How to say “How are you?” in Italian

If you don’t know how to say “how are you?” in Italian and want to be sure about the proper way to greet someone without that fear of anything being lost in translation, you have to consider some factors which are really important when we greet in Italian:

  • The time of Day/Night.
  • Is it a Formal or Informal situation.
  • The Differences between greetings and salutations.


The most common way to greet friends, family and people with whom we have an informal relationship is CIAO. We can use this word at any time of day or night to greet or say goodbye to someone.

After greeting our friends it’s normal to want to know how they are. When we are in an informal situation we usually address people with the second person singular pronounTU. So the most frequent questions are:

  • (TU) COME STAI? – Italian verb conjugated in the 2nd person singular.
  • COME VA? – Italian verb conjugated in the 3rd person singular.

In this latter example “Come va?” translating as “How’s life?” in English does not refer directly to the person, but to life in general. This is an example of an apparently incomplete phrase making perfect sense in an informal setting, where the meaning of the question is implied and understood simultaneously in a shortened version. The complete sentence would be “come va (la vita)?”

Depending on your current disposition and perhaps the day of the week which you are asked, you can answer such questions in a multitude of different ways: BENE means good, ABBASTANZA BENE translates as quite good with COSÌ COSÌ meaning so so, etc.


In Italian it is very common to address superiors or adults with whom we are less familiar with by using the third person singular pronoun: LEI, used both for men and women. This form is considered more polite. In these cases “ciao” is also replaced by other words.

Italian greetings

Typical formal greetings include:

  • BUONGIORNO/BUON GIORNO – Good morning.
  • BUON POMERIGGIO – Good afternoon.
  • BUONASERA/BUONA SERA – Good evening.
  • SALVE is one of those very useful greetings in that it can be used at any time of the day.

When it comes to goodbyes and farewells you may well have stumbled upon or heard of “ARRIVEDERCI” the single most common way to say goodbye formally in Italian.

And if we want to ask someone “how are you?” in a formal situation we might say

  • COME STA? Italian verb conjugated in the 3rd person singular.
  • COME VA? as you may have noted, is the same question we use in the informal situation and is also a perfectly acceptable option in the more formal setting.

We really hope you have enjoyed our short lesson today about basic Italian greetings and salutations. Now that you have successfully learned how to say “how are you?” in Italian, why not discover more about the wonderful Italian language?

We are just a click away, so contact us and we will be more than happy to give you any further information you require about our Italian courses.

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