To like or not to like? If you want to talk about the things you like in Italian, you could have a hard time at the beginning. In fact, the structure of the verb piacere in Italian is very different from its English equivalent to like.
Since many people seem to have problems with this important Italian verb, I’ve decided to make an article about it.
Are you ready to master the Italian verb piacere once for all?
The first thing you need to know is that when you want to say that you like someone or something in Italian, you need to place an indirect pronoun before the verb piacere. Indirect pronouns are: mi, ti, gli (masculine singular), le (feminine singular), ci, vi, gli (both masculine and feminine plural). Indirect pronouns tell us who the person that likes the object or the person is. For example, if I’m the one who likes something, I’d use the pronoun “mi”. If Elisa likes something, she would use the pronoun “le”. If both Paolo and Luigi like something, they would use the pronoun “gli”, etc.
So, the Italian verb piacere in the present tense is conjugated like this:
When we use this verb, we never use subject pronouns: io, tu, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro. So, if I wanted to say I like the cake, I’d say: mi piace la torta not io mi piace la torta (this is wrong!).
As you can see from the conjugation above, when you want to say that you like something or someone, the verb piacere is used only either in its third person singular or in its third person plural: piace; piacciono.
What’s the difference between piace and piacciono?
Well, piace is used with singular nouns and infinitives, while piacciono is used only with plural nouns. So, piacere must agree with the thing you like. Let’s see some examples.
a. Ti piace questa gonna? (singular noun)
Do you like this skirt?
b. Mi piace ascoltare musica italiana (infinitive)
I like listening to Italian music
c. Vi piacciono i quadri astratti? (plural noun)
Do you like abstract paintings?
So, don’t ever say mi piaccio, unless you want to say that you like yourself!
How do we conjugate piacere in the passato prossimo?
If you want to conjugate piacere in the passato prossimo you need the indirect pronoun, the auxiliary to be and the past participle. Remember that the past participle must agree in gender and number with the object you like. Let’s see some examples:
d. Ti è piaciuto il tiramisù?
Did you like tiramisu
e. Ti è piaciuta la torta?
Did you like the cake?
f. Ti sono piaciuti i biscotti?
Did you like biscuits?
g. Ti sono piaciute le frittelle?
Did you like frittelle?
In examples d and e we’re using the third singular form of the verb essere because both tiramisu and torta are singular. By contrast, in examples f and g, we’re using the third plural form of the verb essere because both biscotti and frittelle are plural.
Moreover, in example d, the past participle ends in -o because it agrees with tiramisù, which is masculine singular. In example e, the past participle ends in -a because it agrees with torta, which is feminine singular. In example f, the past participle ends in -i because it agrees with biscotti, which is masculine plural. Finally, in example g, the past participle ends in -e because it agrees with frittelle, which is feminine plural.
So, the conjugation of piacere in the passato prossimo is:
|Mi||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
|Ti||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
|Gli||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
|Le||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
|Ci||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
|Vi||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
|Gli||è piaciuto/a – sono piaciuti/e|
Recap of the difference between English and Italian
- Italian uses an indirect pronoun to show who’s liking the object/person, whereas English uses a subject pronoun.
- In Italian we have to change the form of the verb – piace or piacciono – according to the object/s or person/s we like, whereas in English it’s always the same.
- In a sentence like “I like ice-cream” in English, I is the subject of the sentence while ice-cream is the object. In its translation in Italian “mi piace il gelato”, gelato is the subject of the sentence while mi is a pronoun. To understand the Italian structure, you can transform the English sentence “I like ice-cream” into “Ice-cream pleases me”, which is the same structure Italians uses. In fact, in this way ice-cream becomes the subject of the sentence and me is a pronoun.
What if I need a specific subject?
Sometimes, you need to specify who likes what, like Marco likes red cars or Federica and Nicola like dark chocolate, because otherwise we wouldn’t know who you’re talking about.
Well, in this case, we need to build the sentence in a slightly different way, that’s to say by using the preposition a plus the name of the person that likes something/someone.
A Marco piacciono le auto rosse.
Marco likes red cars
A Federica e Nicola piace il cioccolato fondente.
Federica and Nicola like dark chocolate
Once the subject has been clarified, we can keep going on with the standard structure: A Federica e Nicola piace il cioccolato fondente. Ma gli piace anche quello al latte e quello bianco. In pratica, gli piace tutto il cioccolato – Federica and Nicola like dark chocolate. But they also like milk and white chocolate. Basically, they like all chocolate.
Well, now that you know all the information about the verb piacere in Italian, you can use it with every Italian tense! The rules are always the same.
Let’s do some practice! Cosa ti piace dell’Italia?
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Original image by sweetlouise