Paying compliments is a huge part of learning any language to proficiency. Using them properly can improve your relationships with other people, which is extremely important when making new friendships in a foreign country.
In English, we tend to say Good job!* or Well done! to praise an individual or a group of people on an activity or job performed to a high standard. In Italian, there are five different ways to give the same kind of compliment. We’ll start from the most common and work our way down!
*Although the expression Buon lavoro! (literally good job) exists in Italian, it actually means Have a good day at work! so be careful not to use it as a compliment! 🙂
1. Bravo / Brava / Bravi / Brave!
The most common compliment given in Italy should already be familiar to Anglophone ears: the exclamation Bravo!
Ho vinto il mio primo torneo! – Bravo!
I won my first tournament! – Good job!
Note however that the gender and number of the adjective has to agree with the subject. Bravo is the masculine singular form, brava is the feminine singular, bravi is the masculine plural and brave is the feminine plural.
A common practice is to add the absolute superlative -issimo/a/i/e to the end of bravo to mean very good job / very well done.
- bravo → bravissimo
- brava → bravissima
- bravi → bravissimi
- brave → bravissime
If you don’t want to bother with gender and number, a safe alternative is the exclamation Complimenti! which translates as Compliments! or Congratulations!
It essentially means the same thing as bravo, albeit with slightly more serious and sincere undertones. For example, you wouldn’t yell out complimenti during a rowdy soccer match but it would be perfectly appropriate when praising someone’s artwork or musical performance.
Complimenti can also be followed by the reason you are praising the person. For example:
Complimenti per il tuo bellissimo sito! È molto interessante.
Well done on your beautiful website! It’s very interesting.
3. Bel / Ottimo lavoro!
We already mentioned above that Buon lavoro! isn’t an accurate translation for Good job! but it is possible to use words such as bel (beautiful, great) or ottimo (excellent, really good) in front of lavoro (work, job) instead. This phrase often accompanies Bravo! or Complimenti!
Hai finito tutto in soli tre giorni. Bravo, ottimo lavoro!
You finished everything in just three days. Well done!
4. Ben fatto!
Ben fatto (literally well done) is an adjective used to describe something that has been carried out skilfully or was well performed. Un lavoro ben fatto is the way Italians say a job well done for example. It too is often accompanied by bravo or complimenti when used directly as a compliment.
Ho visto il vostro film su YouTube. Complimenti, molto ben fatto!
I saw your film on YouTube. Good job, very well done!
5. Grande / Grandi!
Grande (and the plural grandi) is a slang term that means something along the lines of (You’re) amazing! or (You’re) fantastic! in English. However, in informal contexts where the person you’re complimenting has been successful, it can also mean Good job!
Grandi ragazzi! Avete fatto tantissimi gol. Finalmente siamo in finale!
Good job, guys! You got so many goals. At last we’re in the finals!