Welcome to this guide to saying “congratulations” in Italian!
We Italians are cheerful people, and we give a lot of importance to celebration. Big or small, we like to find a way to honour achievements and occasions.
So how do you say “congratulations” in Italian?
This is a very good question, and it has several answers. Think of how many ways there are to congratulate someone in English: “well done”, “best wishes”, “good for you”…
And like in English, the Italian congratulation words you should use depend on the situation. So how do you know when you should use complimenti or vogliate gradire le nostre congratulazioni ed i nostri migliori auguri?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s what we’ll cover in the article:
Table of contents
- How To Say “Congratulations” in Italian: Congratulazioni!
- When to Use Complimenti for Congratulations in Italian
- When to Use Auguri and Felicitazioni for Congratulations in Italian
- How to Say “Congratulations” to Someone Who Did a Good Job in Italian
- Examples of Congratulations in Italian for Engagements and Weddings
- What Congratulations to Use in Italian for the Arrival of a Baby
- How to Say “To Congratulate” in Italian: Congratularsi
- How to Say “Many Congratulations” in Italian: Molte Congratulazioni
- How to Respond to Congratulations in Italian
- Now You Know How to Say “Congratulations” Like an Italian!
Let’s dive in!
How To Say “Congratulations” in Italian: Congratulazioni!
The most literal way to say “congratulations” in Italian is congratulazioni.
With it, you get phrases such as le mie congratulazioni (“my congratulations”) or even le mie più sincere congratulazioni (“my most sincere congratulations”).
As you’ll notice, “congratulations” and congratulazioni look very similar. They are cognates: words from different languages that look similar and have the same meaning. Olly Richards emphasises their use in his Italian Uncovered course. Language learners should take advantage of cognates because they make learning quicker.
So, it’s easier for you to remember congratulazioni because it resembles the English word. But it isn’t the only noun you can use to express your congratulations.
In fact, it is a bit too formal for casual conversation, and it’s reserved for big occasions. It’s appropriate for weddings or the arrival of a baby. On the other hand, you wouldn’t use it to congratulate your friend on a cake they have baked.
If you’ve studied Italian for a little while already, chances are you’ve come across words like auguri, felicitazioni, and complimenti. Depending on the context, you might have assumed they also translate to “congratulations”.
In some cases, you might have been right! But even if they’re all sometimes used to express congratulations, you can’t always swap one of them for the other.
In fact, they all work best in different situations.
When to Use Complimenti for Congratulations in Italian
Complimenti literally means “compliments” in Italian. (Yes, it’s another pair of cognates!)
You can often use complimenti to congratulate someone, especially when you want to express your admiration.
Here are some examples:
- Complimenti, questo piatto che hai cucinato è buonissimo! – “Congratulations, this dish you cooked is very good!”
- La tua canzone è piaciuta a tutti, complimenti! – “Everyone liked your song, congratulations!”
- Ho visto che hai preso un bel voto all’esame. Complimenti! – “I saw that you got a good mark on your exam. Congratulations!”
While congratulazioni is quite formal and reserved to big events, complimenti is more relaxed. And even if congratulazioni is mostly genuine, complimenti can often be ironic.
- Complimenti, ti sei fatto prendere in giro – “Congratulations, you let yourself be fooled.”
- Hai perso una partita facile, complimenti – “You’ve lost an easy match, congratulations.”
But don’t be afraid to use it when you mean well! It’s one of the most popular ways to say congratulations in Italian.
When to Use Auguri and Felicitazioni for Congratulations in Italian
Auguri translates to “wishes” in English. You often find it paired with the adjective tanti (“many”) to form the phrase tanti auguri (“best wishes”).
Auguri is used on specific occasions, which we can categorize in two ways:
- recurrent events
- pre-event time
Let’s make this a little clearer.
By recurrent events, I mean birthdays, anniversaries, holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s, and occasions like Mother’s or Father’s Day. They are special days that happen every so often, not a one-time thing.
On these occasions, you could also express your best wishes by saying buon [occasion]. Examples include buon compleanno (“happy birthday”) and buon natale (“Merry Christmas”).
By pre-event time, I mean congratulations for the future. This could be to a friend who just told you they will marry soon. Or on the day of your friend’s wedding, you can wish them the best for their married life: Tantissimi auguri per la vostra vita insieme.
Watch out, though: if you’re congratulating your friend on having gotten engaged, you would use congratulazioni. However, if you’re congratulating them for their upcoming wedding ceremony, use auguri.
Felicitazioni can be an alternative to both auguri and congratulazioni, but it is quite formal, so it’s rarely used. You could use it with someone that you address with the formal “you” (Lei) and with whom you’re not on close terms.
As you can imagine, the line between when to use all these words is never clear-cut. It will become easier to use the right expressions at the right time once you get used to the language.
When I learn a new language and find myself in this type of situation, I make sure to observe what the natives do.
As a native Italian speaker, I’ll give you a few starting points. Let’s go over some specific Italian congratulation phrases!
How to Say “Congratulations” to Someone Who Did a Good Job in Italian
In Italian, when someone is good at something, we say they’re bravo (masculine) or brava (feminine).
There isn’t a literal translation of the adjective in English, but when it’s used on its own, bravo/a is often the equivalent of “well done”.
- Hai passato l’esame, brava! – “You have passed the exam, well done!”
- Bravo, sei riuscito a risolvere il problema! – “You’ve managed to solve the problem, well done!”
Ottimo lavoro (“great work”) is another way of saying “well done” or “good job” in Italian. That’s what you could tell someone who has completed a task well.
- Siete riusciti a trovare il pezzo mancante del puzzle. Ottimo lavoro. – “You have managed to find the missing piece of the jigsaw. Well done.”
Speaking of… Getting a new job is a thrilling experience. It’s great to know that one’s efforts have paid off. If you want to recognize the big achievement like that is getting a new job, you can say congratulazioni per il nuovo lavoro.
Auguri also works in this case, because you would wish them success throughout their new career path.
If you’re speaking to someone in informal terms, you could even say in bocca al lupo instead of auguri. It literally translates to “in the wolf’s mouth”, but it’s the Italian way to say “break a leg”.
If you were to congratulate someone on retiring, saying congratulazioni per la pensione or auguri per la pensione is probably the safest option.
Examples of Congratulations in Italian for Engagements and Weddings
“Engagement” in Italian is fidanzamento. To congratulate someone on their engagement, you can simply say congratulazioni and felicitazioni. Or you could choose to use the full phrase: Congratulazioni per il tuo fidanzamento.
(If you’re addressing the couple, use the plural phrase: Congratulazioni per il vostro fidanzamento.)
Like we saw earlier in the post, congratulazioni is the popular word to congratulate someone on their wedding.
As “marriage” is matrimonio and “wedding” is nozze, the full phrase would be congratulazione di matrimonio or congratulazione di nozze.
But there are a few more ways to share your best wishes on this special occasion.
Usually, the group of guests will shout viva gli sposi (“long live the spouses”) or evviva (“hurray” or “cheers”) over a brindisi (“toast”). They’ll say cin cin as they clink their glasses.
In a wedding message, maybe on a card, you can write tante belle cose (“many beautiful things”). It’s short for ti/vi auguro tante belle cose (“I wish you many beautiful things”).
What Congratulations to Use in Italian for the Arrival of a Baby
If someone you know is awaiting the arrival of a baby, you will need some phrases to congratulate them.
I’m not only thinking of the birth, but also a few other occasions. As Italy has a strong religious culture, for example, you might have to congratulate parents for the battesimo (“baptism”) of their newborns.
Here are a few phrases you might want to use with expecting or new parents:
- Felicitazioni/auguri/congratulazioni per la tua gravidanza – “Congratulations on your pregnancy.”
- Felicitazioni/auguri/congratulazioni per la dolce attesa – “Congratulations on the sweet expectation.”
- Congratulazioni/congratulazioni per la nascita – “Congratulations on the birth.”
- Congratulazioni/auguri/congratulazioni per il Battesimo – “Congratulations on the Baptism.”
How to Say “To Congratulate” in Italian: Congratularsi
The Italian verb for “to congratulate” is congratularsi, and it is often used instead of congratulazioni.
If you have been studying Italian for some time, it might sound to you as if congratularsi should be translated to “to congratulate oneself”.
Instead, the verb is usually followed by an indication of whom these congratulations are for:
- Mi congratulo con te – “I congratulate you” (singular informal)
- Mi congratulo con Lei – “I congratulate you” (singular formal)
- Mi congratulo con voi – “I congratulate you” (plural)
How to Say “Many Congratulations” in Italian: Molte Congratulazioni
In English, you can make your congratulations more meaningful by adding adjectives to the core noun.
- “many congratulations”
- “my sincere congratulations”
There are many ways to achieve the same result in Italian.
The most literal correct translation of “many congratulations” is molte congratulazioni. However, tanti complimenti works when you want to use complimenti.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can say mille congratulazioni (literally “a thousand congratulations”)
To emphasize your wishes and/or admiration, you might be able to use the Italian suffix -issimo/a/i/e. It’s an intensifier: it makes adjectives stronger.
Here are some examples of how -issimo/a/i/e can work with congratulations:
- Moltissime felicitazioni! – “Many congratulations!
- Tantissimi auguri! – “Best wishes!”
- Bravissimo! – “Well done!”
-issimo/a/i/e can only be attached to adjectives: you can say tantissimi but not augurissimi. It also doesn’t work with every single adjective: ottimo lavoro would sound awkward as ottimissimo lavoro.
My best advice, again, is to listen to how native speakers use it.
There’s one more way to make congratulations stronger that I want to share before we move to the end of the post. It’s actually one of the many quirks of the Italian language.
You might know that ma means “but”. However, you’ll sometimes hear ma used to emphasize congratulation phrases.
- Ma complimenti!
- Ma che brava! (also only che brava)
When used genuinely, ma works to make congratulations more enthusiastic. Somehow, it carries the meaning that whoever receives the congratulations has exceeded expectations.
It can sometimes be used ironically too, but it all depends on the tone!
How to Respond to Congratulations in Italian
Here’s one more thing you need to learn about congratulations in Italian: how to respond to them.
Whatever the language, it is polite to say thank you when someone compliments you or wishes you well. More than polite, it is natural!
So here are a few ways you can answer congratulations in Italian:
- Grazie mille – “Thanks a million.”
- Ti ringrazio – “I thank you.”
- Ma grazie – “Why, thank you.”
- Grazie d’essere venuto/a/i – “Thank you for coming.”
- Sei gentile, grazie! – “You’re kind, thank you!”
But don’t limit yourself to these five options! Italians have many more ways to express their gratitude, some of them without words.
If you want to learn more about how to say thank you in Italian, check out this post. It lists 27 ways to be grateful in Italian, including food!
Now You Know How to Say “Congratulations” Like an Italian!
You’re ready to congratulate and receive congratulations in Italian!
Maybe you could tell your italki tutor about it and see how they react. They might tell you you’ve done un ottimo lavoro, or they could say you’re bravissimo/a.
If you’re looking for more vocabulary to learn, you could start by checking out the 500 core Italian words.
You can combine learning 5-6 of these words per day with the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge method. You’ll be able to have a 15-minute conversation after 90 days!
In any case, you should be proud of yourself. Learning a new language is no easy feat!
The post “Congratulations” in Italian (and 20+ more Italian Celebration Phrases) appeared first on Fluent in 3 months – Language Hacking and Travel Tips.
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