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In a lot of Italian operas, I frequently hear the word "parmi". Either used in the middle of a sentence, or in the beginning of the final cabaletta in L'Assedio di Corinto.

Yet, no translation service or dictionary I've checked has this word. I've studied Italian for a year, so in the aria's name Parmi vederlo, I know that vederlo is see it. So my thought is it might be Pare+mi, as an imperative case, but pare is not the infinitive of any verb I can find. And even if you use parere the context doesn't make sense, since the sentence would seem to read like "It seems to see it...".

For context, the full sentence is, "Parmi vederlo, ahi misero vicino a morte orribile."

Any help with this?

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Your analysis is correct. The word parmi is indeed a contraction of mi pare, where pare is the third person of parere. So parmi means “it seems to me”, or “it appears to me”.

In your example, parmi vederlo simply means (in a non-idiomatic English) “it seems to me that I see him”, in the sense of “it's almost as if I could see him”.

Probably your confusion comes from the fact that in these sentences parere is constructed impersonally, so parmi = mi pare = “it seems to me that I...” (and not “It seems to see it...”).

(As for vederlo, it could be both “to see him” and “to see it”; Italian has no neuter gender. From the context, here it refers to a “him”.)

  • Thanks for that detailed breakdown! So would the full sentence be something like: "It seems to me that I see it, ah they were put close to a horrible death."? It seems like an odd sentence, but I know that operatic/poetic Italian is not necessarily proper. – Marco Dec 14 '16 at 19:14
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    @Marco: Not quite: “It seems to me that I see him, ah the wretched man, close to a horrible death”. Here misero is this adjective, not a form of the verb mettere. – DaG Dec 14 '16 at 22:04
  • Interesting. I have to go back to the text because I don't remember there being any man in the scene (just her with a group of ladies). But I'll defer to you. – Marco Dec 14 '16 at 22:28
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    @Marco: I don't know this particular opera, but it would seem from this sentence that the unhappy chap she talks about is not present but elsewhere (prison? battlefield?) and she “sees” him with her mind's eye. – DaG Dec 14 '16 at 22:33
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    I'd say It's as if I saw him [now], rather than the literal It seems I see him. But I'm not italian. – entonio Dec 15 '16 at 23:31

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