Do you want to know some pleasantries of the Italian language?
Everybody knows that starting a conversation in a foreign country might not be easy. Pleasantries are usually what saves you from the awkward feeling of not knowing what to say, especially when you don’t know the language well.
In this article, I will offer you some useful Italian phrases that can be used in a conversation with a native speaker. In particular, the many ways to say “how are you” in Italian.
Keep in mind that, while English is limited to having “You” as both a formal and informal interlocution, Italian has two forms: Tu and Lei.
Tu is the informal variant, used with family, friends, and acquaintances. Lei, instead, is the formal variant that is used as a form of courtesy towards people with whom we are not yet familiar or to whom we want to show more respect.
Don’t worry if it seems complicated right now, in the article I’ll explain which variants are more informal and conversational and which ones should be reserved for more official settings.
Ways to say “how are you” in Italian
Let’s get down to business and explore ten different ways of saying “How are you” in Italian plus an extra bonus.
“How are you?” in Italian – Come stai? / Come sta?
I’ll start with the expression that literally translates the English phrase “How are you?” in Italian, i.e., Come stai? / Come sta?.
“How are you doing?” in Italian – Come va?
This is the way to ask “How are you doing?” in Italian. It is a synonym of Come stai?, and it’s also used in informal situations. In general, I’d say that nowadays it’s much more common to hear the former than the latter.
Come va? is an Italian phrase that you can use in both the spoken and the written language, for example, in texts or WhatsApp messages.
“How’s life?” in Italian – Come va la vita? / Come vanno le cose?
Come va la vita? means “How’s life?” and is another informal way to say “How are you?” in Italian. It’s more common in the spoken language than in the written one, and it is used in a social contexts, like for example when you are with your friends.
Alternatively, there’s Come vanno le cose?, which means “How are things?”. It’s less colloquial than the other but still used in an informal context. Your family might be asking Come vanno le cose? when they want to know how your life’s various aspects are going, and if you’re happy with how things are or not.
“How’s it going?” in Italian – Come butta?
The meaning of Come butta? is very similar to Come va la vita? and Come vanno le cose?, but is far more colloquial and personal. This is perhaps the most informal Italian expression to ask how you are. In fact, it is often used between longtime friends since it implies close relations with your interlocutor.
If we want to give it a precise connotation, Come butta? is very close to the meaning of “What’s been happening?”.
“How have you been?” in Italian – Come te la passi?
Another interesting Italian phrase to say “How are you” is Come te la passi?. While Come ti butta? focuses more on life’s external factors, Come te la passi? focuses on you and how you’re living your life: your health, your economic situation, etc.
“Everything good?” in Italian – Tutto bene? / Tutto ok? / Tutto a posto?
When someone asks you one of these three questions – which, by the way, have all the same meaning – you can answer affirmatively, just using the same words but without the question mark. It’s kind of like the French “ça va” which can be both a question and an answer.
These common Italian phrases – Tutto bene?, Tutto ok?, and Tutto a posto? – usually imply a positive answer. Therefore, if you want to reply that your life could be better, you can say, “Beh, insomma, ci si accontenta.”
“How goes it?” in Italian – Com’è?
Com’è? literally means “What is it like” and is a generic expression to ask about you and your life. It is informal and somewhat conversational, so I wouldn’t advise using it with your boss, but it is ok with a friend.
“What’s up?” in Italian – Che si dice? / Che mi racconti?
With these two Italian conversation phrases, we stray somewhat from the classic “How are you.” However, the general meaning is still the same.
When someone asks you Che si dice? or Che mi racconti? they are interested in news or updates about your life. It’s a bit like asking, “What’s new?” or “What’s going on?”. The answer, in this case, will not be a dry “good” or “bad”, but something more articulate.
“What’s wrong?” in Italian – Che succede? / Qualcosa non va?
The expression Che succede? usually already denotes that something is wrong. It is a question that is asked when the interlocutor is upset about something. It might follow a negative answer to the classic “How are you” and is often used in combination with Qualcosa non va?, which means “Is something wrong?”.
“How are you feeling?” in Italian – Come ti senti? / Come si sente?
Finally, a couple of useful Italian phrases to ask about someone’s health and feelings. They can be translated in English with the question “How are you feeling?”.
Come ti senti? is used when you are being informal (Tu), while Come si sente? (Lei) is its formal equivalent. To be clear, a friend would ask you Come ti senti?, while a doctor would use Come si sente?.
Extra: “How are you today?” in Italian – Come stai oggi?
In Italy, we don’t have a real equivalent of the English “How are you today?”. However, we can translate it literally as Come stai oggi? which is an expression used almost only referring to a state of health.
For example, when a person has been sick for a few days, we can ask, “Come stai oggi?“, which means “How are you feeling today?”.
How to answer the “How are you?” question in Italian
Now that you’ve discovered the ways to say “how are you” in Italian plus the extra “how are you doing today”, it’s time to learn how to answer these questions.
“Good” / “Everything good” in Italian – Bene / Tutto bene
Don’t be afraid to sound rude: In Italy, we don’t mind being blunt. Some people even just shrug their shoulders. If you want to speak Italian like a native, keep in mind that the shorter, the better when answering a question!
“Quite good” in Italian – Abbastanza bene
“Could be better” in Italian – Potrebbe andar meglio
On the contrary, suppose your life is not that good right now. In that case, you can answer Potrebbe andar meglio which means that it could be better.
Another option would be gently and ironically asking your interlocutor to switch to another question with the phrase: Domanda di riserva? (equivalent of “next question”). This way, they will understand that you don’t feel comfortable talking about your life and move on to other topics.
Basic Italian greetings
Let’s now see some other useful Italian phrases that can come in handy on your next trip to Italy: I’m talking about the basic Italian greetings. Don’t worry, it won’t take long! I know your mind is already spinning from the tons of new words you’ve learned from the beginning of this article.
Ciao vs Buongiorno/Buonasera
I believe you already know the most famous way to say “hello” in Italian: Ciao. However, keep in mind that Ciao is only used in informal situations. If you want to address someone formally, you should use Buongiorno (“good morning” in Italian) or Buonasera (“good evening” in Italian).
Hop to the next article for a comprehensive guide on Italian greetings and how to say “hello” in Italian.
If you are in a situation where Ciao is too informal, but Buongiorno and Buonasera are way too formal, you can use a jolly: Salve. With this simple word, you’re still greeting people properly, without sounding rude.
Of course, there are grammatical rules that define the use of Salve, but let’s not dwell on it now. We’ll leave them for another article.
Now that you’ve found out how to say “hello” and “how are you”, learn how to say “thank you” in Italian too!
If you’re interested in learning the Italian language more seriously, check out these books and apps, as well as this epic list of Italian learning resources which includes podcasts, online courses, and even YouTube channels!