It's very important to be able to say what you like and what you don't like. In English, “to like” is an active verb, as in “I like strawberries.” Italians use the verb piacere (to be pleasing, to delight) to say they like something. But attenzione! In Italian it gets turned around like this:
I like snow. (To me snow is pleasing.)
Mi piace la neve.
"Snow" is singular, so piace is singular. If what we like is in the plural, like "strawberries," piacere will get conjugated in the plural (in this case, third person plural).
Mi piacciono queste fragole.
To me these strawberries are pleasing [I like these strawberries.]
This can all be very confusing for new Italian speakers, but if you think about the fact that when you like something, it’s pleasing to you, it will make more sense.
So "I like" becomes mi piace. In her lesson on mi piace Daniela explains that mi (to me) is really just a contraction of a me (to me). A me is used when we want to emphasize the person, as opposed to the object the person likes, as in this hit song by Nina Zilli, "Cinquantamila lacrime" ("Fifty Thousand Tears").
A me piace così -A me piace così
I like it like that. -I like it like that
Caption 7, Nina Zilli - 50 milaPlay Caption
Remember that mi is an indirect object meaning "to me." Whatever or whoever is doing the pleasing (for example, strawberries) on the other hand, becomes the subject of the sentence (and governs the conjugation of piacere).
You may hear Italians say: a me mi piace. Now that you know that mi is short for a me, you may sense that it's wrong because it's a repetition. In fact, it's bad grammar. Still, people say it because it emphasizes just about everything in the sentence. It's sort of like saying, "Me, I like it."
So, what if I want to tell a person I like him or her?
You please me. [I like you.]
Although mi piaci or mi piace can just refer to liking someone in general, more often than not, it’s about finding the other person attractive. To say that someone is generally likable or agreeable without alluding to their attractiveness, Italian uses a word that doesn’t have a direct English equivalent: simpatico (agreeable, likable).
If you say mi sei simpatico or, as is more common in the south, mi stai simpatico (you're agreeable to me, you’re likable to me), you’re essentially telling the person you like him! It’s safer than mi piaci in many situations.
Let’s take an example from our favorite commissioner, Manara. He’s convinced his new colleagues don’t like him, but there’s a job to do.
Sentite, che io non vi sto simpatico l'ho capito perfettamente.
Listen, I understand perfectly that you don't like me.
Però abbiamo un caso molto complicato da risolvere,
However, we've got a very complicated case to solve,
Captions 43-44, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfettoPlay Caption
In a nutshell:
In English, the person doing the liking is the subject, and the thing or person one likes is the object. In Italian, the person or thing that pleases is the subject, and the person who does the liking, or who’s pleased, is the object!
Look around you and see what you like and what you don’t like. Saying it out out loud in Italian will give you practice conjugating the verb piacere. Remember that when you don’t like something, just put non in front of mi: Non mi piace questo vino (I don’t like this wine).
-This article will help you get the grammatical lay of the land regarding liking things in Italian.
-This article provides some extra input on using piacere.
Tune in to more lessons with Daniela on the subject: Ti piace and Piacere.