How to Translate GOOD EVENING to Italian (Buonasera) + When NOT to Say It

Updated on November 10, 2023

Learn how to translate good evening to Italian and when to use it, how to respond to it, and more!

If you’ve been to Italy before you probably know how it goes. You’ve been practicing your Italian (at least the basics) because you want to be polite and greet the locals in their own language.

You walk into a restaurant and happily exclaim “Ciao!” or “Buongiorno” and you’re a bit deflated when they respond with something completely different – “Buonasera.”

Often you’ll hear a “Buonasera” (good evening) because it’s past noon.

So, let’s take a look at how to greet people in Italy in the afternoon/evening.

How to Translate Good Evening to Italian

Buonasera – Buona means good and sera means evening.

Buonasera is pronounced bwoh-nah SAY-rah.

Listen to it here:

Good To Know:  The two words are combined to form one: buonasera, but technically both forms are acceptable.

Sample Phrases Using Buonasera

Buonasera signora – Good evening madam

Buonasera signore – Good evening sir

Buonasera tutti! – Good evening all!

Buonasera signori – Good evening (to a group – both ladies and gentlemen)

Buonasera, ecco le notizie del giorno – Good evening, here is today’s news (the evening news on TV)

Buonasera, avete prenotato? – Good evening, did you make a reservation? (when you’re greeted in a restaurant)

Good To Know:  Buonasera is a fairly formal greeting, in all situations.

When to Say Buonasera

What Time of Day to Say Buonasera

Of course, you won’t say buonasera in the morning, but, the time of day we say buonasera is a little controversial and often confusing. If it’s 5 pm and later, it’s a no-brainer.

In the South of Italy, you will often find people saying buonasera after 12:00 noon, which is technically correct, as buonasera functions for both ‘good afternoon’ AND ‘good evening’ (buon pomeriggio (the literal ‘good afternoon’) is virtually obsolete, as least as a greeting).

In the North of Italy, we might continue saying buongiorno until a bit later in the day. At 2.30 pm it’s anyone’s guess!

Sometimes one person might say ‘buongiorno’ and get a ‘buonasera’ in return, but don’t stress too much about it. If you want, just smile wait for the other person to greet you, and then return their greeting!

Good To Know:  Don’t stress about the exact time you switch over from buongiorno to buonasera.

Buongiorno is good morning
Buon pomeriggio is literally good afternoon, but you’ll hardly ever hear it used as a greeting.
Buonasera – means both good afternoon and good evening
Buonanotte – good night (late, when you’re going to bed)

Part of the Conversation or Encounter to Use Buonasera

Buonasera is generally used at the beginning of a sentence as a greeting.

Who to Say Buonasera To

You can say buonasera any time you’re greeting someone in the afternoon or evening.  You can say it to friends, family, children, adults, and people you don’t know personally.

If you’re traveling, some examples of who to say buonasera to include:

  • shopkeepers
  • restaurant hostesses  
  • airline or car-rental agents
  • taxi drivers
  • museum staff
  • bartenders serving you Aperol spritzes and stuzzichini at aperitivo
  • your traveling companions
  • people you’re calling on the phone (to make reservations, say hello, ask a question)

You will hear buonasera in many places, including:

In a restaurant:
Buonasera, avete un tavolo per due?”
Good evening, do you have a table for two?

At a performance or a formal dinner:
Buonasera signori. Benvenuti!”
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome!

In a store:
Buonasera, posso aiutarLa?”
Good afternoon can I help you?

When friends meet up for the evening:
Buonasera ragazzi!  Come state?”
Good evening, guys!  How are you?
*This is a casual situation, but you can still use buonasera

On the telephone:
Buonasera Signora Mazzi!”
Good evening, Mrs. Mazzi.

Good To Know:  Buonasera is (semi-)formal so there’s usually no kissing on the cheeks as a greeting.

Alternatives to Buonasera

You can say benvenuto/benvenuta/benvenuti (male/female/mixed), which means ‘welcome!’

In areas in northern Italy that border France or Germany you might hear bonsoir (which is French) or guten abend (German).

In casual situations, you can say ciao, which means ‘hello.’

Difference Between Buonasera and Buona Serata

You may hear people say buona serata. This is slightly different. It means ‘have a good evening’ and is usually used to say goodbye.

For example:

Buona serata, Giorgio.  A domain!
Have a great evening Giorgio. See you tomorrow!

Buona serata signori.
Have a good evening ladies and gentlemen.

Ti/vi/le auguro una buona serata!
Have a good evening (informal, plural, formal).

Good To Know:  You can also use buona serata on the phone if you are wishing someone a good evening.

Good To Know:  Body language – buona serata is also used among friends so you may do cheek kisses!

Example Conversation Using Buonasera and Buona Serata

Concierge Carlo:  Buonasera, Signora Jones!
Mrs. Jones:  Buonasera, Carlo! 
Concierge Carlo:  Posso prenotare un tavolo al nostro ristorante per Lei?
Mrs Jones:  Grazie, Carlo, ma stasera ceno fuori con mia figlia. 
Concierge Carlo:  Chiamo un taxi per Lei.  Buona serata!

Concierge Carlo:  Good evening, Mrs. Jones!
Mrs. Jones: Good evening, Carlo!
Concierge Carlo: May I reserve a table at our restaurant for you?
Mrs. Jones:  Thank you, Carlo, but this evening I’m going out to dinner with my daughter.
Concierge Carlo:  I’ll call you a taxi.  Have a good evening!

How to Respond to Good Evening (Buonasera) in Italian

Buonasera – Good evening

Buonasera, anche a te!  – Good evening to you too!

Anche a lei! – Good evening to you too! (formal)

Arrivederci – Goodbye

A presto – See you soon

A domani/lunedi – See you tomorrow, Monday, etc.

Buona serata – Have a good evening!

When to NOT Say Buonasera

Don’t say buonasera when you’re going to bed.  Say buonanotte (good night) instead.

Buona Sera (Signorina) – The Song

The song Buona Sera (sometimes called Buona Sera Signorina) was written by Carl Sigman and Peter de Rose, and has been famously performed by many, including:

  • Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti), a famous US actor of Italian descent who often performed with the comedian Jerry Lewis in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
  • Louis Prima (Louis Leo Prima), a New Orleans singer with Italian parents who immigrated to the US.   He brought his Italian roots into his music and helped encourage others to do so.

Fun Fact:Le signorine buonasera” was the name given to female presenters on Italian TV from the ‘50s onwards.  This is because they would introduce the evening’s program with “Signori e Signore, buonasera” (Good evening, ladies and gentlemen). For many years on TV in Italy and right up to the present day, the role was given exclusively to females, while males (who were less attractive!) were more often on the radio.

Now you know how to translate good evening to Italian and when and how to use it. With that, I wish you a buona serata!*

*assuming it’s evening where you are!

Good Evening in Italian FAQ

How do you respond to buonasera?

You can respond in kind, with buonasera.

How do you greet someone in the evening in Italian?

You say buonasera.

What time of day do you say buonasera?

You say buonasera in the afternoon or evening.

What is a typical Italian greeting?

Ciao/buongiorno/buonasera are all typical Italian greetings.

What is the difference between buona sera and buona serata?

Buonasera is usually a greeting while buona serata is used to wish someone a good evening when you take your leave.

Can you say buona giornata in the evening?

No, buona giornata means ‘have a good day,’ and it’s used in the daytime. If you want to wish someone a good evening, say buona serata.