You know what they say… When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And if you’re going to Italy, you should learn some basic Italian phrases so you can speak like an Italian!
It isn’t too hard to quickly learn basic Italian. In fact, you could learn Italian phrases for your trip with just a week or two of preparation. It’s even easier if you have experience in Spanish or French!
Even if you have no language learning experience, you can start learning to speak Italian now. All you need are some simple Italian phrases and words for everyday situations.
Learning phrases is a great place to start when learning any language and is one of my language hacking techniques.
Simple Italian phrases help you begin to grasp the vocab and grammar patterns of the language while allowing you to start speaking right away. And, if you’re travelling to Italy, it’s a great way to get the most out of your trip.
Let’s dive right in.
Editor's note: before we get started, if you’re looking for an online Italian course, here’s the course I actually recommend: Italian Uncovered – Learn Italian Through the Power of Story, a course with a fascinating new method.
Basic Italian Phrases and Italian Greetings to Get Started
Let’s start with the main phrases in Italian you should know.
First, learn how to greet others with some polite phrases to get started so you can say “hello”!
“Hello” in Italian
You’ve most likely heard this one before. “Hello” in Italian is ciao. But, this is the informal way to greet someone. If you’re in a situation where you need to speak in a formal way, try saying salve.
If you meet someone for the first time, use salve over ciao.
That said, the most common greeting for “hello” is buongiorno. This is usually followed by a kiss on both cheeks.
“How Are You?” in Italian
To ask how someone is doing, you say Come va? It’s common for someone you know to come up to you, grab you by the arms or face, kiss both cheeks, all while saying Buongiorno, amore mio! Come va?
Sometimes, you’ll hear Come stai? instead.
“I’m Good” / “I’m Not Good” in Italian
When replying to come va, you can say bene for “good”. If you aren’t doing well, you say non bene for “not good” or così così for “so-so”.
“Please” in Italian
“Please” in Italian is per favore. It goes at the end of a sentence, usually when requesting something.
“Thank You” in Italian
Grazie is “thank you” in Italian. You could also use molte grazie for “many thanks” or grazie mille for “thanks a lot”.
“You’re Welcome” in Italian
Prego means “you’re welcome”. But you could also use di niente, which means both “you’re welcome” and “it’s nothing”.
“Good Morning” in Italian
Buongiorno means both “good morning” and “hello”, so it’s used often throughout the day. If it’s later in the day, though, you could instead say buon pomeriggio for “good afternoon”. And buonasera is “good evening”.
“Good night” in Italian
When you’re off to bed, say “good night” with buonanotte.
“Goodbye” in Italian
Ciao is both “goodbye” and “hi” in Italian for informal situations. But you could also use arrivederci.
Some other ways to say goodbye:
- “See you later”: A più tardi
- “See you next time”: Alla prossima
- “See ya later then”: Allora a dopo
“Yes” and “No” in Italian
These are straightforward. “Yes” is sì and “no” is no. Simple.
“Excuse me” in Italian
If you need to get someone’s attention or ask to get by them, you can say mi scusi. If you’re talking to friends or family, though, you can use scusa, which is informal.
“Sorry” in Italian
You can use scusa for “sorry” in Italian as well. But a more polite way to apologize, especially if you made a mistake, is to use mi dispiace.
Useful Sentences in Italian to Speak Italian Now
Use these common Italian phrases to get by in your first conversation. From asking more about the other person, to figuring out what something means, these Italian sentences will help you get by.
“Do You Speak…” in Italian
“Do you speak English?” would be Parli inglese? And “Do you speak Italian?” Parli italiano?
You can take parli (“do you speak”) and add any language you want to it. Here are some other phrases you’ll find useful as a beginner Italian speaker:
- “I only speak a little Italian”: Parlo solo un po’ di italiano
- “Yes, I speak a little bit”: Parlo solo un pochino
- “No, I don’t speak it”: No, non lo parlo
- “How do you say….”: Come si dice…
- “Could you repeat that?”: Potrebbe ripetere?
- ”Can you say it slowly?”: Puoi dirlo lentamente?
“I Don’t Know” in Italian
If you’re asked a question and don’t know the answer, you can say non lo so for “I don’t know”.
To make sure you’re understood in Italian, ask Capisci? To answer that question, you could say capisco for “I understand”, “capito” for “understood”, or non capisco for “I don’t understand” in Italian.
If someone starts talking to you at a rapid pace in Italian, you can say Scusa, non parlo italiano for “Sorry, I don’t speak Italian.”
- “What does _ mean?”: Cosa significa __?
- “I know”: Lo so
- “What did you say?”: Cosa hai detto?
- “What do you mean?”: Cosa intendi?
“What’s Your Name?” in Italian
To say “My name is…” in Italian, say Mi chiamo… or just Sono… for “I’m __”.
Some other questions you can ask:
- “Where are you from?”: Di dove sei?
- “I’m from…”: Sono di…
- “How old are you?”: Quanti anni hai?
- “I’m 35 years old.”: Ho trentacinque anni.
- “What do you do for work?”: Che lavoro fai?
- “I’m a…”: Sono un/uno/una…
- “Nice to meet you”: Piacere
Key Phrases to Know in Italian — Conversation Fillers
Conversation fillers help your conversations to sound more natural. Plus, they help fill in gaps where you need to think of what to say next.
- “Well…”: Be’…
- “To be honest”: A dire la verità
- “By the way”: A proposito
- “So”: Allora
- “Anyway”: Comunque
Learn Simple Italian Phrases for Going Out
These phrases are good to know when going out to eat or exploring the city while travelling in Italy. I’d also recommend learning how to haggle when you go shopping!
- “I’d like the menu, please”: Vorrei il menu, per favore
- “I’d like…”: Mi piacerebbe…
- “Delicious!”: Buono!
- “The bill, please”: Il conto per favore
- “I’ll take this one”: Mi piacerebbe questo
- “That one, please”: Quello, per favore
- “What do you recommend?”: Che cosa mi consiglia?
- “Another one, please”: *Un altro, per favore.”
- “How much is it?”: Quanto costa?
- “Where is….”: Dov'è…
- “Could you help me?”: Potresti aiutarmi?
- “What’s this?”: Che cos'è questo?
- “Let’s go!”: Andiamo!
Italian Words to Expand Your Vocab
Now use these words below to plug and play in some of the phrases above. This way, you can customize this list to your own needs.
Talking about time in Italian:
- Today: oggi
- Yesterday: ieri
- Tomorrow: domani
- o’Clock: in punto
- One: uno
- Two: due
- Three: tre
- Four: quattro
- Five: cinque
- Six: sei
- Seven: sette
- Eight: otto
- Nine: nove
- Ten: dieci
Food and drink:
- Water: l’acqua
- Coffee: il caffè
- Tea: il tè
- Beer: la birra
- Wine: il vino
- Chicken: il pollo
- Fish: il pesce
- Vegetables: le verdure
- Chocolate: il cioccolato
- Supermarket: il supermercato
- Bank: la banca
- Post office: il ufficio postale
- Police station: la stazione di polizia
- Hospital: l'ospedale
- Restaurant: il ristorante
- Teacher: insegnante
- Cook: cuoco
- Employee: dipendente
- Writer: scrittore
- Doctor: medico
- Nurse: infermiera
Italian Slang and Sayings to Spice Up Your Conversation
Your studies wouldn’t be complete without throwing in a few fun expressions and slang phrases to really make you sound like a local. Impress your Italian friends with these Italian slang words. I’ve included the literal meaning of the phrases, too.
- “To the T” | Lit.: “to the bean”: A fagiolo
- “That’s it, I’ve had it!” | Lit.: “enough”: Basta
- “No worries” | Lit.: “to appear”: Figurati
- “Thank God” | Lit.: “less bad”: Meno male
- “Hotshot” | Lit.: “to do the big”: Fare il grande
- “Take a drink” | Lit. “to raise an elbow”: Alzare il gomito
Speak Italian NOW with These Basic Italian Phrases
Now that you’ve learned how to speak some basic Italian, it’s time to go out and test your knowledge! Find a language exchange partner to practice with, or even use the phrases on a loved one or a pet. Start speaking NOW. It’s the only way to grow!
What other basic Italian phrases did I miss? Is there a saying you love in Italian? Share it with me in the comments.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.