The Italian You Won’t Learn in Class: Happy Birthday!

Oct 24, 2016


Buon Compleanno!

Happy Birthday!

A guest post by Valeria Biancalani

Birthdays are an ideal moment to express our love to relatives (parenti) and friends (amici), but when we are about to write a greeting card (un biglietto d’auguri) or send a text to give our best wishes to someone, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right phrase (la frase giusta) that distinguishes our message from others.

In Italian there are many different ways to wish somebody happy birthday. The most common is Buon compleanno, but we also have other more general expressions, such as Auguri, Auguroni or Augurissimi. These expressions aren’t related exclusively to birthdays and can also be used to give our best wishes for other special occasions (altre occasioni speciali), such as Christmas, a wedding or the birth of a baby.

Apart from these common ways to wish your nearest and dearest a happy birthday, there are many other phrases you could use as well. Some are very formal, others more romantic and quite a few are humorous and sarcastic (my favorite!). So the key is to choose the most suitable one, depending on the kind of relationship you have with il festeggiato (the person celebrating the birthday):

    *Cento di questi giorni — literally, a hundred of these days; many happy returns

    *Spero che tutti i tuoi desideri si avverino — may all your wishes come true

    *Questo è un giorno da ricordare perché è nata una persona davvero speciale — today is a day to remember because a very special person was born

    *Non importa quanti anni hai ma quanti te ne senti –- it’s not how old you are, but how old you feel

    *Sei come il buon vino: più invecchi, più migliori –- You are like a good wine: you get better with age

    *Su con la vita! Non sei vecchio…diciamo che sei vintage –- Cheer up! You’re not old … let’s just say you’re vintage

Here are some other useful words and expressions related to birthdays:

Festa di compleanno — birthday party

Festa a sorpresa — surprise party

Festeggiare — to celebrate

Regalo — present

Incartare un regalo — to wrap a present

Scartare un regalo — to unwrap a present

Torta –- cake

Candele/candeline — candles

Spegnere le candele — to blow out the candles

Esprimere un desiderio — to make a wish

Click here to watch a video and discover how to pronounce these Italian words and expressions related to birthdays.

Valeria Biancalani is an Italian teacher and the founder of Parlando Italiano, an Italian language school that offers Italian lessons online with native and qualified tutors. For more about Valeria, check out her Youtube channel and Facebook page.

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language, now available as an audiobook, and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered.

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