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Mi Piace! – Part 2. Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Grammar

In Mi Piace! – Part 1. I wrote: “In Italian it’s not the person that does the liking, but the thing that pleases the person”. Today we’ll find out why it’s so important to understand this basic concept.

Insisting on translating ‘mi piace‘ as ‘I like it’ is fine if you never intend to move beyond basic ‘holiday’ Italian, but very unhelpful if you want to say anything a bit more complex, as will become apparent in the second half of today’s article. But first let’s look at how the forme toniche correspond to the forme atone which we covered in Mi Piace! – Part 1.
N.B. If you’re not sure about how indirect personal pronouns work then you’ll need to go over this article: Italian Indirect Personal Pronouns

piacere + forme toniche

piacere + forme atone

translation

a me piace/piacciono

mi piace/piacciono

it pleases me/they please me

a te piace/piacciono

ti piace/piacciono

it pleases you/they please you (singular)

a lui piace/piacciono

gli piace/piacciono

it pleases him/they please him

a lei piace/piacciono

le piace/piacciono

it pleases her/they please her

a noi piace/piacciono

ci piace/piacciono

it pleases us/they please us

a voi piace/piacciono

vi piace/piacciono

it pleases you/they please you (plural)

a loro piace/piacciono

gli piace/piacciono

it pleases them/they please them

The question is, of course, why would you say ‘a me piace‘ instead of ‘mi piace‘? Well, there’s an easy answer and a difficult answer. The easy answer is that we use the forme tonichea me piace‘, ‘a te piace‘, etc. to emphasise or clarify the individual who is pleased by/likes something (n.b. in spoken language you’d hear the stress on the underlined words)

Insegnante: A chi piacciono i topi? Studente: A me non piacciono per niente! =  Teacher: Whom do mice please? Student: They don’t please me at all! (Teacher: Who likes mice? Student: I don’t like them at all!)
Nonna: A qualcuno di voi piace il gelato? Nipotina: A me piace molto! = Grandmother:  Does ice cream please any of you? Granddaughter: It really pleases me! (Do any of you like ice cream? I really like it!)

The difficult answer is that you’ll hear both the forme toniche and the forme atone used interchangeably: mi piace camminare/a me piace camminare = walking pleases me (I like walking). These ‘sfumature‘ (shades) of usage are impossible to learn unless you are totally immersed in the language. They are the subtle aspects of language acquisition which are absorbed through osmosis.

Note that when the person who is ‘being pleased’ is named we always use the prepositions a, agli, ai, alle etc. (to/to the), hence ‘a Marco piace  giocare a tennis‘, ‘alle ragazze piace la spiaggia‘, ‘ai gatti piacciono i croccantini‘, and so on.

Now let’s move on to the types of conjugations that require you to fully understand the concept of being pleased by something as opposed to liking it.

‘They told me that she likes me’

So, how do you say that into Italian? If you’re still stuck with the concept of ‘I like it’ what on earth do you do when you want to say ‘she likes me’?
Well, once you’ve grasped the idea of being pleased by something/someone then it’s really not that complicated. Firstly, here are the conjugations of piacere in the present tense:
io piaccio = I please
tu piaci = you please
lui/lei piace = he/she/it pleases
noi piacciamo = we please
voi piacete = you please
loro piacciono = they please

Gli piaccio, non gli piaccio‘ He likes me, he like me not. Photo by Geoff.

Now let’s have a look at ‘They told me that she likes me’ from an Italian perspective.

‘They told me that she likes me’ would be: ‘They told me that I please her’, hence: ‘Mi hanno detto che le piaccio‘.

Let’s try a couple more shall we?

‘They say that they like us’ from an Italian perspective would be: ‘They say that we please them’, hence: ‘Dicono che gli piacciamo

‘I know that he likes you’ from an Italian perspective would be: ‘I know that you please him’, hence: ‘So che gli piaci

Dear readers, the fun is just beginning … just wait until we get into the present perfect, the conditional, the subjunctive, and so on!

Part 3. coming soon …

A presto!

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Comments:

  1. Alexandra:

    They say that they like us’ from an Italian perspective would be: ‘They say that we please them’, hence: ‘Dicono che gli piacciamo‘

    These posts are always so helpful. Thank you so much!
    In the sentence above, can this also be translated as “They say we please him”?

    • Geoff:

      @Alexandra Ciao Alexandra, yes, ‘Dicono che gli piacciamo‘ can also be translated as “They say we please him”. Obviously it depends on the context.
      Glad you found it helpful.

      Alla prossima, Geoff 🙂

      • Alexandra:

        @Geoff Thank you for your reply. 🙂

  2. Richard:

    Grazie tanto, sig. Geoff. A me piace molto la tua bella spiegazione.

  3. Rita Kostopoulos:

    Ai miei studenti non piace il verbo PIACERE perche’ e’ differente del uso in inglese. Grazie mille per gli esempi dati

    • Geoff:

      @Rita Kostopoulos Sei la benvenuta Rita. Sì è molto diverso dall’inglese, e ci vuole un po’ per capire come funziona.

      Grazie come al solito per il tuo gentile commento! A presto. 🙂

    • Geoff:

      @Rita Kostopoulos Ciao Tristian, I’m English, but I’ve lived in Italy for over a decade with my Italian wife Serena. 🙂

  4. Geoff:

    I understand what you mean Tristian. I lived in Portugal in the 80’s and learnt to speak Portuguese quiet well. When I first came to Italy 25 years ago I thought that Italian would be quite easy to learn. I was in for a nasty surprise!
    Now, sadly, I can hardly remember any Portuguese.

    Atè logo (a dopo), Geoff 🙂

    • Geoff:

      @Geoff “Why is it that I’m able to read and understand more than I am just by listening?”

      Because reading eliminates pronunciation and accents, and you also have plenty of time to study and absorb the words, something that’s not possible when you’re listening to someone speak.

  5. Joseph T. Madawela:

    this is almost grasped thanks to you

  6. Rukmini Nini:

    Thank you very much. It’s really clear and easy to understand.

  7. Helene Williams:

    Mi piacciono moltissimo le lezione. Not sure about that Italian written phrase yet, but I intend to improve.


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