"Mężczyźnie podoba się jego nowy samochód."
Translation:The man likes his new car.
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That is true, some sentences definitely could be better, but not this one.
You can't use "swój" in here, because the grammatical subject of this sentence is "his car". The construction is grammatically closer to "The car is pleasing to the man". So using "swój" here would be like saying "the car's car".
Ah, the wonders of highly specific verbs in Slavic languages. So lubić would tend to be used in something that you've liked for a long time, or referring to an object/animal, if I'm not mistaken.
Just to be sure, there are no life-altering consequences if I accidentally used one of the two in the wrong context, right? Native speakers should still get what I mean, or so I hope.
I'd put wrong usage into three categories:
1) If you use 'lubić' with certain abstract concepts, it will sound wrong/unnatural, but you will get your message across anyway.
2) If you use these verbs incorrectly with inanimate nouns and/or animals, you might not get the exact meaning across that you've intended, but it's not a big problem. Context might help your listeners out here. I've tried to illustrate the difference in meaning with two examples:
Podoba mi się ten pies. - I've probably just met this dog and I'm impressed with certain physical characteristics like the colour of his fur, or with the way he behaves.
Lubię tego psa. - This is my friend's pet that I take care of when my friend is on vacation. I feel emotionally attached to that dog.
3) If you use podobać się with people who are not your romantic interest. Very bad. Best case scenario: You just accidentally said that you're into your friend's mom. Worst case: Police will show up at your door, because you've combined this verb with 'dzieci'.
Ok, I might have overdramatised that last bit, but still, this usage should be avoided.
'Romantic interest' was perhaps a bit too vague. When used with people, it's like 'to be into someone' / 'to fancy someone'. If a friend asks you how you like that girl you've been on a second date with, then it's fine. But in the context of your significant other, that's like stating the obvious, which is very suspicious. No, I think kochać is the only one that works here. Maaaybe you could hear uwielbiam cię after you've said something hilarious, but definitely not on a regular basis and the English translation would use neither 'like' nor 'love' in that context. You're right about lubić though. That also sounds like friendzone to me. Unless it's a platonic friend, of course.
My girlfriend and I used to use "Lubię cię" at first, but that was the early stage, before "Kocham cię". Still, not friendzone.
One more thing: sometimes "podobać się" may be about the first impression and not necessarily the 'visual impression' nor 'having a crush on someone'.
E.g. When a girl brings her boyfriend to meet her parents, after the dinner is finished and the guy left, her mom can say to her daughter: "podoba mi się", equivalent to English "I like him", but that doesn't imply "oh my gosh he's so handsome" ;) Rather just that he made a good impression. Still, unless the context makes it clear that you're stating what your (usually first) impression about someone is, then "podobać się" is risky.
Well... you're not wrong, really. Generally "się" is a reflexive pronoun, so it means that the subject is performing an action on him/herself (e.g. "myć" is "to wash (something), but "myć się" is "to wash yourself", so basically "to take a shower/bath"), but sometimes "się" is an obligatory part of the verb... for no particular reason. This is one of those situations. "podobać" on its own just has no meaning.
Maybe this can help: https://www.clozemaster.com/blog/polish-reflexive-pronouns/