, there is always salve

To learn more:

A detailed explanation of Forms of Address used in Italian can be found here.

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