"La prego, mi dica."
Translation:Please, tell me.
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It's the structure 'dimmi' which is informal. Tell (informal command) is di, plus mi - why the doubling of the consonant? I dunno! [Aiuto, per favore? Moderators?]
The rules for the subjunctive ... well, I am probably a slow learner, but it seems to me it's a bit like that game Go - minutes to learn, a lifetime to master it?
OK, That's overstating the case. Quick and dirty version: In Italian, you can expect the subjunctive when what you are saying is not actual fact. One simple example - I wish you were here (but you're not). Actually, that's one of the few cases that is still subjunctive in English. If I were a rich man ... I thought you were my friend ... wishes, desires, that kind of thing. There are other categories, but Google Italian Subjunctive and you'll see a much better list than I could drag out of my memory.
Watch out, too, for CHE ... it's often a clue that the subjunctive is needed. Vorrei CHE... lui dica la verità. (I would like him to tell the truth.) This hasn't happened yet, so it's not a statement of fact. Penso CHE lui non capisca ... I think he doesn't understand. An opinion, not a fact, and CHE there as a clue.
So - hopes and wishes - opinions, doubts - anything not a definite fact - and watch out for CHE - and you may need the subjunctive.
In old-fashioned English, we show politeness by using more flowering language like - if you would be so kind. Same here. I would ask that you - would you be so good as to ... whatever the form, you haven't done it yet, it's not a statement of fact, so you can feel a subjunctive coming on.
Talking to your child (perhaps) - dimmi la verità!
Talking to your heart surgeon - vorrei che Lei mi dica la verità.
Leave out the flowery stuff and you are left with - mi dica la verità. You've use the subjunctive form, so I know you're being polite - no need for all that 'if I might be so bold' stuff.
I don't know how to answer the last question - why are the two structures different? That seems a little like asking - Why is the imperfect different from the future? - so you can tell them apart I guess.
Subjunctive is a different MOOD, not the same as the forms used for statements. Lui è ricco. FACT. Penso che lui sia ricco. OPINION. There's extra information about what's in the speaker's head given by the choice of sia rather than è.
[Speaking of moods, Watch out for emotions, too - Tu sei qui, but sono contenta CHE tu sia qui. ]
Any help? Reply and rephrase your question if I've misunderstood.
Interesting that the pronoun is feminine. Is there a reason, or is this just a fixed form?
Edit: After thinking a bit, I'm guessing that "La" is the dative form of "Lei." It's surprising that the formal pronoun is almost always given only in the nominative. Of course it should decline as all other pronouns do. Thanks to Duo for making the point, however indirectly.
Ciao, Bellaciao (ciao, ciao...)
The La (capital L) is the direct object. I beg/entreat you. (Becomes a comparatively dull 'please' in English.)
ti prego, dimmi - I entreat you (please) tell me (we're friends)
La prego, mi dica - please tell me (we're not close)
Tricky, isn't it? I often think these 'formal' examples should end with 'dottore', 'signora' ... something to drive home the point that it's formal use.
Hope that helps. :)
I am puzzled, however, about whether this is the true subjunctive (implying doubt and uncertainty in a subordinate phrase, or following certain prepositions) or whether it is the polite imperative which is also "dica". If the latter, then that seems to muddy the water in a lesson which is supposed to be about the subjunctive.