Don’t Be Rude! How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian

30th May 2023

Want to make a good impression when you meet Italians? Learn the do’s and don'ts when it comes to greeting and being polite in Italian.


Listen to the episode

What’s the first thing you should learn in Italian? Maybe how to…

Say hello? 

Ask someone their name? 

Here’s our suggestion:


That’s Italian for “thank you”. It’s a word you’ll use every day that’s essential for being polite in Italian.

Even if you already know the basics, it can be tricky to use them exactly like Italians do. And knowing how to use these words confidently is essential to making a good first impression. 

So in this post, you’ll learn how to use grazie like a native, together with a few other phrases to avoid sounding rude in Italy. You’ll also learn how to navigate the delicate art of meeting and greeting in Italian.

Ready to become an incredibly well-mannered Italian speaker? 

Let’s get started with those words at the heart of Italian language etiquette.

How to Be Polite in Italian

Thank you!

Think of a waiter bringing you your first course.

A hotel clerk showing you to your room.

A kind stranger holding a door open.

What’s the word you would need to be polite in these situations? Indeed, it’s “thank you”, or as we say in Italian:


We think this word is so important, we’ve done a whole post where you’ll learn how to use it and in particular how to pronounce grazie.

By way of lightning fast summary, think of the pronunciation like this:


One mistake many Italian learners make is to pronounce the ending as grazi. Don’t fall into that trap! The ie ending of grazie actually sounds a lot like the English “yeah”: grats-yeah.  

Now what to say in response to grazie?

Say you’re the one holding the door open, or giving something to someone, it’s now your job to respond to grazie in a well-mannered way. What can you say? 

You’re Welcome!

The most typical response, and one that you can use in pretty much every situation, is: 

Prego - “you’re welcome”. 

If you learn just one response to grazie, then this is one to go for. For a quick pronunciation tip, watch out for the “R” sound. It actually sounds more like p-dego, said fast. Give it a try!

P-dego, p-dego, p-dego, p-dego… prego!

There are a few other good options, too. Don’t miss this post if you want to deep dive into how to respond to grazie.

There are two more words which are absolutely crucial to being polite in Italian. 

Excuse me!

Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant - what word could you use to get the waiter’s attention?

Or if you bumped into someone - how could you quickly apologise?

In both cases, the word you’d need is:


Which means “excuse me” in Italian. 

One word for getting people’s attention, and apologising! Fantastically useful.

In addition the pronunciation is relatively straightforward. Just be careful to avoid making the “you” sound that we find in the English “exc-you-se me”. Scusi isn’t quite like that. In fact it’s more like:


The “u” of scusi makes an “ooo” sound. There’s no “you”.

Before we examine the art of meeting and greeting in Italian, there’s one more word you’ll need to be polite. 


You might already know this one! In Italian, we say: 

Per favore - “please”

Just remember not to mix it up with the Spanish por favor, because the spelling and pronunciation are a bit different! In Italian, we say per favore: 

per - sounds a bit like the per in performance. 

favore - there’s an “EH” sound at the end (fav-or-reh)

Keep in mind that per favore is not quite as common as “please” in English. You’ll often hear Italians ordering things without it, for example: 

Per me, una birra - I’ll have a beer

Un caffè, grazie -  A coffee, thanks

To sound really native, try to listen to Italians ordering things and follow their lead. That being said, a little extra politeness doesn’t hurt so if you do use per favore, Italians will appreciate it. 

Now you’ve learned these four words to sound polite, it’s time to delve into the world of meeting and greeting in Italian.

Greeting in Italian

Turns out, there are quite a few different ways to say “hello” in Italian! 

Buongiorno! - Good morning! / Good day!

Buonasera! - Good evening! 

If you look at these words carefully, you can see they are actually made up of two words: 

buon - “good” 

giorno  - “day” 


buona - “good”

sera - “evening”

Just like in English! Good day: buon-giorno. Good evening: buona-sera. What is not exactly like English is when you should be using them. 

Everyone agrees that before noon, you should say buongiorno. After lunch-time however, some Italians will start to use buonasera, while others will go on using buongiorno until around 5pm or later. 

Do Italians not have a word for “good afternoon?” How uncivilised! 

The phrase “good afternoon” does exist, it’s buon pomeriggio, but almost nobody uses it. Instead, they switch from buongiorno straight to buonasera - with a certain amount of flexibility as to when.

Learning tip: If you’d rather not worry about choosing between buongiorno and buonasera, here’s a really useful word you might not find in textbooks: 

Salve! - Hello! 

Unlike the other phrases, you can use it at any time of day. 

Finally, what about ciao? 

This is another term for saying “hi” or “bye”, which perhaps you’ve already heard before. 

What a lot of tourists don’t realise though is that you only use it among friends, family, and in other informal situations. It’s best avoided in situations where you don’t know the person you’re talking to, for example, when checking into a hotel, or greeting an elderly shopkeeper. In these cases, it’s best to stick with buongiorno, buonasera or salve. 

Of course, once you’re friendly with someone it’s certainly common to hear ciao both when someone is arriving or leaving.

So, you’ve greeted someone in Italian. Fantastic! Now it’s time to meet them.

Meeting in Italian



Hmm… now what?

Once you’ve said hello to someone for the first time, you can introduce yourself.

Salve! Sono Katie. - “Hello! I’m Katie”

At that point, the person you’re talking to will probably tell you their name, but just in case they don’t, you can ask: 

Come si chiama? - What’s your name?

If this phrase feels a bit complex, you can also use a sneaky trick to get someone else to tell you their name. 

Rather than asking them directly, just say who you are, and ask them “and you”?: 

Sono Katie… e Lei? - “I’m Katie… and you?” (formal)

Sono Katie… e tu? - “I’m Katie… and you?” (informal)

Once you’ve got their name, you can say “nice to meet you”. In Italian that’s:


This is actually short for a slightly longer phrase that means “pleased to meet you”:

Piacere di conoscerla - “Pleased to meet you” (formal)

Piacere di conoscerti - “Pleased to meet you” (informal)

But no need to worry about all those details, because you can just use one word: piacere. It’s also the one Italians use the most, so you’ll sound most native that way! 

So, here’s how to greet someone in Italian in a natural sounding way:

-Salve! - “Hello!”

-Salve! Sono Katie. E tu? - “Hello! I’m Katie. And you?”

-Sono Matteo. - “I’m Matteo”.

-Piacere! - “Nice to meet you!”

-Piacere! - “Nice to meet you!”

After you’ve met someone and enjoyed a wonderful conversation in perfect Italian *ahem*, it's time to say goodbye. But how do you do that in Italian?

Saying “Goodbye” in Italian

Saying goodbye. Bidding farewell. See ya!

It’s funny there are so many ways to say goodbye, some ways more or less informal than others. And Italian is no different.

The standard way, especially for more formal contexts is:


Which means “goodbye”. The literal meaning is: “until we see each other again”. Rather nice!

To really pull this phrase off, you can practise your double Italian Rs. A-rri-vederci. This can be rather difficult for English speakers though. Don’t worry if you’re not able to do that yet, with time and practice you’ll get there. If you’re interested you can find more information in this article all about how to roll your Rs like an Italian.

As well as arrivederci, there’s the more informal word ciao which we mentioned earlier. This means both “hi” and “bye”. 


And finally, Italians can also say goodbye by wishing each other a good rest of the day.

If it’s during the morning or midday, Italians might say:

Buona giornata! - “Have a good day!”

And if it’s more afternoon or evening:

Buona serata! - “Have a good evening!”

So you’ve now learned not only how to be polite in Italian, but also how to meet and greet someone. Before you take on our quiz to test your knowledge, here’s a quick review of all the most important bits.

How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian: Review

We started with being polite. There are four key words to learn:

Grazie - “Thank you” (remember to pronounce it: grats-yeah)

Prego - “You’re welcome” (the standard response to grazie)

Scusi - “Sorry” / “Excuse me” (good for getting someone’s attention and apologising)

Per favore - “Please” (used a little less frequently in Italian)

Then, you learned how to say hello. Here you had:

Buongiorno - “Good day” (use it until the early afternoon)

Buonasera - “Good evening” (to use from early afternoon onwards)

Salve - “Hello” (any time of day)

Ciao - “Hi / Bye” (good for informal situations)

Once you’ve said hello, you can introduce yourself.

Sono… -  “I am…”. (followed by your name)

Come si chiama? - “What’s your name?” (in formal contexts)

E tu / E Lei? - “And you?” (E tu - informal, E Lei - formal)

Piacere. - “Nice to meet you” (Literally “to please” or “pleasure”)

And what about saying goodbye? There are a few options again:

Arrivederci - “Good bye” (the standard, usually formal)

Ciao - “Bye” (for informal situations)

Buona giornata - “Have a nice day” (similar to buongiorno plus -ata)

Buona serata - “Have a nice evening” (similar to buonasera plus -ata)

And there you go! Now you know how to meet and greet in Italian, and do so in an incredibly polite way. 

To help all these phrases sink in, why not try our mini quiz to test your knowledge?

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Vocabulary: How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian

un caffè, per favore = a coffee, please
grazie = thank you
prego = you're welcome
scusi = excuse me/ sorry
buongiorno = hello (during the day)
buonasera = hello (during the evening)
salve = hello (any time of day)
ciao = hi (informal)
sono Katie = I'm Katie
come si chiama? = what's your name? (formal)
piacere = pleased to meet you
buona giornata = have a good day
buona serata = have a good evening
arrivederci = goodbye

Quiz: How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian

How much did you learn? Find out in the quiz!

Click here to take the quiz for this episode: How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian

Flashcards: How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian

Remember the vocabulary from this lesson by downloading the digital flashcards

Not sure how it works? Click here to watch the tutorial

Transcript: How to Meet, Greet and Be Polite in Italian

Please note, this is not a word for word transcript.

K: Welcome back to our mini series on Italian phrases for travel! Knowing just a few words and expressions will make a big difference to your trip, because locals are almost always happy to engage with people who make the effort. 

A key part of winning the locals over is of course being polite in Italian - so in this episode, you’ll learn how to do just that: meeting, greeting and being polite in Italian.

------------ (Theme music)

K: Ciao a tutti e benvenuti! Hi everyone and welcome to “Learn Italian with Joy of Languages”. Matteo, what do you think is the most important word to make sure you’re polite when speaking Italian?

M: Hmm, difficile…

K: Difficult?

M: No! I mean, it’s difficult to choose just one word. 

K: Well let’s go through a few.  I’ll say the English and you can translate to Italian. As you’re listening at home, if you already know them, try to say them in the pause, and if you don’t, no worries! Say them with Matteo, trying to get your pronunciation as close to his as possible. One very important word to know is “please”. 

M: Per favore (x3)

K: Although you might like to know that Italians don’t tend to use this word as frequently as we do in English! While you can certainly say “A coffee, please”

M: Un caffè, per favore. 

K: It’s also quite common to use grazie, thank you. 

M: Un caffè, grazie. 

K: In fact, grazie, thank you, is probably the most useful word of all when being polite. 

M: Grazie (x3)

K: Grazie can be quite tricky to pronounce, so don’t miss episode 93 where you’ll learn how to say it correctly. 

M: Grazie! 

K: And if someone says grazie to you, you can respond with “you’re welcome” 

M: Prego (x3)

K: There’s also a useful word if you want to call a waiter’s attention, for example, Italians say “excuse me”. Do you know how to say it? 

M: scusi (x3)

K: Which you can also use like “sorry”, if you bump into someone for example.

I think those are the absolute essentials. Let’s hear them one more time. We had “please”

M: Per favore

K: And thank you:

M: Grazie.

K: You’re welcome: 

M: Prego

K: Excuse me 

M: Scusi

K: And what about when you’re meeting and greeting people? There are few different phrases you can use in Italian to say “hello”. To say “hello” in the day, we literally say “good day”: 

M: buongiorno (x3)

K: Hello, during the evening is “good evening”:  

M: buonasera (x3)

M: And there’s another way we can say “hello”, that you might not find in textbooks, which is salve

K. This is a very handy word that can be used at any time of day. 

M: And it’s a common greeting among native speakers, so it will help you blend in with the locals! Salve (x3)

K: Then there’s “hi”, which is: 

M: Ciao (x 3)

K: Time for a common mistake alert! Most tourists say ciao all the time, because it’s the most famous Italian greeting. But did you know that ciao is only used in the informal? That means it’s actually best avoided in common travel situations, like shops, bars and restaurants, where we don’t usually know the person we’re greeting. 

M: To sound really Italian, stick to salve, or buongiorno/buonasera when arriving and arrivederci when leaving. 

K: Next, how about introducing yourself? How do you say “I am”? 

M: Sono (x 3)

K: This is the most common way to tell someone your name. I’m Matteo:
M: Sono Matteo

K: I’m Katie

M: Sono Katie

K: Pro tip - to keep things really simple, you can just introduce yourself, for example sono Katie, and the other person will tell you their name! 

M: Sono Matteo 

K: This is the easiest, and most natural way to do it. But you can also ask what’s your name? In the formal: 

M: Come si chiama? (x3)

K: Katie

M: Piacere! 

K: To say “pleased to meet you”, we have this nice short word in Italian: 

M: Piacere

K: It's part of a longer phrase piacere di conoscerla, “pleased to meet you”, but Italians normally shorten it, so piacere is a bit like saying “pleased”. Luckily, the one word version is the easiest, most common and native-sounding way to say it: 

M: Piacere (x3)

K: Finally, when you’re leaving, you can say “have a good day”

M: Buona giornata (x3)

K: Or a good evening

M: Buona serata (x3)

K: There is also of course “good bye”:

M: Arrivederci (x3)

K: Grazie, Matteo!

M: Prego!

K: Let’s review our phrases for meeting and greeting one more time. “Hello”, literally “good day”…

M: Buongiorno

K:  Good evening

M: Buonasera

K: Can you remember that handy, native-sounding word you can use any time of day? 

M: Salve

K: Then we had “hi”

M: Ciao

K: Remember, that’s an informal word that’s best avoided most of the time when going into shops, bars and restaurants. Instead, stick to buongiorno, buonasera or salve. 

K:  Then we had “I am”

M: Sono

K: Use this with your name to introduce yourself, for example: 

M: Sono Matteo

K: To ask someone their name, in the formal address, say: 

M: Come si chiama? 

K: Pleased to meet you

M: Piacere

K:  And as you’re leaving, you can say “have a nice day”

M: Buona giornata

K: Have a nice evening

M: Buona serata

K: Goodbye

M: Arrivederci 

K: Perfetto! So, you now have the essential vocabulary you need to sound polite and greet people in Italian. 

M: In our next episode you’ll learn phrases to help you navigate Italian bars and restaurants.

K: If you want to see everything written down and get bonus materials, like vocabulary cards and a quiz, head over to our website, and search for episode 96. 

M - See you next time.

K - Or as we say in Italian.

Alla prossima!

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