When learning a new language, it is important to get the basic right. Indeed, you want to enhance your vocabulary to hold a conversation, but you should first be able to greet your Italian friends!
One of the most well-known Italian words is “ciao”. It is now part of the English slang as well, and you have surely heard it in several movies.
Formal vs. Informal
While “ciao” is a very formal greeting, other time-specific phrases can be used in every situation. However, it is not very common to greet your friend with “buongiorno”, since it sounds too formal.
When in doubt, you can use “salve”. It is a more appropriate greeting to formal situations, and it is not time-specific as “buongiorno” or “buona sera”. Like “ciao”, “salve” can also be used to say goodbye, but this use is less common.
“Ciao” may also be used to say goodbye. However, there are other expressions with the same meaning that you can use, depending on the context. They are:
Although “ciao” is a very common greeting, it is considered informal. Thus, it should be used only in casual situations, or among friends and family.
When answering the phone in Italian, you should use “pronto”. It also means “ciao”, but it is the most appropriate greeting to use in this context. “Pronto” means “ready”: by using it when you answer the phone, you are implying that you are ready to hear what the other person is going to say.
Now you are ready to call your Italian friends and impress them with your knowledge of the language!
Meeting new people
When you meet a new person in Italy, it is important to use the appropriate words to introduce yourself. You can still use “ciao” (or one of the other more formal greetings), but you should rather say that you are happy to meet him or her.
The importance of being polite
Greetings are significantly important in Italian culture. They are not only used as a way to show respect, but they are also part of a proper social ritual. When meeting each other, Italian shakes their hands. In more informal situations, especially women prefer to kiss each other’s cheek. The number of kisses depends on where in Italy you are: people in the South usually give three kisses, while in the North they usually kiss twice.
If you are in a group, you are expected to greet every person individually. The same applies to shaking hands and kissing cheeks! If you still want to greet all the members of the group, you can use the form “ciao a tutti”, that means “Hi everyone”.
We can say that properly greeting someone in Italy may even be considered fine art. When choosing between “ciao” and “salve”, for example, you are not merely saying “hello”: you are determining and clarifying your relationship to that person.
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