Common Conversational Words and Phrases in Italian
By mastering the basics of conversation in Italian, you put yourself and the person you’re talking to at ease. Everyone should learn essential Italian conversational words and phrases before traveling to Italy. These words and expressions are sure to come up in most everyday conversations.
Being polite is just as important in Italy as anywhere else in this world. The following words and phrases cover most of the pleasantries required for polite conversation. After all, learning to say the expressions of common courtesy in Italian before traveling is just good manners.
per favore; per piacere; per cortesia (please)
Grazie (Thank you)
Molte grazie (Thank you very much.)
Prego! (You’re welcome!)
Si figuri! (It’s nothing.)
Mi scusi. (Excuse me.)
prego (by all means)
Può ripetere, per cortesia? (Can you please repeat.)
Once you’ve mastered the common pleasantries, the next important thing to learn is how to refer to people. The most common way is by using personal pronouns. In Italian, the pronouns (you and they) are complicated by gender and formality. You’ll use slightly different variations of these words depending to whom you are referring and how well you know them.
tu (you [singular])
lei (you [singular/formal])
voi (you (plural/informal])
loro (you (plural/formal])
Use the informal tu (singular you) and voi (plural you) for friends, relatives, younger people, and people you know well. Use the formal lei (singular you) when speaking to people you don’t know well; in situations such as in stores, restaurants, hotels, or pharmacies); and with professors, older people, and your friends’ parents.
The formal loro (plural you) is rarely used and is gradually being replaced by the informal voi when addressing a group of people.
References to people
When meeting people in Italy, be sure to use the appropriate formal title. Italians tend to use titles whenever possible. Use the Lei form when using any of the following titles. A man would be called Signore, which is the same as Mr. or Sir. An older or married woman is called Signora and a young lady is called Signorina.
It is also helpful to know the correct vocabulary term for referring to people based on their age, gender, or relationship to you.
uomo (a man)
donna (a woman)
ragazzo (a boy)
ragazza (a girl)
bambino [M]; bambina [F] (a child)
padre (a father)
madre (a mother)
figlio [M]; figlia [F] (child)
fratello (a brother)
sorella (a sister)
marito (a husband)
moglie (a wife)
amico [M]; amica [F] (a friend)
In Italian, there are four words to cover the English indefinite articles a and an. For masculine words, you would use uno if the word begins with a z or an s and a consonant and you would use un for the rest. For feminine words, you should use ‘un for words beginning with a vowel and una for words beginning with a consonant.
Phrases for travelers
There are some Italian phrases that are particularly helpful to international travelers. Below are several phrases may come in handy during your stay in Italy.
Mi scusi. (Excuse me. [Formal])
Non parlo bene l’italiano. (I don’t speak Italian well.)
Parla inglese? (Do you speak English? [Formal])
Parlo inglese. (I speak English.)
Mi sono perso. [M]; Mi sono persa. [F] (I’m lost.)
Sto cercando il mio albergo. (I’m looking for my hotel.)
Sì, lo so. (Yes, I know.)
Non lo so. (I don’t know.)
Non so dove sia. (I don’t know where it is.)
Non capisco. (I don’t understand.)
Capisco, grazie. (I understand, thanks.)
Può ripetere, per cortesia? (Can you repeat, please? [Formal])
È bello. (It’s beautiful.)
È bellissimo. (It’s very beautiful.)
Vado a casa. (I’m going home.)
Domani visitiamo Venezia. (We’ll visit Venice tomorrow.)
Due cappuccini, per favore. (Two cappuccinos, please.)
Non lo so. (I don’t know.)
Non posso. (I can’t.)
Non potevo. (I couldn’t.)
Non lo faccio. (I won’t do it.)
Non dimenticare! (Don’t forget!)
Lei non mangia la carne. (She doesn’t eat meat.)
Non siamo americani. (We aren’t American.)
Il caffè non è buono. (The coffee isn’t good.)
Non è caro! (It’s not expensive!)
It’s possible to use more than one negative in a sentence. For example, you may say Non capisce niente (He/she doesn’t understand anything). Generally, you may just put non in front of your verb to negate your sentence, such as m‘ama non m‘ama (he/she loves me, he/she loves me not).
Common places and locations
It is also helpful to know the correct vocabulary for some of the common places or locations that you might need or want while traveling in Italy.
il consolato Americano (American consulate)
il ristorante (restaurant)
in campagna (in the country)
in città (in the city)
in montagna (in the mountains)
la casa (house)
la polizia (police)
la stazione dei treni (train station)