When meeting new people in Italy, you will most likely find yourself asking either ‘tu come ti chiami?’ or ‘Lei come si chiama?’ Both mean ‘what is your name’ but the first version is informal, and can be used with people of the same age or younger, and the second version is formal to be used with people of an older age or in a business / formal situation. Tu means you informal and Lei means you formal.
If in doubt, use Lei and you may be invited to use Tu with the expression ‘Diamoci del tu?’ (Shall we use the informal with each other?)
Male or Female? Gender confusing names
If asking the name of a male, you may be surprised to hear them answer Andrea or Nicola as these are female names in the UK and US. The pronunciation in Italian is different, however, with the stress on the middle syllable, rather than the first one as it is in English. These are typical male names in Italy, along with others which can be gender confusing to non-Italians such as Gianmaria, Luca, Rosario and Toni (short for Antonio).
There are some typical expressions we can use in addition to asking someone’s name when we meet them, such as:
Ciao - Hello
Piacere - Nice to meet you
Di dove sei / di dov’è? - Where are you from (informal and formal)?
Sono di ... - I am from ...
Che lavoro fai / che lavoro fa? What’s your job (informal and formal)?
Mi chiamo ... - My name is ...
* * *
Other Italian Language Articles:
Alesha Keene is an Oxford graduate of Italian who is now back in London after years spent living and working in Rome as a language teacher and PR consultant. Alesha is CEO and Italian teacher at Alesha’s Italian Masterclass, which runs Italian immersion courses at authentic Italian cafe AltaMarea in Borough Market (London Bridge). You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook or Twitter. Her website it www.italianmasterclass.co.uk.