Let’s Email in Italian! Part 1: Italian Greetings

Venice: The Grand Canal

Here is some information about how to write an email that will help with our latest discussion in the Conversational Italian! Facebook group.

We have started to talk about how to start an email or a letter. Read below and join the conversation on our Facebook group. I’d love to hear from you!

For more complete details, visit our sister blog, blog.learntravelitalian.com, from which this excerpt was taken. All material is courtesy of Stella Lucente, LLC, and www.learntravelitalian.com.

Italian Greetings for Family Emails, Texts, and Letters

Now that email has become an essential way to communicate, it is important to know how to address family, friends, and work colleagues in writing. In effect, that old-fashioned way of communicating—the letter—has been resurrected in electronic form! Here are some suggestions for greetings and salutations in Italian, depending on the formality of the situation.

For family and friends, most Italian emails will begin with “Cara” for females or “Caro” for males, meaning “Dear.” This greeting is, of course, followed by the first name of the person to whom the email is addressed. Because caro is an adjective, the ending can be modified to match the gender and number of the person it refers to, just as other adjectives are. So cara(e) is used before a female singular/plural person(s) and caro(i) before male singular/plural person(s). Carissimo(a,i,e) is a common variation and means “Dearest.” Many times, no greeting at all is used for close family and friends who communicate frequently.

A note about texting, which is even more informal than email, because texts are usually made only to friends: there is much more variation if a greeting is used, and there are many creative ways to greet someone by text in Italian. One of the most common text greetings is probably “Ciao” for “Hi” or “Bye.” There are many common variations, such as “Ciao bella” for a female, “Ciao bello” for a male, or simply “Bella” or “Bellezza” for a female, all meaning “Hello beautiful/handsome.” If texting in the day or evening, “Buon giorno” or “Buona sera” may be used as well, meaning, “Good morning/Good day” or “Good evening.”

A text is still not acceptable in most situations for a first or a formal communication, although email is now often the preferred way of establishing an initial contact in business.

You Will Need to Know…
Italian Greetings for  Formal Emails and Letters

Letters are still frequently used in Italy. Several common salutations are used when writing a formal email in Italian. These salutations have been established over many centuries of formal communication.

A formal Italian letter will commonly begin with the Italian word for “Gentle,” which is “Gentile,” followed by a title, such as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, and then a surname. For example: Gentile Signor* Verde or Gentilissima Signora Russo. The Italian word “Egregio,” which used to mean “Esquire,” is still commonly used in very formal business communications, but in these instances, it is translated as “Dear.” “Pregiatissimo” is the most formal type of greeting and is similar to the English phrase “Dear Sir.” This greeting is only rarely used in Italy today.

This all seems simple enough, although a typical formal Italian greeting is often abbreviated and can seem a bit off-putting unless one is fluent in the abbreviations as well. Our salutations above are often written as follows: Gentile Sig. Verde and Gen.ma Sig.na Russo. The table in the next section lists the most commonly used abbreviations.

Also, in Italian, even more than in English, if one holds a professional title, such as “doctor” or “lawyer,” this title is always used as the form of address when speaking and in writing. In fact, those who have attended an Italian university or have an important job title are usually addressed by other Italians as “Dottore” or “Dottoressa.” A medical doctor is addressed the same way but is known specifically as “un medico” (used for men and women).

You Will Need to Know…
Commonly Used Italian Abbreviations for Business Greetings

Avv. Avvocato Lawyer
Dott. Dottore Doctor (male or female)
Dott.ssa Dottoressa Female Doctor
Egr. Egregio Dear (Esquire)
  Ingegnere Engineer
Gent.mi Gentilissimi(e) Dear (plural) Very Kind
Gent.mo Gentilissimo(a) Dear (singular) Very Kind
Preg. Pregiatissimo Dear
Sig. Signor Mister (Mr.)
Sig.na Signorina Miss
Sig.ra Signora Misses (Mrs.)
Sig.ri Signori Mr. and Mrs./Messers
Spett. Spettabile Messers

*When signore is followed by someone’s first or last name, in writing and when addressing someone directly, the “e” from signore is dropped to form signor.