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Grazie vs. grazia?

Hi everyone! Today was my first day in beautiful Rome and all day I heard both "grazie" and "grazia" spoken by locals, to locals and visitors alike, irrespective of the gender of the person speaking or to whom they were speaking. In all cases it seemed to me they were simply saying a respectful, "Thank you" to the other person in every day situations where you'd expect the word to be used. Our tour guide today used both words...So far, I haven't been able to discern which is the proper word to use in a given situation. I Googled it but got several different answers - most of which by folks who said they were Italian!? "It's gender specific", "Grazia means 'grace', is archaic and no longer used", "Grazia" is Grace, a woman's name and has nothing to do with thank you", "grazie is singular while grazia is plural", "you're just hearing dialect, the word is grazie, not grazia"...it's a tad confusing. I don't want to split hairs, but I would like to think I'm saying the right word for the occasion and not coming across as a Dumb American or worse, one who is disrespectful because I didn't take the time to even learn how to say a proper 'thank you' before visiting another country. Any advice from those in the know would be much appreciated! This forum has been my 'go to' source for invaluable information while planning our trip to Europe this summer and for that, grazie...(I think).

Posted by
15 posts

That brings back memories! On our first trip to Italy in 2004, my friend and I had the same problem. We finally found out that both just mean thank you, and that different regions say it differently. But since people from different regions live together in Rome or other cities, you will hear it said both ways in the same city. Don't worry about which you say: I think people will just be grateful that you say thank you! Enjoy your trip-I love Italy!

Posted by
21213 posts

That fact that you are saying either is far more important than how it should be said. Intent over form.

Posted by
783 posts

You may be hearing "grazie" as "grazia" (or gra-zee-ay....). That is how "grazie" is pronounced. But it is often said very quickly so you may not pick up on it every time. In Italian, you say every letter. Perhaps a native speaker will chime in.

Posted by
11613 posts

Grazie is the proper form for thank you regardless of gender. Grazia is a woman's name, and also the word for "grace" in a religious context, although "grazie" is used in this way as well.

If you hear "grazia" as thank you, it is an individual's way of speaking. Correct pronounciation for thank you is "grahzieh", not "grahziay" or the ever-popular but incorrect "grahzy".

I think it's great that you are listening so carefully and are trying to get it right.

Posted by
1791 posts

I heard a lot of "prego"s and many, many "sera"s without the "buena". I figured it was like saying "evening" as short for "good evening".

Posted by
11613 posts

Richard, that would be "buona" sera ("buena" is Spanish).

Posted by
1197 posts

Quirite is quite right, there is only the one word being used. This also happens in other words, one of which is Euro. I hear something like 'arrow' when an Italian says it, but an Italian speaker is actually differentiating the two vowels 'e-u-row'. The reason for this misunderstanding is our mother-language ears and brains. Humans lose some hearing abilities depending on the sounds used by their native language. Here's very much more on the subject: http://eibalance.com/2013/05/03/kuhl-constructs-how-babies-form-foundations-for-language/

Posted by
3895 posts

Our first visit to Italy in 2008 we stayed with a couchsurfer in Genoa who tried to school us on how to 'grazie' correctly. (we were saying grat-zee). I think he was getting a touch frustrated (in an lol kinda way)...I thought we were saying it correctly after he told us how to say it (grat-zee-ah)...but he just kept laughing and shaking his head...I don't know what we were doing wrong!

Posted by
12288 posts

GRAZIE is the one and only.
It is used whether you thank a man or a woman, or whether you are thanking one person or many.
The Z is pronounced like TS therefore the pronunciation is GRAT-see-ay

Posted by
7737 posts

Listen to the natives who are responding. (Roberto is a native.)

But I do have to correct the myth that "In Italian, you say every letter." In fact, there are lots of silent letters depending on the context, most often being a silent i or e after a c or g. For example, ciao is pronounced "chow", not "chee-yow". Giorgio is prounced "JOR-joh", not "jee-yor-jee-yoh". (It's the same way we pronounce "Georgia" just with an o at the end.)

Anyway, good for you for wanting to pronounce it correctly. It makes my skin crawl when I hear an American tourist say "gracias" in Italy, as if Italian and Spanish were the same language as far as that tourist was concerned.

Posted by
783 posts

Is that really a myth? Maybe it is a generalization that doesn't apply to every single word but it is true a lot of the time (at least that is what Signora Argylan told me). When I hear "ciao", I don't hear "chow". I hear the "ch" with the i-a-o slurred together really fast. This principle is what is helping me learn Italian. I would be very sad if I have been living a lie.

Posted by
3 posts

Grazie mille, everyone for your replies - I appreciate all of them. I've queried 5 native Italians in the last 3 days (3 tour guides, 2 waitresses) about the pronunciation of grazie and all have said GRAH-tzee-eh is correct (not GRAH-tzee-a like I previously posted, albeit to a native American's ears the two are sometimes hard to discern). They all said that at times folks (natives, of course) sometimes say it very quickly and the 'eh' at the end is sometimes very faint or is left off completely as a sort of slang or hurried way of saying 'thanks'. What language doesn't have slang or colloquialisms, right? Dialect is also very much at play - our Colosseum guide yesterday said Silcilians have a dialect all their own that she (laughingly yet with respect) said she can't understand at all unless they're speaking "true" Italian! Language is fun, talking to people about their language is fun. Our stay in Rome is sadly over but we're now getting on a cruise ship for the next leg of our month long trip in Europe. I wish I could slow down the clock... If you've never been, Rome MUST be on your bucket list. Endlessly fascinating, it'll be a trip you won't forget. Arrivederci!

Posted by
11613 posts

Lisa, glad you are having a good time!

Kristen, sorry to say that "I"and "e" serve to soften a preceding consonant, and when this is so, they are not pronounced as a separate sound. "Giada" is pronounced "Jada", "Giovanni" is "Jovannee", etc. "H" serves to harden the preceding consonant ("ghiaccio" = ice, pronounced gyacho by English speakers).

Posted by
7737 posts

Lisa, I have a thought about one thing you might have been hearing. If you say "Grazie" to an Italian, they might say "Grazie a lei" (Which means "No, Thank YOU"). That would sound like "Graht-see-yah-lay" which might make you think they were saying "Grazia lei".

And Kristen, sorry about the lie you've been living, but if it helped you learn Italian spelling, so be it. (^_^)

Posted by
792 posts

Google Translate does a great job if you have that app on your phone

Posted by
203 posts

We were in Rome recently and also heard many locals pronounce it both ways. We asked a waiter who had very good English and he said it is both the same, grazie is correct, but some people just pronounce it differently.

Posted by
484 posts

As it has been stated, it is highly unlikely that the OP has heard "Grazia" as a thank you form, as "Grazia" is only used as a female name and to mean the grace of God in a Sunday sermon, but never to thank you. What I find more likely, vowels have different sound in Italian and for English speaking people is easy to get the spelling wrong.

Posted by
7737 posts

We were in Rome recently and also heard many locals pronounce it both ways. We asked a waiter who had very good English and he said it is both the same, grazie is correct, but some people just pronounce it differently.

Since that was a waiter in Rome, the odds are very good that Italian is not his native language. Trust Quirite. That waiter didn't know what he was talking about.

Posted by
78 posts

I guess a lot of people are mishearing then, because we just came back from 2 weeks in Italy and I heard both grazie & gratzieaye many times. My sons actually asked me why they were putting the extra aye at the end, and I figured it was regional. It's a real thing! =)

Posted by
78 posts

I guess a lot of people are mishearing then, because we just came back from 2 weeks in Italy and I heard both grazie & gratzieaye many times. My sons actually asked me why they were putting the extra aye at the end, and I figured it was regional. It's a real thing! =)

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you, Jennylatham! I'm certainly not going to argue with an Italian about the right or wrong way to pronounce an Italian word but I know what I'm hearing. So does my son (19). So does my husband (51). We're not stupid...or hard of hearing...or drunk... What we are, however, is hearing a very discernible GRAH-tzee at times, at others GRAH-tzee-eh. And I'm hard pressed to think that every one the 'ehs' are being spoken by foreigners. We all look at each other after hearing the word as if to say, "Check one for the 'whichever' column"; and we all agree on which one we've just heard. At this point I don't much care how I pronounce grazie as I'm just happy to have used the right language! At home in Eastern Washington we live in a(n) Hispanic rich community so gracias is used and heard by us frequently. To my true embarrassment, it seems that is the word that keeps wanting to come out of my mouth instead of grazie. Of course today in Spain it was grazie...sigh. I might add, my husband and son are finding no lack of amusement in my use of the wrong language and my ensuing and clumsy attempt to correct it. Maybe I should just stick with cue cards.
p.s. I liked Michael's answer (and should have said so sooner, sorry Michael). Maybe what we've been hearing is "grazie a lei" or "no, thank YOU!". Spoken quickly and with an accent - to our American ears - it makes sense!

Posted by
484 posts

My experience with opera singers is that Italian vowels are so different from English vowels that sometimes even years of professional training do not get the right pronunciation. Getting a first approximation - the level needed to get understood or have a conversation - is a thing, but getting the right sounds in order to sound like a native in performance is often impossible - and I am speaking of some of the top professionals in the field. - For example, in Verdi's Macbeth the soprano is supposed to begin her first aria reading aloud a letter; some of the best international prima donnas, who have sung the role worldwide, have made Italian audiences split their sides laughing only by declaiming four lines, and the trouble is always in the sound of vowels (apparently only Spanish singers get them right).

I think here we are observing the opposite thing. I pay my respect to the original poster and her will to listen and understand a foreign language. Still, translating Italian vowel sounds into English vowel sounds is much more troublesome than it looks like, if you want to do a professional job - in the end, probably there is no exact way to render Italian vowels in English spelling (approximate way: yes - exact way: not). Even Italian spelling is not exact, as it does not differentiate (unless you use accents) between some closed and some open vowels, still getting them right is the first stage of any acting lesson. Add to this layer of difficulty the matter of Italian words getting truncated or elongated in everyday or dialectal speech, so I have reasons to believe that the original poster misinterpreted some sounds. Nothing to get offended about; we would probably need a recording of the whole sentence to understand the context and explain.

Posted by
7737 posts

What you won't hear from an Italian is "grazia" all by itself (pronounced GRAHT-see-yah) for "thank you."