Whether you’re just going to stay in Rome or take a trip all around the coast, a few basic Italian phrases will go a long way.
You’re probably heading to Italy to experience some of the marvelous culture, nature, art, and architecture that envelops the country. Part of the magic of it all is the language. By learning just a few short and basic Italian phrases, your time spent in the country will be extra special. Even stumbling through some phrases with a Milan local will gain you some respect and hopefully a great cafe recommendation. So, while you won’t be fluent by any stretch of the imagination when you get to Italy, keep these phrases in mind. Whether it's traveling about, eating some spectacular pasta, or meeting a new friend while at a bar, these basic Italian phrases will help you make the most of your upcoming Italian excursion.
Simple Words and Short Phrases
When traveling anywhere, the least you need to know are the most commonly used words and phrases to be polite. So, whether you are terrible at memorizing new things or not, make it your goal to at least know these words and basic Italian phrases by the time you set out for your Italian adventure.
- Si. Yes.
- No. No.
- Per favore. Please.
- Grazie. Thank you.
- Prego. You're welcome.
- Mi scusi. Excuse me.
- Mi dispiace. I am sorry.
- Who? Chi?
- What? Che?; Cosa?
- Where? Dove?
- When? Quando?
- Why? Perché?
- How much? Quanto?
Asking About English
The next step past the essentials is seeing if you can politely ask the Italian speaker to speak English. Often, you will be much better received if you ask if they speak English in their own language. This shows that you put in a little effort to appreciate their culture and lifestyle. By using one of the following basic Italian phrases, you’ll get a little street cred.
- Parla inglese? Do you speak English?
- C'è qualcuno che parla inglese? Does anyone here speak English?
- Mi dispiace, ma non parlo bene l'italiano. I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian very well.
- So soltanto un po' di italiano. I only speak a little Italian.
- Non capisco. I don't understand.
- Scusi, che cosa ha detto? Excuse me, what did you say?
- Può parlare lentamente? Could you speak more slowly?
- Capisco benissimo. I understand perfectly.
Introductions & Greetings
So you’re beginning to learn how to fumble your way through an initial conversation. Well, try getting to know someone’s name or know what they said passing by you on the street. The following basic Italian phrases will help you introduce yourself and say hello and goodbye. In addition, you can introduce your friend who was too stubborn to learn any Italian in this category as well.
- Buon giorno. Good morning.
- Arrivederci! Goodbye!
- Ciao! Hello! and Good-bye! (Informal)
- Salve! Hello! and Good-bye! (Neutral)
- Buonasera! Good afternoon/evening (Formal)
- Buonanotte! Good night! (Informal)
- Come si chiama? What is your name? (Formal)
- Come ti chiami? What is your name? (Informal)
- Mi chiamo… My name is. . .
- Come sta? How are you? (Formal)
- Come stai? How are you? (Informal)
- Sto bene, grazie. I'm fine, thank you.
- Le presento Caterina. This is Caterina.
- Come sta? How are you?
- Buona giornata! Have a nice day!
- Piacere. I am pleased to meet you.
- È stato un piacere conoscerla. It was nice to meet you.
So you’ve hopefully met at least one person and noticed when someone said good morning to you buy now. But, life, especially in Italy, revolves around three meals a day. So, our next category lends itself to helping you get those magical carbs into your body. Take note that it is normally inappropriate to tip waiters in Europe as a whole, so don’t forget to look up other cultural differences rather than just these basic Italian phrases. So, whether it’s a great cup of espresso or handmade noodles, this next list will help you when going out for food.
- Cerco un bar carino qui in zona – I’m looking for a nice cafe in the area
- Un tavolo per uno / due, per favore – A table for one / two please
- Siete già aperti? – Are you open yet?
- Possiamo aspettare (per un tavolo)? – Can we wait (for a table)?
- Possiamo sederci laggiù? – Can we sit over there?
- Mi scusi! – Excuse me! (Calling a waiter)
- Cosa mi consiglia? – What do you recommend?
- Quanto costa questo? – How much is this?
- Cos'è questo? – What’s this?
- Mi farebbe un assortimento dei piatti migliori? – Please bring me a selection of nice things
- Faccia Lei! / Lascio decidere a Lei. – It’s up to you/You can decide
- Il conto, per favore – The cheque, please
- Qual è la specialità della casa? – What’s your most popular dish?
- Potrei avere il menu, per favore? – Can I have the menu, please?
Getting Around Italy
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Italy! Now, you just need to figure out navigating the airport, buses, or trains. Stumbling through these basic Italian phrases, especially our first one, will help you get some help from others. Whether it's a specific spot you’re looking for or just more information, these will help. So, memorize these to help you get from point A to point B without busting out an Italian for Dummies book.
- A destra – to the right
- A sinistra – to the left
- Mi scusi, per andare in centro? Excuse me, how can we go to the center?
- Scusi, dove posso trovare la fermata dell’autobus? Sorry, where can I find the bus stop?
- Dove si trova la stazione del treno? Where is the train station?
- Mi sono perso / Mi sono persa. I’m lost
- Come posso arrivarci? How can I get there?
- È di qua? – Is it this way? [Useful for checking if you’re walking in the right direction]
- Potrebbe indicarmelo sulla carta? Can you show me on the map?
- Dov'è ___? Where is ___ ?
- Vorrei andare a ____. I want to go to ____.
- A che ora parte il prossimo treno/autobus per ___? What time is the next train/bus to ____ ?
- Quanto costa? How much is it?
- 1 biglietto / 2 biglietti. 1 ticket / 2 tickets
- Quanto dura il viaggio? How long does it take?
- Dove devo andare adesso? Where should I go now?
- Quando parte? When does it leave?
- Che ore sono (adesso)? What time is it (now)?
- Questo treno/autobus ferma a ___? Does this train/bus stop in _?
- Mi scusi, è qui ___? Excuse me, is this ___?
- Dove si trova ___ sulla carta? Where is ___ on the map?
Numbers & Days of the Week
You’ve been asking all of these questions, but that’s only half the battle. Often, people will be able to point or lead you to the answer, but often they’ll respond with something you do not understand. For a few of the questions, the basic numbers and days of the week will help you navigate the answer. For business hours, how much things cost, and the time your train leaves, these next basic Italian phrases and words will be essential.
- uno – one
- due – two
- tre – three
- quattro – four
- cinque – five
- sei – six
- sette – seven
- otto – eight
- nove -nine
- dieci – ten
- Ieri – yesterday
- Oggi – today
- Domani – tomorrow
- Dopo domani – day after tomorrow
- Lunedí – Monday
- Martedí – Tuesday
- Mercoledí – Wednesday
- Giovedí – Thursday
- Venerdí – Friday
- Sabato – Saturday
- Domenica – Sunday
Putting It All Together
While the phrases so far will keep you fed and watered, there are often other things on your mind. From the restroom to getting cash out, there are still a multitude of things to learn. Credit cards are not accepted everywhere in Italy as readily as they are in America. So, you’ll need to use an ATM or money exchange. If you’re hoping to save a few dollars around town, knowing where the supermarket and WiFi are quite important too. So, keep these basic Italian phrases in your back pocket for when you need them.
- Dove posso cambiare dei soldi? Where can I exchange money?
- Dove posso trovare i bagni pubblici? Where can I find public restrooms?
- Dove posso trovare il museo? Where can I find the museum?
- Quando è aperto il supermercato? When is the supermarket open?
- C'é WiFi? Is there Wifi?
You’ve obviously excited about traveling to Italy if you’ve made it through these basic Italian phrases. We’re pretty excited for you to try these out as well!
Hopefully, this has given you just a glimpse into the vast and beautiful Italian language. This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to get by in Italy. However, it is a good stepping stone to help you as you launch on this journey. So, start small by saying good morning to your barista before your order your morning espresso. Maybe ask a passerby where a good pasta place is, or learn the name of the person next to you. Whether you're exploring the north of Italy or the southern coast, each spot will give a little more if you give a little too. Even these small steps will give you a deeper appreciation for the culture and make your trip that much more worthwhile.
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