Learning to be be Polite in Italian: Greetings and Courtesies to Teach Students

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Lesson Plan

  1. Print out this list of vocabulary from the media gallery and have your students study it before the lesson.
  1. Collect pictures of people in different situations. Think about situations where we use greetings or other politeness phrases and get pictures of people doing these things. You should have pictures of people saying hello and goodbye at different times of day, and people eating, drinking, or giving and taking things from each other. You might also get pictures of people sneezing or bumping into each other. If you don’t have time to search for a bunch of pictures, write some situations on a worksheet or on the board, either in Italian or in the students’ native language, depending on their ability.

  2. Make sure students know the following vocabulary and how it’s used.


Buongiorno (Good morning/Good day) (formal and informal greeting and leave-taking, used until 4-5pm)

Buona sera (Good evening) (formal and informal greeting and leave taking, used from 4-5pm until late at night.)

Buona notte (Good night) (formal and informal leave-taking, used late at night especially upon leaving or going to bed)

Per favore (Please) (same use as English) Grazie/Mille grazie (Thank you/Thank you very much) (same use as English)

Prego (You’re welcome) (Used in response to “Thank you.” Also used often to be generally polite. It might be used to give a stranger permission to pass on the street, or by a waiter after someone has ordered.)

Scusi (Excuse me) (formal, used to beg someone’s pardon or get someone’s attention)

Scusa(mi) (Excuse me) (informal, used to beg someone’s pardon or get someone’s attention)

Permesso (Excuse me) formal and informal, used to let someone pass or to ask someone if you can pass

Salute! (To health!) Said when someone sneezes, or when toasting drinks

Buon compleanno! (Happy Birthday!)

Buon Natale! (Merry Christmas!)

Buon viaggio! (Have a nice trip!)

Buon appetite! (Enjoy your meal!)

  1. Give the students some pictures of the different situations and have them work with a partner to decide which words and phrases are appropriate. Some situations may have more than one answer. Ask students to discuss why they would use that particular phrase, either in Italian or in their native language. Call on some pairs to show a picture and share their answers with the class.

  2. This activity can be followed up with a short role play, where students invent conversations to go with the situations. The students can then perform their conversations for the class, and/or write the conversations for extra speaking and writing practice. In this lesson, students will learn and practice some Italian greetings and courtesies. Knowing how to use a language appropriately is as important as knowing how to say things. Here students will look at different situations and discuss which words or phrases they would use in those situations.

Source: author’s experience