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“Make Me!” (Fare Causativo)

English speakers use the verb “make” to describe how someone has made them do  something or how someone has made them feel.  In other words, in this type of situation, the subject of the sentence is the instigator that will make the stated action take place for someone else.

The verb “make” is called a “causative verb,” and is one of the three true causative verbs in English, which are: let, have, and make.

Check out some popular American songs to see how often this concept comes up in language.  Catchy tunes like, “You Make Me Feel Brand New,”  sung by the Stylistics, or “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Women,” sung by Aretha Franklin are two examples that come to mind, although there are many more. 

I’ll try to make you see how this works using some example sentences in English conversation before we move on to Italian.  In English, we can say, “You are making me cry!” or “He makes me feel so special!”  In a less dramatic situation, we can form a question such as, “Are you making me go to school today?” or a statement such as, “She makes me go to school.”

In each case, the subject of the sentence is the instigator of the action that takes place, and therefore the verb “make” must be conjugated to match this person or persons.* The sentence structure in English is simple:

 Make (conjugated) + Direct Object + Infinitive Verb

(+ optional adverb or indirect object)

The Italian verb fare means “to do” or “to make,” and is the Italian causative verb to use in this situation,  also known as the “fare causativo.” The sentence structure in Italian is the same as for English, except that for Italian (as usual) the direct object should be placed before the conjugated form of the verb fare. 

Direct Object + Fare (conjugated) + Infinitive Verb

(+ optional adverb or indirect object)

This is easy enough in English when we break down the example sentences:

You are making + me + cry.

He makes + me + feel (+ so special)!

She makes + me + go (+ to school).

A few pointers about Italian, and then we will try our example sentences. First, let’s take a look at how subject pronoun use differs in Italian and English.  Remember that the subject pronoun (I, you, he/she, we, you all, they)  is usually left out of the sentence in Italian.  The verb ending in Italian will signal who the subject is.

So, to say, “You make…” instead of, “Tu fai…” say simply, “Fai…”  

For the Italian third person singular, a simple,“Fa…” may be fine for “He makes…” and “She makes…” since the individuals involved in the conversation usually know who is being referred to. But, if a speaker wants to clarify or to emphasize exactly who is the subject under discussion, the Italian subject pronoun can be used, and the phrase becomes “Lui fa…” or “Lei fa…”  

Second, it is OK to just use the simple Italian present tense to render the same meaning as the English present progressive tense (the “-ing” tense). Some phrases just sound better to the English speaker in the present progressive tense, and we tend to use this tense a lot.  But in Italian, the present progressive tense is used more sparingly, mostly to emphasize that something is happening exactly at the moment of conversation. So instead of the usual English phrase, “You are making…” an equivalent Italian phrase will usually be, “You make…” Just remember that the simple present tense in Italian can have several different meanings in English, such as: “You make…”  You are making…”  and “You do make…” *

Finally, the direct object pronouns mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li, le will go before the Italian verb, as usual. Now, let’s to render our example sentences in Italian:

You are making + me + cry.
(Tu)  Mifai + piangere.

He makes + me + feel (+ so special).
(Lui)  Mifa + sentire (+ così speciale).

She makes + me + go (+ to school).
(Lei)  Mi + fa + andare (+ a scuola). 

We can keep on going with our first example sentence using the fare causativo if we want to, and use all of the conjugations of fare, depending on who is making us do what!

Let’s see how this works in the table below, with our conjugated verb fare in green and our direct object in red.  If a subject pronoun is used, it is also in green to match the conjugation of fare. Really, once you remember this “Italian formula” it is easy to describe who is making you do something!

      Mi fai piangere.You make me cry.
You are making me cry.
Lui mi fa piangere.He makes me cry.
He is making me cry.
Lei mi fa piangere.She makes me cry.
She is making me cry.
      Mi fate piangere.You all make me cry.
You all are making me cry.
      Mi fanno piangere.They make me cry.
They are making me cry.

Should we try to use the fare causativo in the past tense?  Why not?  It’s easy!  And our formula works for any Italian tense, by the way!

Check out the table below. Remember the different uses  for the passato prossimo and imperfetto past tenses!

Mi hai fatto piangere ieri.
Mi facevi piangere.
You made me cry yesterday.
You used to make me cry.
Lui mi ha fatto piangere ieri.
Lui mi faceva piangere.
He made me cry yesterday.
He used to make me cry.
Lei mi ha fatto piangere ieri.
Lei mi faceva piangere
She made me cry yesterday.
She used to make me cry.
Mi  avete fatto piangere ieri.      
Mi  facevate piangere.
You all made me cry yesterday.
You used to make me cry.
Mi  hanno fatto piangere ieri.      
Mi  facevano piangere.
They made me cry yesterday.
They used to make me cry.

Now let’s try  to describe what we are making someone else do for us using the fare causativo.  Changing our formula to do this is simple! Now “I” will be the instigator of the action, so we must keep the verb fare in the io form, which is faccio, and change the direct object pronoun to describe who we are making do something!

Ti  faccio piangere.I make you cry.
I am making you cry.
La faccio piangere.I make her cry.
I am making her cry.
Vi   faccio piangere.I make you all cry.
I am making you all cry.
Le   faccio piangere.I make them cry. (all female)
I am making them cry.

*In English, we conjugate present tense verbs so infrequently that we may not even realize what we are doing! The only ending that changes for a regular present tense verb in English is the third person singular. And in the case of “to make” the only change is to add an “s” at the end of the verb.  That is why we English speakers rely so much on our subject pronouns. 

Here are the conjugations for the verb “to make” in English, so you will see what I mean:

I make,  You make,She/He makes, We make, You all make, They make.
I, You, She, He, We, You all, They… are making.

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Remember how to use the Fare Causativo and I guarantee you will use this formula every day!

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at www.learntravelitalian.com.