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Being polite in Italian, part 1


The first words out of your mouth in every situation

Buongiorno

Whenever you set foot in a cafe, shop, restaurant or basically anywhere this is the first thing you should say, this works from morning till just after lunchtime and it’s a formal and informal greeting so you can say it to everybody


Buonasera

Same as the above, but used after lunchtime right through the evening


Buonanotte

Only to be used just before you go to bed (for example it's not normally used when leaving a restaurant after dinner)


Buon pomeriggio

Don’t say this ever! Even though ‘good afternoon’ is used in English speaking countries, it is never used in Italy except by presenters on tv


Buona giornata

When you’re leaving somewhere, from morning till just after lunchtime. The equivalent of ‘have a nice day’


Buona serata

Same as the above, but used after lunchtime right through the evening


Arrivederci

This is the safe option for ‘goodbye’ instead of ciao when you’re leaving. Always to be used when leaving a cafe, shop or restaurant etc.


Ciao

Used both for when you’re arriving and when you’re leaving. It should only really be used for friends and acquaintances, but if you bump into the same person a few times then it’s acceptable


Salve

This is your alternative for just about everything above if you forget any of them and can be used throughout the day. This is the one I prefer and it is very common all over Italy