A different point of view! Posted by Serena on Jan 3, 2009 in Grammar
Mi piace l’italiano. The preceding sentence is a good example of the confusing difference between English and Italian when we talk about what we like. Literally translated as “Italian pleases me” what it actually means is “I like Italian”. Whereas in English the action of liking moves from the person to the object, in Italian it moves from the object to the person. Not surprisingly English speakers find this a difficult concept to grasp as the point of view is reversed. It’s important to understand that the verb piacere literally means “to please” (“to please” in English comes from the French “plaisir” which in turns comes from the Latin “placere” = Italian “piacere”).
The verb piacere is only used in two basic forms: piace (lit. it pleases) if you like one thing, and piacciono (lit. they please) if you like several things. For example: mi piace l’arte translates literally as “art pleases me” meaning in English “I like art”; mi piacciono le mostre is literally “exhibitions please me” meaning “I like exhibitions”. Let’s have a look at the present tense:
Mi piace il vino = I like wine
Ti piace il vino = you (informal) like wine
Le piace il vino = you (formal) like wine
Gli/le piace il vino = he/she likes wine
Ci piace il vino = we like wine
Vi piace il vino = you like wine
Gli piace il vino = they like wine
Mi piacciono gli spaghetti = I like spaghetti
Ti piacciono gli spaghetti = you (informal) like spaghetti
Le piacciono gli spaghetti = you (formal) like spaghetti
Gli/le piacciono gli spaghetti = he/she likes spaghetti
Ci piacciono gli spaghetti = we like spaghetti
Vi piacciono gli spaghetti = you like spaghetti
Gli piacciono gli spaghetti = they like spaghetti
Note that the person “who likes” is expressed by the indirect pronoun (dative pronoun): mi, ti, gli, le, ci, vi, gli. However in certain cases piacere is used with a plus the stressed pronouns me, te, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro. Stressed pronouns are more emphatic than indirect pronouns, so we use this construction in a comparison or a contrast: e.g. a me piace il caffè, ma a lui piace il tè (I like coffee, but he likes tea); a me piace il mare, e a te? (I like the sea, how about you?). This type of construction is also used after anche (also) when we agree that we like something: a me piacciono gli spaghetti al pesto. Anche a me! (I like spaghetti with pesto. Me too!). Anche a te piace il vino rosso? (Do you like red wine too?). Using the two constructions together – a me mi piace – is incorrect, but it’s often used by children, who desperately want everybody to know what they like e.g. “a me mi piace il gelato!”
The preposition a is also needed with a person’s name or a noun: e.g. a Stefano piace il tennis (Stefano likes tennis); a mia figlia piace la musica (my daughter likes music).
To finish off, a note on the use of piacere with the passato prossimo (present perfect). The passato prossimo of piacere is built with the present of the verb essere plus the past participle of piacere: piaciuto, piaciuta, piaciuti, piaciute. As we have seen, the action of piacere moves from the object to the person, so the past participle must agree in gender and number with the objects(s), not the person “who likes”: e.g. a Mario è piaciuta la torta di mele (lit: “the apple cake pleased Mario”, meaning “Mario liked the apple cake”); a Giovanna è piaciuto il libro (lit: “the book pleased Giovanna”, meaning “Giovanna liked the book”); mi sono piaciuti i fiori (lit: “the flowers pleased me”, meaning “I liked the flowers”); mi sono piaciute le tue poesie (lit: “your poems pleased me”, meaning “I liked your poems”).
As the title says ‘It’s all about a different point of view’.
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