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What does salutare actually mean?

In a previous lesson, we talked about how to say hello and goodbye in Italian:  There are formal and informal ways of doing so. And the very first lesson Daniela teaches in her popular series of classroom lessons is about how to greet people: salutare.

 

Oggi impariamo le forme di saluto.

Today we're going to learn ways to greet people.

Caption 5, Corso di italiano con Daniela Salutare - Part 1

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Before looking at the everyday meanings of salutare, we should acknowledge that it does also mean "to salute," as one would salute in the military, or salute the flag. But that is a very small part of the picture!

 

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In addition to knowing how to greet people — a very important thing in Italian — we also use the verb salutare itself, quite often, to talk about greetings and greeting someone, as well as within the greeting or leavetaking itself, but what exactly does it mean?  In fact, it's a little tricky. Just as ciao can mean "hi" or "bye," salutare can mean "to say hello" or "to say goodbye." Let's look at the verb salutare in context to get a better idea of how it's used.

Goodbye

Saying goodbye can be tough.  

È arrivato il momento di salutarci, mi pare, no? -Eh. -Sì.

The time has come to say goodbye [to each other], I think, right? -Yeah. -Yes.

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 8

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The previous example is just one instance of the verb within the segment of the Commissario Manara episode, an episode in which Luca Manara is about to leave his present job and go back to Milan.

 

Here's another little scene from the same episode and segment about saying goodbye. One thing to notice is that while in the previous example, salutarci means "to say goodbye to each other" (reciprocal reflexive), in the example below, salutarci means "to say goodbye to us." That pesky ci again!

Brigadiere, ma che sei venuto a salutarmi? Caterina. -Povero cagnozzo, gli mancherai, eh. Io non posso credere che te ne saresti andato senza salutarci. -No, veramente... sono passato davanti a casa Sua, -Eh. -ma Lei non c'era. Comunque, io sono veramente contento che Lei sia venuta a salutarmi, perché voglio dirLe grazie.

 

Brigadiere, what, did you come to say goodbye to me? Caterina. -Poor doggy, he'll miss you, yeah. I can't believe that you would leave without even saying goodbye to us. -No, actually... I came by your house, -Huh. -and you weren't there. Anyway, I'm very happy that you came to say goodbye to me, because I want to say thank you to you.

Captions 42-47, Il Commissario Manara S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste - Part 8

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When we want to take our leave, or end a phone call, we can say:

Ti devo salutare (I have to say goodbye, I have to hang up, I have to go).

Ti saluto, vado a casa. (I'll be going. I'm going home).

 

Hello

So salutare often means "to say goodbye." But it also means "to say hello," "to greet."  In the following example, a grandpa is telling his grandchildren to say hello to their grandmother.

 

Quanto mi siete mancati. -Salutate la nonna.

How I've missed you! -Say hello to Grandma.

Caption 9, Un medico in famiglia S3EP1 -Ciao famiglia - Part 8

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In the following example, Olivetti is greeting an old, estranged friend (he says ciao) who pretends not to see him.

Mauro! Ciao, Mauro. Cos'è? Non mi saluti?

Mauro. Hello, Mauro. What's the matter? You're not saying hello to me?

Captions 12-14, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 9

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But in the next example, the people conversing are being formal with each other. The speaker calls the lady signora. And thus, he uses the formal, second-person imperative.

Arrivederci, signora. E mi saluti suo marito, eh. Ci tengo tanto, ah. Me lo saluti tanto, eh?

Goodbye, ma'am. And greet your husband, huh? It means a lot to me. Greet him warmly, huh?

Captions 74-77, Il Commissario Manara S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena - Part 3

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As we said, Manara is speaking formally. He says me lo saluti (greet him for me) using the imperative. He could also be saying "Give my regards to your husband." But if he were talking to a friend, he could put this all in one single word including two pronouns stuck to the verb. Saluta (greet) + me (for me) lo (him) / la (her).

 

Salutamelo. 

 

Salutamela.

 

The noun form il saluto

 

In some contexts, (and as we saw in the very first video example), we use the noun form il saluto or un saluto (a greeting, a salutation) instead of the verb salutare.

Parliamo ora dei saluti informali.

Let's now talk about informal greetings.

Caption 24, Marika spiega Saluti verbali e a gesti

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In the following example, we see a typical way of saying, "I won't ever talk to you again." But Italians give it a different twist. They say they are going to "take away" "saying hello," as in, "I'm not even going to greet you!" The verb is togliere (to remove).

La chiamo e gli [sic: le] dico che non ci vado. Ch'aggia fa' [napoletano: che devo fare]? -Fallo e ti tolgo il saluto.

I'll call her and tell her I'm not going. What can I do? -You do that and I won't talk to you anymore.

Captions 36-38, Il Commissario Manara S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia - Part 5

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Un saluto or saluti is what you might write on a postcard while you're on vacation somewhere. It's often in the plural:

 

Ciao vecchio. Saluti da Rio, Max.

Hi, old timer. Greetings from Rio, Max.

Caption 40, La Ladra Ep. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto - Part 7

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Salutare can also be interpreted to mean "to give one's regards to" so we often see saluti at the end of a short business email.

 

It can appear by itself or be embellished as follows:

Distinti saluti ([best] regards)

Cordiali saluti (kind regards)

 

That's it for this lesson, and we'll see you soon. A presto.

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