Category: How To

Total 3 Posts

How to say I MISS YOU in Italian – MANCARE

Even after you learn how to use PIACERE there’s another verb that will similarly baffle you. MANCARE.

Mancare is similar to piacere in the way it is used in Italian speech, but it seems even more difficult for English speakers. One reason is that, when we’re first learning, we tend to use piacere in the third person singular – piace – a lot. We like something. But when we use mancare we use the first and second person much more often. That means we have to learn to conjugate correctly right from the start.

To get started let’s look at what we’re really saying. In English we say I miss you. To miss is something we do. But, it’s also possible to be missing: for example, he is missing. This is the way the Italian verb mancare works in this instance. Just to be clear, you can think of mancare as “to be missing (from my/his/her/your world.)” (If you prefer, you can use the word lacking.)

Let’s look at it.

a me manchi
mi manchi

literal: to me (from my world) you are missing
meaning: I miss you

a te manco?
ti manco?

literal: to you (from your world) I am missing?
meaning: you miss me?

So how would you say he misses you?

a lui manchi
gli manchi

literal: to him (from his world) you are missing
meaning: he misses you

How about we miss him?

Let’s think something in English that’s not quite literal, but will help us create the right Italian grammar.

from our world he is missing

a noi manca
ci manca

literal: to us (from our world) he is missing
meaning: we miss him

You miss us?

to you (from your world) we are missing

a te manchiamo
ti manchiamo

literal: to you we are missing
meaning: you miss us

In truth, the only way to really get good at this is to practice these daily. Tell everyone you miss them and that they miss you. Each day pick one conjugation to drill and try to use it all day. The next day pick another one. Eventually it will roll off your tongue without you even realizing it!

Here’s a little dialogue to get your started.

2. Quando parti mi manchi.
1. Ti manco? Davvero.
2. Sì, certo. Mi manchi. Perché? No ci credi?
1. Sì, ci credo. Quando parto anche a me manchi. Ma, perché non andiamo insieme? Allora non ti mancherò.
2. Perché allora mi manca mia mamma.
1. Ti manca tua mamma. Quando sono qui anche a me mancano i miei genitori.
2. E certo ai tuoi genitori manchi.
1. Sì. Ci manchiamo. Mi manca il mio paese. Mi mancano i miei amici. Mi mancano le montagne.
2. Grazie al cielo ci sono gli aerei!

Of course, this is all present tense (except for one use in the future – can you find it?). The past tense is a little more complicated. We’ll do that in another post.


How to say I LIKE YOU in Italian – PIACERE

Okay, so for speakers of English, this is a doozy. It seems like it should be simple. Why is it so hard? And it gets worse, too, because piacere is not the only verb that acts this way! So, let’s spend a little time understanding PIACERE.

If you’ve done your Pimsleur lessons you’ve heard again and again mi piace translated as I like. Even though this is what it means, it doesn’t literally translate this way which can make it difficult for beginning learners who are still forced to translate in their heads. If I had my way, it would be translated just a touch more literally when drilling. Yes, it will sound strange in English, but it works to get your head in understanding mode.

To express I like Italians really say something like it is pleasing to me. So, piacere, translated as literally as possible, is to be pleasing. When we say this in English it sounds a little funny, but it’s grammatically correct.

That book is pleasing to me.

Now, if I were to translate this literally to Italian, it might look like this:

Quel libro piace a me.

But of course Italians don’t talk like that. And that’s what makes this construction even more difficult for English speakers –  the indirect pronoun comes first, right where the subject pronoun would be in English. In English the subject of the verb to like is the person doing the liking. We say I like you or I like it or I like that book. But in Italian the subject of the verb is the thing being liked just like it is in the English rendition to be pleasing. So if we were to translate literally from the Italian it would look like this:

mi piace
to me it is pleasing

mi = a me = to me

While you are getting used to this construction, try using a me instead of mi just to remind yourself that you are saying to me. This will help you remember how to conjugate piacere.

a me piace quel libro
to me it is pleasing that book

Now take that to the next level and say:

a te piace quel libro
to you it is pleasing that book

a noi piace quel libro
to us it is pleasing that book

And so on. Not too difficult, right? After all, piace stays the same. Well, here’s the tricky part. How do I say you like me or I like you? Uh oh.

Well, now you know that in Italian when you want to say you like me you really have to say I am pleasing to you or in the order we’d say it in Italian to you I am pleasing. In English it sounds a bit Yoda-ish, but this will help you, trust me.

So let’s start building our phrase with to you

a te = to you

Ok, so now you know what you must do with piacere, right? It must be conjugated for io.
Let’s do that.


to you I am pleasing
a te piaccio

or with the more abbreviated form of the indirect pronoun:

ti piaccio

Try it out at home! Tell your spouse, friend, child, etc., that you like them or that they like you or that someone else likes them. Do this throughout the day until it starts to make sense to you.

Here’s a little dialogue to get you started:

LUI: Vedi quella ragazza lì? Perché mi guarda così?
LEI: Forse a lei piaci. Sì, le piaci.
LUI: No. Tu le piaci.
LEI: Credo di no. E poi se io le piacessi mi guarderebbe. Ma lei guarda te. Tu le piaci.
LUI: Sei gelosa?
LEI: Io? Tu non mi piaci.
LUI: Perché no?
LEI: Perché sei un secchione.*
LUI: Ma ti piacciono i secchioni.
LEI: Non è vero.
LUI: Tutti i suoi ragazzi sono stati secchioni.
LEI: La cosa importante e che tu piaci a lei. Dovresti parlarle.
LUI: E cosa le dico? Quella ragazza lì mi ha detto che io ti piaccio? Guarda, c’è un ragazzo vicino a lei e lui ti guarda. Gli piaci!
LEI: Come? No, non gli piaccio. Guarda, anche lui ti guarda. Probabilmente è geloso. Meglio che stai attento. Non gli piaci.

*secchione: over-achiever, brainiac, nerd

Grazie a Michele per aver controllato il dialogo!


How to read books in Italian (when your Italian isn’t so good)

Reading is an excellent way to keep improving your Italian. But… if your Italian isn’t so good, reading can be a struggle. You spend so much time looking up words that you forget what you’re reading about. (If you are like me, you forget what you’re talking about too!)

But here’s where modern technology comes to the rescue. Reading an e-book on a tablet may not be your favorite way of reading (I know I personally still prefer the printed word) but for reading in a foreign language – especially one you don’t know that well – it’s the way to go.

I personally use an iPad and I’ve been known to use all of the best known reading apps from time to time – including Kindle, iBooks, and Nook. One reason for this apparent fickleness is simply the availability of the e-book I want. But as of right now (and I reserve the right to update this opinion in the future) Kindle is the clear winner. That’s because Kindle now includes a built-in Italian to English dictionary and a link to Bing’s translator service! What could be easier? Reading is now a breeze and fun! Here’s an example of how the app works using the Italian classic Pinocchio.

Kindle's built-in Italian to English Dictionary
Kindle app for iPad’s built-in Italian to English dictionary in action


Kindle and Wikipedia
The Kindle app also includes a link to the Italian version of Wikipedia


Kindle and Bing Translate
Kindle app for iPad has a built in connection to Bing Translate so you can highlight whole paragraphs and instantly see a translation.


In addition, some books, like the above referenced Pinocchio, also have an audible version! That means you can listen as well as read.

Still depending on your level, reading is tough (Pinocchio is actually quite advanced). What to do? Here are my personal recommendations to make reading a fun part of your continuing education in Italian.

  • Try to always read at your level or just above. Don’t bother trying to read Dante. It’s way too advanced for you. It’s too advanced for some native Italians! You want to read things that will challenge you, but not make reading painful. If it’s painful, you probably won’t learn anything, even if you manage to keep doing it.
  • Look for books translated into Italian from English. Now why wouldn’t you want to read a native Italian book? You do! Just not at first. Native Italians will use references to Italian culture and idioms that you won’t be familiar with. You’re struggling right now to learn new words so let’s not confuse matters. Get the words first, and it will be easier to understand the cultural references later.
  • Look for Easy Readers. There are A LOT of cheap readers available for Kindle. They’re not all the same level, so be sure to check out a sample first. If you’re an absolute beginner, I recommend this one: Easy Italian Reader by Riccarda Saggese (In this case, if you prefer a paper version, go for it. All you need to read it is included in the text and even if you don’t know a word of Italian, I bet you can still read it!)
  • Look for books that include an audible version. It costs extra, but audio will help you develop an ear for spoken Italian. You can read first for comprehension, and then listen after you know what’s going on. (If all you really want to do is develop your ear, I recommend Yabla.)

How do you find books?

Start your search here: Amazon Italian Editions for Kindle

Some popular authors that have Italian translations available for Kindle:

J.K. Rowling books (Harry Potter)

Michael Crichton books (Jurassic Park)

Robert Ludlum books (Jason Bourne)

Tom Clancy books (Jack Ryan)

Lee Child books (Jack Reacher)

James Patterson (Zoo)

Search for more! Here’s a list of fiction authors with Italian language editions on Amazon.

In the native italian category is Elena Ferrante’s Amica Geniale series. These books are very popular in Italy, but Elena Ferrante is a pen name and so far nobody knows who the real author is! A nice bonus, the entire series is available in audible versions

If you like non-fiction, Alberto Angela writes some cool books about Roman history in Italian. They are very descriptive so they’re great if you want to focus on learning new adjectives.

And though, while not currently my favorites, I still use iBooks and Nook fairly often when books are not available for Kindle. One book in particulate that is available as an e-book for iBooks (but not Kindle) is:

Io Non Ho Paura – original is Italian. Includes an eBook, audiobook option, AND a movie version! (Just remember if you buy a DVD to make sure it will work in your player – DVDs are still produced based on region. Annoying, I know. Just be aware and check the specs on your player.)

If you like Dan Brown, you won’t find his Italian editions for Kindle but here they are for iBooks.

Want more recommendations? I’ve set up an Amazon Store for My Italian Diary. As I discover new books, I’ll be adding them there, so you might want to bookmark it.

Do you know any good books in Italian? Do share! Post your favorites in the comments! If you don’t mind, let us know what level you think they’re best for.

Happy Reading in Italian!