Auguri, Congratulazioni, Complimenti and Felicitazioni: What’s the difference?

Many use the words auguri, congratulazioni, felicitazioni and complimenti as if they were synonyms, however they don’t share the same meaning. Stay with us if you want to learn how to use these words properly in Italian.

Auguri, Felicitazioni, Congratulazioni and Complimenti

Auguri! (Best Wishes/ Happy…)

This word is used:

1) during a personal recurring celebration (birthday, name-day, anniversary, ecc.) addressing the guests of honor

2) during a collective celebration (Christmas, Easter or New Year’s Eve) addressing all those present, indistinctly

3) during non-personal celebration (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, ecc.) addressing those who meet the criteria of the celebrated event

There’s another way to do the best wishes, namely following the structure: Buon/a/e (Happy/Merry) + name of the celebration (Buon compleanno (Happy Birthday), Buon Natale (Merry Christmas), Buona festa della mamma (Happy Mother’s day), ecc.)

We have two possibilities to reply:

1) Grazie (Thank you): if the celebration is personale, since the guest of honor has to thank everyone for the received wishes

2) Altrettanto (the same to you): if the celebration is collective, since we have to reciprocate the received wishes

Watch out!

Sometimes “Auguri” can also take an ironic and sarcastic nuance, especially in informal contexts.
In fact, if someone tells us something they’re proud of, but that’s not important for us or we simply want to belittle it, “Auguri!” will have the value of : “Sì, ok, ma non mi importa” (Yeah, ok, but I don’t care)

Alright, now let’s move to:

Congratulazioni! (Congratulations!)

This word is used during a personal non-recurring celebration (wedding, the birth of a baby, etc.) addressing only those who are directly involved.

Watch out!

Keep well in mind that if the personal non-recurring celebration hasn’t occurred yet, we’ll use “auguri and not “congratulazioni!. For example, if a friend of yours announces that’s getting married, using the word “auguri” would be like saying: “Spero che il tuo matrimonio vada bene!”(I hope your wedding goes well)

Congratulazioni”, on the other hand, should be used, when the event has occurred, for example, if the friend just got married, so it would like saying: “Sono felice che tu ti sia sposato” (I’m happy you got married)

Congratulazioni!” is also used when we want to exhibit, in a warm way, our complacency, our satisfaction, our joy to someone who has achieved a great goal or a great result thanks to their own skills and abilities, like a promotion at work or a degree.

The next alternative is a bit formal, namely:


This word can be used in all the cases we have seen so far, but it’s not very common and it might sound weird in some informal situations like for example, during Valentine’s Day…

At last, we have:

Complimenti! (Well done/Bravo!)

This word is used to express our admiration for someone, for any reason, like a complex puzzle that has been completed or a picture nicely drawn. In addition, as a noun, it indicates the combination of words, attitudes that express appreciation, admiration or reverence towards someone.

Usually, we compliment someone for their physical appearance or their character, but even with the intent to seduce, win, charm them. For this reason, we made a video devoted to all the ways to congratulate someone, in order to be always original!

Also, don’t forget to have a look at our course Italiano in Contesto: it will help you to improve your spoken Italian (and not only that!) in a contextualised way, just as if you were in Italy! By using the coupon code AUGURI you’ll pay only 69€ instead of 180€!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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