Good manners are extremely important in Italy. Its all part of the “bella figura” or making a good impression. Italians put great emphasis on using please and thank you – they’ll even thank you for thanking them! So if you’re heading to Italy you really need to know how to do it! Here’s a quick guide!
The simplest way to say please is Per favore (pronounced per fav-or-ray) literally meaning As a favour or If you please?
It’s polite to use per favore when asking a question or requesting something.
e.g I would like a coffee please becomes Vorrei un caffé per favore (pronounced Vorray un café per fav-or-ray)
Per favore is the most commonly used form of Please but there are other forms including Per piacere, pronounced per pee-ah-chair-ray, and Per cortesia, pronounced per cor-te-zee-ah. These are equivalent to asking Would you be kind enough in English although confusingly they are actually less formal ways to say Please!
If you’re not sure whether the situation you are in is formal or informal though, or you just want to play it safe, stick to Per favore!
Grazie or Thank You, comes from Grazia meaning gratitude or consideration. But, sadly, it’s one of the most commonly mispronounced words by non-Italians.
A lot of visitors say Graht-see. Italians, however, pronounce all the letters in words (except maybe the odd g or h here and there, but we’ll save that for another time!). So to make a “bella figura” Grazie should be pronounced Graht-see-eh, running the syllables into eachother and even rolling the r if you’re feeling super-Italian – grrrrraht-see-eh!!
And depending on how thankful you are for something, you can embellish your Grazie.
Grazie Mille, pronounced Graht-see-eh Meel-leh, literally means a thousand thank yous or thanks a lot.
Grazie Tante, pronounced Graht-see-eh Tan-teh, means thank you very much.
Grazie di tutto, pronounced Graht-see-eh di too-toh, means thanks for everything.
Grazie di cuore, pronounced Graht-see-eh dee qwor-ay, is the equivalent of thanks from the bottom of my heart or sincere thanks.
And if you are REALLY grateful you could go stratospheric and use the slightly over the top Grazie infinite, pronounced Graht-see-eh in-fin-neet-ay, to mean infinite thanks!! This is super-polite but use it sparingly unless you’re infinitely thankful for everything!!
You’ll hear this a lot in Italy but confusingly the word Prego, pronounced pray-go, can also mean a number of things depending on the situation.
If you’ve just said Grazie to someone, they may reply with Prego literally meaning You’re welcome or My pleasure.
Waiters may also come to your table to take your order and open with Prego, which in that situation would mean something like Can I help you or Please?
During your meal the waiter may come to your table to clear your plates asking Posso, pronounced pohs-so, meaning May I (clear the table) to which you can reply Prego, to mean Please do.
Or you may be queuing to get off a bus and someone will indicate you can get off in front of them by saying Prego, in this instance to mean After you.
Prego can be a confusing one to get used to but if you use it, it will earn you more lovely brownie points for good manners!
Other alternatives also include Non c’è problema, pronounced Non chay proh-bleh-ma, or Di niente, pronounced Dee knee-ehn-tay, meaning No problem.
So, now there is no excuse for not making a bella figura! All that remains is for me to say grazie di cuore for your company and to ask if there are any other useful phrases that I can help you with, per favore? Leave me a comment below if you’d like some help with a word or phrase?
One last thing – I am super, super-excited to confirm that DreamDiscoverItalia has been shortlisted for Italy Magazine’s 2015 Blogger Awards in the “Best Art & Culture” category! Thank you for all the nominations! So if you’ve ever enjoyed reading this blog now is the time to vote for DreamDiscoverItalia to win by clicking below and then clicking on the vote bar under DreamDiscoverItalia
Voting runs until Christmas 2015 and you can vote from any mobile device – each one counts as a separate vote, from what I understand, so you can vote once from your laptop, plus once from your phone, plus once from your iPad, once from your work PC etc etc, you get the picture! Grazie mille!!
And finally! If you’ve found this useful, you might also want to check out more of our DreamDiscoverItalia Italian 101 ideas, for example, such as How to say hello, How to ask do you speak English, How to say Happy Birthday or How to say I love you, all of which are easy to learn! I can’t promise that we’ll make you fluent in Italian overnight, but with the help of our Italian 101 posts you can learn a little and often and hopefully have a bit of fun doing it! Grazie mille!!
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