italian how are you

How to say How Are You in Italian – Basic Italian 101

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The question how to say How are you in Italian resembles a typical question from English speakers. Indeed, you can use such phrases in both formal and informal situations. Of course, there are other greetings in the Italian language as well. But these are good questions to begin a conversation, especially in a foreign country in a new language. However, you might want to take notice of the following differences. In fact, Italians have quite a few variations that add different connotations to their meaning.

For one thing, the standard translation “Come stai?” may be considered impolite when used with a stranger. After all, Italians use the third person when speaking with someone they do not know to show respect. The variation “Come sta?” would then be more appropriate. But there is more to it, so keep reading to discover all about the different ways of asking others about their state and answering them.

Different Phrases To Say How Are You In Italian

Come sta?

Italians use this variation whenever they are talking to a professional in a formal conversation. For example, when speaking with esteemed acquaintances or people older than the speaker. If someone may listen to your conversation with people other than friends and colleagues in a public place, always use this formal variation.

Usually, you would use such variants with physicians, professors, and, in general, with educated people. But it may sound too formal in a retail store or an Italian café (“bar” in Italian). Especially when the Italian speaker acts friendly. For clarity, the third person shows respect, but it also displays detachment in the wrong context. Using the third person in a friendly conversation implies that you do not want anything to do with the other person besides what you were there to do in the first place.

Come stai?

The informal version of How are you in Italian reserved for friend or family members. As mentioned above you only this variation with people you know well. In all other instances you use the formal equivalent”Come sta?” which has the same meaning.

Tutto bene? (Va tutto bene?)

In most convos, you would ask “Come stai?” or “Come sta?” perfunctorily. But if your goal is to inquire about the other person’s state of being, you would use the contracted question “Tutto bene?” or the complete one “Va tutto bene?

The literal translation is “Is everything alright?”. Often, the tone of voice displays apprehension or genuine interest. Sometimes, Italians add some form of evidence in the upcoming sentence. For example, an Italian may ask: “Va tutto bene? Ti vedo bianco in volto.” (Are you alright? You look pale. lit. Your face is white.). In this case, Italians often exaggerate the supporting evidence to humor the person or because they want to highlight how much they care for you.

Come va?

The Italian version of “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” While it’s not exactly slang, it is only used in informal situations, e.g. with a friend.

how to say how are you in italian
A coffee shop is always a good place to meet friends and ask them, how are you? – Image by aldofilippini from Pixabay

Come va la giornata? (How is your day?)

Some variations of how are you in Italian aim to give the old question a spin. So, Italians may slightly change the question by adding an object or altering the structure. But the overall meaning is the same, and people reply to them by focusing on the object or element that the modified question highlights to keep up the game. Here are other examples:

  • Come vanno le cose? (How are things going?)
  • Come te la stai passando? (What’s up?)
  • (Oggi) Che mi dici? (What news do you have for me today?)
  • Sei sempre più bella! Qual è il tuo segreto? (Every day, you are more beautiful than the day before! What is your secret?)

It is quite common for older men to use the last variation to chat with young ladies. Although it may look like flirtatious behavior, the tone is often playful. You could even hear such a compliment in a retail store. Especially when an old lady enters the store and the retail owner tries to curry favor with the old customer.

Com’è?

Here is the slang version of How are you in Italian. Sometimes, you may hear outdated variants like “Che si dice?“. But the current, most widespread variation is the shorter “Com’è?“(lit. How is it?). It may also register as “What’s going on?”. But its form is so generic that people may reply to both, one, or neither.

Slang variants among teens vary from place to place. On top of that, Italian dialects are different languages and may have their versions too. For example, in Naples, people say: “Cumm staj?” (the “m” sound is longer, and the “j” is the approximant /j/ sound of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Even though some people would pronounce it as /ji/ or /je/.). In any case, all the variants ask the same question. So, you can follow them up with one of the suggested replies below.

Come ti butta?

Another slang variation of the above. “Come ti butta?” literally means “How does it throw you?” An Italian version of the English “How’s it going?”

Meaning and replies

So far, we looked at how to say how are you in Italian. But what are possible answers to this question? You do not need to go into too much detail when replying. You can give a standard reply and move on, in the same way as might do with a native English speaker. But there is no explicit social rule in Italy. So, the way people reply often shows their moods or characters.

Some Italians may start telling you stories about their day. Especially when they are going through a bad one. It is not uncommon for people to interrupt whoever is replying as well. But you would wait a couple of minutes before stopping the conversation by explaining why you cannot stay or have time to chitchat.

The only time an Italian would avoid posing the question “Come stai?” (or any variation) is when tragedy strikes. Besides that, you can use it anytime as a form of greeting or out of genuine interest. And here are some of the most common replies.

Tutto bene, e tu? (I am fine. And you?)

This is the most polite way to reply. Of course, many Italians never stray away from such an answer. Even when they are going through their worst day ever. Only press them on fake replies if you badly care about their physical or mental health.

It is a short reply you can use every time to move on to the next subject. If you do not want the other person to drag the conversation, you have two choices. You could either avoid asking “e tu?“, thus remaining silent. Or you can talk about what you want to say. Of course, most Italians would prefer having a little chat before getting to the point.

Bene, grazie. (Good, thanks.)

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