As we noted in our first blog post on this topic in December 2016, “piacere” is a very important verb for the Italian traveler to know. There are so many people, places, and things “to like” in Italy that we will use this verb often when we are there!
We have been focusing on the verb piacere again for the new year 2018 in our Conversational Italian! group on Facebook. This time, we have been creating sentences in the past tense, so when we come back from Italy, we will be able to tell our family and friends what we “liked”—speaking in Italian!
At first glance, it may seem difficult for English speakers to use the verb piacere, which literally means “to be pleasing to” when translated into English. But this verb is actually the way Italians express the idea that they like something. Once we tap into the Italian way of thinking and learn a few simple examples, it becomes easy to express how much we have liked things in Italian! Read below to see how this works.
How many more ways can you think of to use the verb piacere? Please reply. I’d love to hear! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.
The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.
“I Liked It!”
First, let’s review some general information about the verb piacere. Then, we will focus on how to use this verb in the past tense.
As we’ve already mentioned in our first blog post on this topic, the irregular verb piacere literally means to like, as in “to be pleasing to.” Italians use this verb when they want to express the idea that they like something. In English, when we say we like something, we mention two things: what thing is being liked and by whom. So in English, we would say, “I like the car” and fulfill these two requirements with the subject pronoun “I” and the direct object “car.”
But in Italian, the indirect object is used instead of the direct object, to describe by whom the thing is liked or to whom it is pleasing. If we wanted to change this same English phrase into the Italian way of thinking, we could say, “The car is pleasing to me.” You will hopefully find the mixed Italianized-English phrase “is pleasing to” to be very helpful to understand how piacere really works!
The tricky thing about this type of phrase in Italian is that the conjugation of piacere will have to agree with the number of things that are being liked.
So, if one thing is liked, or an infinitive verb follows, piace is used for the present tense.
For the past tense, we can use the passato prossimo third person singular forms “è piacuto” and “è piaciuta” for the one-time event when we liked something. The ending of the past participle piaciuto changes, as always for the passato prossimo form, and in this case will depend on whether the thing that is liked is masculine or feminine. If the thing that is liked is masculine, piacuto will keep its “o” ending; if feminine, then the ending will be changed to an “a” ending to make piaciuta.
If many things are liked, the third person plural forms “sono piaciuti” for the masculine plural and “sono piaciute” for the feminine plural are used.
Italians then put an indirect object pronoun (mi, ti, Le, le, gli, ci, vi, or gli) before the verb, at the beginning of the sentence, to denote to whom the thing was pleasing.
|É piaciuto(a)—was pleasing to
Use these phrases if one thing was liked before the infinitive verb.
|Mi è piaciuto il vestito.||The dress was pleasing to me.||I liked the dress.|
|Ti è piaciuto il libro.||The book was pleasing to you. (fam.)||You liked the book.|
|Le è piaciuta la collana.
Gli/le è piaciuto l’automobile.
|The necklace was pleasing to you. (pol.)
The car was pleasing to him/her.
|You liked the necklace.
He/she liked the car.
|Ci è piaciuto il vestito.||The dress was pleasing to us.||We liked the dress.|
|Vi è piaciuto i libri.||The book was pleasing to you all.||You all liked the book.|
|Gli è piaciuta la collana.||The necklace was pleasing to them.||They liked the necklace.|
|Sono piaciuti(e)—was pleasing to
Use these phrases if more than one thing was liked.
|Mi sono piaciuti i vestiti.||The dresses were pleasing to me.||I like the dresses.|
|Ti sono piaciuti i libri.||The books were pleasing to you. (fam.)||You liked the books.|
|Le sono piaciute le collane.
Gli/le sono piaciuti gli automobili.
|The necklaces were pleasing to you. (pol.)
The cars were pleasing to him/her.
|You liked the necklaces.
He/she liked the cars.
|Ci sono piaciuti i vestiti.||The dresses were pleasing to us.||We liked the dresses.|
|Vi sono piaciuti i libri.||The books were pleasing to you all.||You all liked the books.|
|Gli sono piaciute le collane.||The necklaces were pleasing to them.||They liked the necklaces.|
For more practice using piacere in the past tense, you might want to try listening to the Conversational Italian for Travelers Chapter 17 interactive audio dialogue “Dinner at the Restaurant.” In our Conversational Italian for Travelers story line, which runs through the 18 chapters of the textbook, the Italian-American girl Caterina goes to visit her Italian family in Italy. They end their time together in Chapters 16–18 with a family dinner at a wonderful restaurant, where they describe to the waiter all the dishes that they have liked.
As always, the more we read, listen, and try to speak about what we have liked, the easier it will be to remember these phrases automatically. Buon divertimento!