Come stai? – How are you?
‘Come stai’, in Italian, as in many other languages, is more of a social question asked out of politeness or to start a conversation, than an actual question.
You can gauge the level of confidentiality, comfort and trust that exists between two people by how they each respond to this question and what they are willing to share with the other.
In our day to day lives we will be more likely than not to answer with a plain, although not always sincere:”Bene, grazie e tu?”-“Good, thanks, and you?”, not necessarily because we are doing that great, but for various psychological or social reason.
Some of these reasons might be:
- We don’t want to express how our actual situation is because we don’t really think the person asking actually cares or is prepared to hear how we are doing. We take it as a simple formality and respond accordingly.
- We are not prepared to share our worries or satisfactions with the person in question and opt for a bland answer to then move on more neutral topics.
- We prefer not to think about what’s troubling us and avoid any topic that might remind us of our problems, even if it’s an innocuous looking ‘come stai’?
- Although willing to answer sincerely, we might not have time to explain our feelings at that moment, or find the social setting not appropriate (ex: too much noise).
*Little tip to make sound your “Come stai” a bit more sincere: don’t ask it at the beginning of the conversation, but rather in the middle of it: it will come across as being way more caring.
You are in a pleasant conversation with someone and suddenly the person stops talking about whatever they were talking about and after scrutinizing your face and really looking into your eyes asks you: “How are you?”, not because they are searching for a topic to talk about or out of politeness but because of sincere care and interest. At least, this is how it will be perceived. If you do this, though, be prepared to really listen to the other person. The worst thing you could do is to change topic before an answer even surfaces to the other person’s mouth!
When you want to speak Italian you will be likely stuck with the standard reply as well, simply because you don’t know how to reply in a way that best reflects your feelings.
But that doesn’t have to be like that for long.
I will introduce you to a whole range of answers you might give your enquirer, in Italian, depending upon the particular mood, disposition, relationship and willingness to share you have at that moment.
This first group of answers are all alternatives to the simple and basic “Fine, good”, in Italian.
1. (Sto) Bene, benissimo – Fine, great
2. Tutto bene –Everything is good, okay, alright
3. Tutto a posto – ( lit: everything is in place) same as tutto bene
4. Alla grande – I’m doing great, awesome
5. A meraviglia – wonderfully
6. Da favola – I’m living a fairy tale (seriously?! Have pity on us and never breath this into our miserable magic-dust-less lay people’s ears)
This second group of answers reveals that you’re not at the top of the world, but neither at the bottom of the pit.
7. Non c’è male – Not bad
8. Abbastanza bene/ piuttosto bene – pretty good
9. Benino – quite good or almost alright (lit: little good). It might mean either that you’re not too bad, or not too good, depending on the tone in which it is said.
10. Così così – so and so
11. Insomma – so and so
12. Me la cavo – I’m surviving, I’m doing pretty good, I’m not bad. See what was said on benino
13. Va – It goes. This is a reply to “Come va?” translated as “how is it going?” (an alternative to “Come stai?”) when you don’t really want to answer.
14. Sopravvivo – Surviving
15. Un po’ stanco ma tutto bene – a bit tired, but I’m alright. This comes handy when you look awful but you still don’t want to share your tribulations and at the same time it would not sound credible if you said you felt any better, so you focus on your physical feelings to avoid being asked about your emotional and psychological ones.
16. Ho avuto giorni peggiori – I’ve had worse days
17. Tiriamo avanti – we keep going
18. Non c’è male – not bad (lit: there’s no evil)
A – Ho dormito male – I’ve slept badly
B – Non ho dormito bene – I haven’t slept well
C – Non sono riuscito a dormire ieri – I haven’t been able to sleep last night (This three variations can be used in the same way as #15)
In this last set we say it plain an square and, differently from the previous answers, there’s almost an invitation/wish for more inquires in these replies as they are often used only with close friends and our families.
20. (Sto) Male/ malissimo – bad, aweful (something like ‘super bad’, if translated literally xD )
21. Ho avuto giorni migliori – I’ve had better days
22. Me la sono vista brutta – I’ve had a pretty bad experience. Usually said after having a near life threatening experience…or maybe after being almost caught cheating at the exam (shame on you, how could you let them almost catch you?)
23. A pezzi – Broken (lit: in pieces)
24. Stanchissimo/a – extremely tired, worn out
25. Distrutto/a – broken, devastated, weary
Non lo so – I don’t know
Non me lo chiedere – Don’t ask me (about it)
Come al solito – as always, as usual (i.e. nothing new- niente di nuovo)
Mai stato/a meglio – never been better
Da schifo – aweful (schifo means disgusting, so it’s a bit like saying ‘I feel so bad it’s almost disgusting’ or your can get almost the same meaning by thinking about your least polite English reply to “how are you” )
These answers take the question literally, it’s like when you ask “What’s up?”, and the other person replies “the sky”.
Come stai? – How are you?
In piedi – on my feet
Seduto/a – sited
Come mi vedi – as you see me. It’s almost like asking: “How does it look like I am doing? Awful? Great? Well, there’s your answer.”
Come stai bene! – You look gorgeous
Come sto? – How do I look?
Come mi sta? – How does it look on me?
So, yeah…Come stai?
Chip in and let me know what (uncommon?) answers you give to this common question. Do you like asking it? Replying to it? Which one are you going to use from the list?