Cheat Sheet

Italian For Dummies

From Italian For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Teresa L. Picarazzi, Francesca Romana Onofri, Karen Antje Möller

Planning a trip to Italy? Learn some basic Italian to make it more fulfilling. Get to know Italian greetings, question words, numbers, and the days of the week. Also, be sure to know how to ask for help in Italian so you're prepared for emergencies. And something very important: how to order food and drink!

Italian Greetings

Knowing Italian greetings can make a good impression, whether you're speaking Italian for business or while traveling. Offer polite greetings to friends and associates or as a way to break the ice when meeting new people. These are some common greetings in Italian:

  • Buongiorno! (bwohn-johr-noh) (Hello! and Good morning!)

  • Arrivederci! (ahr-ree-veh-dehr-chee) (Goodbye!) (Formal)

  • Ciao! (chou) (Hello! and Good-bye!) (Informal)

  • Salve! (sahl-veh) (Hello! and Good-bye!) (Neutral)

  • Buonasera! (bwoh-nah-seh-rah) (Good afternoon! Good evening!) (Formal)

  • Buonanotte! (bwoh-nah-noht-teh) (Good night!) (Informal)

  • Come si chiama? (koh-meh see kyah-mah) (What is your name?) (Formal)

  • Come ti chiami? (koh-meh tee kyah-mee) (What is your name?) (Informal)

  • Mi chiamo…(mee kyah-moh) (My name is. . .)

  • Come sta? (koh-meh stah) (How are you?) (Formal)

  • Come stai? (koh-meh stahy) (How are you?) (Informal)

  • Bene, grazie. (beh-neh grah-tsee-eh) (Fine, thank you.)

Italian Courtesy Phrases

Courtesy is important no matter what country you're in. Use these courtesy phrases when speaking in Italian so you can be considerate and polite; they'll also help you communicate easily:

  • Per favore (pehr fah-voh-reh) (Please.)

  • Per piacere (pehr pyah-cheh-reh) (Please.)

  • Grazie (grah-tsee-eh) (Thank you.)

  • Prego! (preh-goh) (You're welcome!; By all means, after you.)

  • Non c'è di che. (nohn cheh dee keh) (You're welcome.)

  • Mi dispiace. (mee dees-pyah-cheh) (I'm sorry.)

  • Mi scusi. (mee skooh-zee) (Excuse me, formal.)

  • Scusi, un informazione, per favore. (skooh-zee oohn-een-fohr-mats-yoh-neh pehr fah-voh-reh) (Excuse me, I need some information, please.)

  • Scusa. (skooh-zah) (Excuse me, I'm sorry, informal)

  • Permesso? (pehr-mehs-soh) (Excuse me — when walking through a crowded train compartment; also, "May I come in?" when crossing the threshold of someone's house.)

  • Sì. (see) (Yes.)

  • No. (noh) (No.)

Basic Question Words in Italian

To communicate in Italian and to travel with ease, there are practical questions in Italian (or any language for that matter) that you'll use daily and have to know:

  • Parla inglese? (pahr-lah een-gleh-zeh) (Do you speak English?)

  • Chi? (kee) (Who?)

  • Cosa? (koh-sah) (What?)

  • Quando? (kwahn-doh) (When?)

  • Dove? (doh-veh) (Where?)

  • Perché? (pehr-keh) (Why?)

  • Come? (koh-meh) (How?)

  • Quanto? (kwanh-toh) (How much?)

Try these helpful phrases:

  • Dov'è la stazione? (doh-veh lah stah-tsyoh-neh) (Where is the station?)

  • Scusi, dov'è il bagno? (skooh-zee doh-veh eel bahn-yoh) (Where is the bathroom?)

  • Quanto dista il Colosseo? (kwahn-toh dees-tah eel koh-lohs-seh-oh) (How far is the Coloseum?)

  • Dove si mangia il miglior gelato? (doh-veh see mahn-jah eel meel-yohr geh-lah-toh) (Where can you get the best ice cream?)

    Come si arriva in Piazza della Repubblica? (koh-meh see ahr-ree-vah een pyahts-sah dehl-lah reh-pooh-blee-kah) (How do you get to Piazza della Repubblica?)

Days of the Week in Italian

In Italian, the days of the week aren't capitalized. Eyeball this table of the days of the week in Italian (along with pronunciations and abbreviations) to ensure you get your days straight while in Italy.

Italian/Abbreviation Pronunciation Translation
domenica/do. doh-meh-nee-kah Sunday
lunedì/lun. looh-neh-dee Monday
martedì/mar. mahr-teh-dee Tuesday
mercoledì/mer. mehr-koh-leh-dee Wednesday
giovedì/gio. joh-veh-dee Thursday
venerdì/ven. veh-nehr-dee Friday
sabato/sab. sah-bah-toh Saturday

You might also need to know how to say the following:

  • Oggi (ohj-jee) (today)

  • Domani (doh-mah-nee) (tomorrow)

  • Dopodomani (doh-poh-doh-mah-nee) (day after tomorrow)

  • Ieri (yeh-ree) (yesterday)

Getting Help for Emergencies in Italian

If you have an emergency while traveling in Italy, you'll be glad to know these basic Italian phrases. Be prepared for emergencies by committing these Italian phrases to memory:

  • Aiuto! (ah-yooh-toh) (Help!)

  • Emergenza! (eh-mehr-jehn-tsah) (Emergency!)

  • Chiamate la polizia! (chee-ah-mah-teh lah poh-lee-tsee-ah) (Call the police!)

  • Chiamate un'ambulanza! (kee-ah-mah-teh ooh-nahm-booh-lahn-tsah) (Call an ambulance!)

  • Ho bisogno di un medico. (oh bee-zoh-nyoh dee oohn meh-dee-koh) (I need a doctor.)

  • Dov'è l'ospedale? (doh-veh lohs-peh-dah-leh) (Where is the hospital?)

  • Mi sento molto male. (mee sehn-toh mohl-toh mah-leh) (I feel very sick.)

Ordering Food and Drink in Italian

If you visit Italy without trying some of the food, you haven't really visited Italy. (You're also probably rather hungry.) The following phrases can come in handy whether you need a bottle of water or you're ordering a lavish Italian dinner:

  • Un cappucccino, per favore. (oohn kahp-pooh-chee-noh pehr fah-voh-reh) (A cappuccino, please.)

  • Un bicchiere di acqua minerale per favore. (oohn bee-kyeh-reh dee ahk-wah meen-eh-rah-leh perh fah-voh-reh). (A glass of mineral water, please.)

  • Mezzo litro d'acqua. (mehdz-zoh lee-troh dahk-wah) (Half a liter of water.) (Generally, you would take this to go, not standing at the bar)

  • Mezzo chilo di pesche, per piacere. (mehdz-zoh kee-loh dee pehs-keh perh pyah-cheh-reh) (Half a kilo of peaches, please.)

  • Quanto viene? (kwahn-toh vyeh-neh) (How much does it come to?)

  • Un gelato di 2 euro, per favore. (oohn geh-lah-toh dee dooh-eh eh-ooh-roh pehr fah-voh-reh) (A 2-Euro size ice cream, please.)

  • Quali gusti? (kwah-lee goohs-tee) (What flavors?)

  • Ci fa il conto, per favore?/Ci porta il conto? (chee fah eel kohn-toh pehr fah-voh-reh/chee pohr-tah eel kohn-toh) (Will you bring us the bill please?)

A Tip about Tipping: You generally do not tip in an Italian restaurant: Italians and Europeans don't. This is nothing to feel guilty about because waiters are well paid and don't rely on or expect tips to round out their salaries as they do in some other countries.

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