Piacere and similar Italian verbs – Quiz

Piacere and similar Italian verbs – Quiz

Learn how a small number of Italian verbs like “piacere” are different. With a quiz.

I hear this question quite often from my students. How is “piacere” different compared to other Italian verbs? Well, it is quite different. And other important verbs follow the same rules of “piacere”.

I remember I wrote a blog about that a few years ago, but I believe it’s time to put together a more comprehensive guide with a final exercise.

Since “piacere” is one of the first verbs our students see as beginners in their textbooks, I’m going to write this in English. Please feel free to correct my errors.

This lesson though is not just for beginners, since verbs change according to structures of a higher complexity. We’ll see some examples in a minute.

For the sake of simplicity, I will take “piacere” as an example and you can apply the same rules to other verbs on the list later on.

  • Mi piace la birra. —> I like beer.
  • Mi piacciono i libri. —> I like books.

I’m sure you read a sentence like that when you started to learn Italian. Obviously, you just translated it into your head and put this “mi piace, mi piacciono” somewhere, following your rules, as we all do when we learn a foreign language. Let’s have a second look.

What is the subject here?

Beer and books are subjects of respectively piace and piacciono, not “io”.

  • Beer “is pleasing” to me.
  • Books “are pleasing” to me.

The structure of piacere is different

What we like or dislike is the subject and the person who likes or dislikes is an indirect object 

(mi, ti, gli/le, ci, vi, gli/a loro).

Often times in class, the use of “piacere” is limited to single pronouns, with little attention to plural indirect objects, because we tend to talk about ourselves or about other individuals.

A sentence like “We like you (plural).” translates into:

  • Ci piacete.


If we break down the pronoun and “stretch” the sentence to a more articulate version, we can reveal the subject and the object:

  • Voi piacete a noi.

So, there’s a way to turn the sentence and make it look like a normal, linear phrase, but we (almost) never say it in real life. “Ci piacete” is easier than “(voi) Piacete a noi”, which becomes, by the way, a rather different sentence if we use a stressed pronoun (we like you, and no one else).

Sometimes we really need to clarify who likes what or who, so instead of using a pronoun, we can say:

  • A Mario piacciono i dolci.
  • Alla mia famiglia piacciono le vacanze al mare.

You can try all different matches of subjects and objects. Of course, native Italian speakers use this model of sentence without realising how complex this sounds to your ears.

Before proceeding further and see other verbs behave like piacere, it’s important to point out that this set of rules has nothing to do with reflexive verbs.

I always hear  sentences like “Lui si piace”, which doesn’t mean “he likes”, but rather “he likes himself”. Funny, common, and incorrect.

Let’s try with a compound tense, for example the passato prossimo. We have a safe rule in this case. The auxiliary verb is always essere.

  • Vi è piaciuta la cena?  – Sì, ci è piaciuta.

  • Gli sarebbe piaciuto essere qui.

This one is an example of condizionale composto and retains essere, just as the passato prossimo does. He would have liked to be here, so he’s not here.

  • Pensavamo che le piacesse correre.

If you have already studied the congiuntivo, you can figure the meaning of this sentence and the logic behind it. “We thought she liked running”. The verb correre is the subject, while “le” tells us that lei (she) is the person we are talking about. This sentence means that she did not like running. (We thought “running was pleasing to her”)

  • Se quella borsa ti fosse piaciuta, l’avresti già comprata.

Again, essere is the auxiliary verb of this periodo ipotetico. This is a congiuntivo trapassato (pluperfect). We can notice that “la borsa” is the subject, not “tu”, by the verb and the feminine piaciuta.

The examples above are just a fraction of all possible tenses and subjects we can use with piacere.

Let’s have a look at other verbs like piacere with different tenses and subjects. I’ll leave the translation to you.

bastare – to be enough

Ti basteranno i soldi per pagare l’affitto?

interessare – to interest

Quando mio padre era giovane, gli interessavano le macchine.

mancare – to miss

Da quando siete partiti, ci mancate molto.

occorrere – to need

Vi occorrerebbero molti giorni per finire quel lavoro.

parere – to seem

Mario mi pare un po’ stupido.

restare – to be left / remain

Credo che ti restino solo 10 minuti di pausa.

sembrare – to seem / look like

Ci sembrate stanchi.

servire – to need

Vi servirebbe il loro aiuto.


Speriamo che non vi succeda la stessa cosa.

Some of these verbs have a “conventional” structure as well as a version in line with that of “piacere”.

  • Stasera restano fuori a mangiare.
  • Ci restano solo i soldi per il taxi.

The following quiz contains questions of progressive difficulty. If you are a beginner, give it a try and write down the sentences you don’t understand. Studying this blog will come in handy in future. If you are an experienced student, do your best and try to score more points than the average. Log in if you want to get your score by email.

In bocca al lupo!


Vittorio Matteo Corcos: Ritratto di Yorick – 1889

“Piacere” and other tricky Italian verbs: Quiz

piacere quiz

What is the subject in a sentence like “Mi piace Firenze”? How about “Mi interessa Firenze”? Read this post and solve the quiz at the bottom

Ciao a tutti.

“Piacere”, translates in “to like” but has a different logic in Italian. If I say “Mi piace il gelato”, it means “I like ice cream” but translates literally in “Ice cream is pleasing to me”, where ice cream is the subject and “I” (me) is an indirect object. This works with other important Italian verbs.

If the thing I like is plural, the conjugation of the verb changes accordingly. For example, “Mi piacciono i miei amici”, I like my friends, actually is “My friends are pleasing to me”.

Indirect pronouns – Pronomi indiretti.

Depending on “who likes what”, we need to choose an appropriate pronoun. We already know that “to me” in Italian is “mi”. Let’s see the complete list So “you like ice cream” will be “ti piace il gelato”, “he likes ice cream” “gli piace il gelato” and so on. You will find more examples in the quiz.

We can use “piacere” to say that “I like doing” something. Instead of the gerund, in Italian we use the infinito. For example:

  • I like playing soccer –> Mi piace giocare a calcio.

Many students are surprised when I teach them that piacere and similar verbs can of course be conjugated in any mood and tense, such as the congiuntivo, condizionale, gerundio … and so on. For intermediate – advanced students, try to understand the following:

  • Pensavamo che vi piacessero i film francesi.
  • Non credo che gli interessino i tuoi gusti musicali.
  • Mi sono serviti i tuoi consigli.
  • Mancandovi i soldi necessari, non comprerete quella casa.
  • Le tue raccomandazioni non le basterebbero per ottenere quel lavoro.

Let’s see some simple examples with familiar tenses.

Mi piacerebbe…

We can use the condizionale, “mi piacerebbe”, (I would like to… lit. “It would be pleasing to me”) or “mi piacerebbero” in case of a plural noun. For example:

  • Mi piacerebbe una macchina rossa.
  • Mi piacerebbero dei pantaloni nuovi.
  • Mi piacerebbe andare in vacanza.

I’d like to go on holiday. Ti piacerebbe andare in Italia?

Passato prossimo.

The verb piacere and all the other verbs with the same construction (see below) have essere as auxiliary verb with the passato prossimo. This has a visible consequence on the past participle, which is masculine or feminine, singular or plural according to the subject. Some examples.

  • Mi è piaciuto il film.
  • Ti è piaciuta questa serata?
  • Gli sono piaciuti i tuoi amici
  • Vi sono piaciute le patate?

If the subject is an action, we will just use piaciuto (singular masculine) in the passato prossimo.

  • “Ci è piaciuto nuotare in piscina”, we liked swimming in the pool.

Similar verbs

The following are the most common verbs with the same grammar rules.

  • sembrare – to seem – Carlo mi sembra intelligente.
  • succedere – to happen to sb – Mi succede spesso di perdere il treno.
  • bastare – to be enough – Ti bastano 100 euro?
  • mancare – to miss – Gli mancano due esami per laurearsi.
  • servire – to need – Vi serve un aiuto?
  • interessare – to be of interest –  Non ci interessano i musei.
  • convenire – to be advisable/worthwhile – Mi conviene andare, è tardi.

Grazie e a presto. Completa il quiz e vinci una lezione su Skype o Zoom


Some common Italian verbs English speakers mistake

There are some Italian verbs English speakers often mistake when they start learning Italian. Most of my students learned them right and so should you. Let’s fix this together!

Don’t worry, you will get there soon. It’s just a matter of time and you won’t make the following mistakes anymore.

1. “To know”, Sapere VS Conoscere

It’s hard to sort Sapere and Conoscere since in English they both translate in “to know”.  A classic rule of thumb is

  • Sapere qualcosa: knowing facts, to be able to…

Scusi, sa che ore sono?

Non so nuotare

  • Conoscere qualcuno: knowing people, places, things.

Conosci Giorgio?

Conosco un ottimo ristorante a Milano

For some reason, Italian grammar books usually don’t include sapere as a modal verb with Potere, Dovere and Volere. It IS a modal verb (verbo servile) and a very important one too. Conoscere is not.

2. “To take” doesn’t translate only in “prendere”

I once heard,”posso prendere una fotografia?” for Can I take a picture? It’s easy to translate take into prendere but it’s not always the case. In Italian we say “fare una fotografia”, make and not take. There are other “take” verbs you shouldn’t translate into “prendere”. Notably:

  • “Can you take me home?” “Puoi portarmi a casa?” (portare)
  •  “How long did it take to come?” “Quanto ci è voluto per venire?” (volerci)
  • “I take you won’t come” “Presumo che non verrai” (presumere/dedurre)

3. “To like” Mi piace, mi piacciono

We already talked about the verb “piacere” , to like, and how Italian sentences are different compared to English. Mi piace doesn’t translate into a straight “I like it”. We can simplify the concept as follows

  • In English “A likes B”

  • In Italian “To A, B is pleasing”

Let’s take for example:

  • Mi piace il gelato: I like ice cream
  • Mi piacciono le scarpe: I like shoes

If i say “mi piace il gelato” the subject is “il gelato”, not me, and “mi” (to me) is an indirect pronoun. “the ice cream is pleasing to me”.

I have to bear in mind that when I like “something plural”, e.g. shoes is the subject and I need conjugate the verb accordingly. “Mi piacciono le scarpe” and not “mi piace”. There are other verbs like “piacere”.

  • Interessare (to be interested in): Mi interessa la musica / Mi interessano i libri
  • Servire (to need): Mi serve la tua  macchina / Mi servono molti soldi
  • Succedere (to happen): Mi succede spesso / Mi succedono sempre cose strane

There are other verbs like piacere, and you will come across them eventually. Be prepared!

Sometimes, translating straight from English into Italian, and vice-versa, simply doesn’t work. Be careful when you do that with I know, I take and I like.

I hope this mini lesson was useful. Add your comments if you wish. Alla prossima!

Italian verb piacere and a bunch of pronouns – PODCAST

“Mipiace”iswhatyoucanreadontheItalianfacebook”like”button,butitdoesn’ttranslateintoastraight”Ilikeit”.LearntheItalianverbpiacere andothersimilarverbs.Listentothepodcast.

  Mipiace,isoneofthefirstthingsyoulearninItalian.Andasithappensveryoften,whenyoustarttolearnaforeignlanguage,youjustmemorizesentencesbefore gettingintodetailsandstructures.Nowit’stimetohaveasecondlook.Let’sthinkaboutthissimplesentence:

  • Mipiaceilgelato=(Ilgelatopiaceame)

NativeEnglishspeakerstranslateitinto”Ilikeice-cream”,andthemeaningisjustright.Butifyoureaditcarefully,theItaliansentenceisactually”ice-creamispleasingtome”,whereGelato isinfactthesubject,andnot Mi,whichinsteadisanindirectpronoun.

  • ThestructureinEnglishis”AlikesB”
  • ThestructureinItalianis”ToA,Bispleasing”

…where”toA” isanindirectpronounand”B”istherealsubject. Difficult?No,justdifferent.Let’sfirstdefinealltheItalianindirectpronouns:

  • tome->ame ->MI
  • toyou ->ate ->TI
  • tohim ->alui ->GLI
  • toher ->alei ->LE
  • tous ->anoi ->CI
  • toyou ->avoi ->VI
  • tothem ->aloro ->GLI
InItalian,conjugationschangewiththesubject.ItbecomesmoreclearthatBistherealsubjectwithpluralnouns.SoifIsay”Ilikespaghetti”, piacere changesbecausethesubjectspaghetti(loro-they)isplural:

  • Mipiaccionogli spaghetti=(glispaghettipiaccionoame)

WeusetheItalianverbpiacere verymuchincombinationwithinfinitiveverbs,whenwelikeanaction, exactly as youdoinEnglishwiththegerund.Ifiwanttosay “Ilikeswimming“inItalian…

  • Mipiace nuotare

Swimmingispleasingtome.IfIwanttosaythatswimming”ispleasingtoyou”Igo”tipiacenuotare”,ispleasingtohim”glipiacenuotare”,ispleasingtous,”cipiacenuotare”andsoon.Ifyouthoughtthatthelatterperhapsshouldbe”cipiacciononuotare”or”cipiacciamonuotare”(I’mprettysureyouhaveconsideredthoseoptions…)becausenoi-us isplural,gobacktothebeginningofthispostandreaditagain…


interessare (tobeofinterest,tocareof), servire (toneed),sembrare (toseem),succedere (tohappen).Let’sseesomeexamplesandlistentothepodcast:

  • interessare (tobe ofinterest,tocareof)
I’mveryinterestedinarts Nonmiinteressanoituoiproblemi

  • servire (toneed)


  • sembrare (toseem,tolooklike)


  • succedere (tohappen)
Mi succedespessodiperdereiltreno



Alastnoteimportantnote.IfweusetheverbANDAREinthesamewayweusePIACERE,wecanbuildsimple andhandysentencesforsayingthat”I’minthemoodfor…”Forexample:



Sometimesit’srathercomplicatedtotranslatedaccuratelysentenceswiththeItalianverbpiacere &co.JusttrytousethemdirectlyinItalian,keepinginmindwhatyoureadabove.Thanksforreading.Allaprossima!

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