One of the advantages of taking a formal Italian course or using quality self-study materials is that you’ll spend your time and energy on the grammatical essentials, rather than waste time on crap you’ll never use (passato remoto, anyone?)
But I learnt Italian “my way”, without a proper course or decent materials, and consequently, after about 15 years of living in Italy, still have to admit to being fuzzy about some of the basics.
Such as the difference between “I like pizza” and “I like pizzas”….
Coming across the verb ‘piacere’ while leafing through our beginners’ self-study course, it occurred to me that this would be a good day to finally get this monstrous verb sorted out in my head (I’m “on holiday” and so have more time than usual).
‘Piacere’ basically translates as the English verb ‘to like’, but is grammatically more similar to ‘to please’.
So, rather than say “I like grappa”, I’d say “Me pleases grappa”, Italian word order being a bit back-to-front. What would be the subject (I) in English, becomes the object (Me) when translated.
Just to make things crystal clear, the verb needs to be conjugated not according to WHO is pleased (me, you, etc.) but according to WHAT is doing the pleasing: grappa, pizza, pretty girls, a healthy bank balance, and so on.
On the plus side, you only need to learn the 3rd person singular and the 3rd person plural, piace and piacciono, rather than the “I”, “You”, etc. forms of the verb.
Take a look at these examples:
A me piace molto il pesce, ma la carne non mi piace.
Ti piacciono le verdure? A me piacciono molto.
A Stefania piace nuotare?
A voi piacciono gli Oasis?
Don’t forget, the subject of verb ‘piacere’ is the thing that you like or don’t like.
So, if you want to say “I like chocolate”, it would be “A me piace la cioccolata”.
And if you rather like cookies: “A me piacciono i biscotti”.
You see? Cookies is plural, so you use the plural form of the verb. Chocolate is singular/uncountable, so you use the singular form.
Finally there’s the business of using the preposition “a” and the different pronouns correctly.
There are two ways to state WHO likes something. Either you use the preposition “a” + direct pronoun (or someone’s name), or you go for the indirect pronoun (or name) alone.
If that’s just so much gibberish, not to worry. Take a look at the examples, as it’s much easier than it sounds.
a me = mi A me piace leggere = Mi piace leggere
a te = ti A te piace il cinema? = Ti piace il cinema?
a lui = gli A lui piacciono le auto = Gli piacciono le auto
a lei = le A lei piace viaggiare = Le piace viaggiare
a noi = ci A noi piace il vino = Ci piace il vino
a voi = vi A voi piace la verdura? = Vi piace la verdura?
a loro = gli A loro piace la musica = Gli piace la musica?
If you’re still with me at this point, you now know more than I did when I started writing this article.
Well done, you!
For more basic Italian grammar and vocabulary, check out the sample chapter of Italian Workout! A1, which you can download absolutely free of charge here.
And if you find that useful, or need another level, check out all our e-books in the shop.
What do YOU find difficult about “basic” Italian grammar? Leave a comment and reassure me that I’m not the only one that wasn’t paying attention…