Did you know that in Spanish we don’t say “I like dogs”? Instead, we say something like, “Dogs are pleasing to me” → Me gustan los perros. That is why the verb gustar in Spanish is tricky but with these two important tips, you will easily master it: 1) you don’t need to memorize many forms, 2) they always go with a pronoun like me, te, le! If you want to know more about gustar and similar verbs, continue reading!
What is the equivalence of ‘gustar’ in English?
As previously mentioned, gustar doesn’t have a direct equivalence in English. In Spanish, we don’t say “I like X,” but instead, we say something like “X is/are pleasing to me.” Let’s explore this further. Take a look at the following examples:
|I||like||tortilla de patata. |
⤷the item being liked
|Indirect Object Pronoun||Verb||Subject|
|Me (to me)||gusta||la tortilla de patata. |
⤷the item being liked
Notice that the gustar word order is different from English and from other Spanish sentences in general, in that we usually place the subject before the verb, but with gustar it’s usually placed at the end!
Yo como pizza. Me gusta la pizza.subject⤶ ⤷subject
I eat pizza. I like pizza. Literal: Pizza is pleasing to me.
Verb forms of ‘gustar’
Me gusta el café. I like coffee.
Me gustan los refrescos. I like sodas.
|Use singular form: gusta||Use plural form: gustan|
|With singular nouns: |
Me gusta. la música.
I like music.
|With plural nouns: |
Me gustan los deportes.
I like sports.
|With verbs (what you like to do):|
Me gusta correr.
I like running.
|A combination of several things: |
Me gustan los helados y los pasteles.
I like ice cream and cakes.
Basically, we use the singular form (gusta) when the person/item being liked is singular or an action (infinitive). We use the plural form (gustan) when the person/item being liked is plural or we have several nouns coordinated.
What happens when the item being liked is a combination of infinitives or a noun and an infinitive?
- We use the singular form when the coordinated elements are:
- Infinitives: Me gusta bailar y cantar.
- An infinitive and a singular noun: Me gusta la playa y caminar por la montaña.
- We use the plural form when the coordinated elements are:
- An infinitive and a plural noun AND the plural noun is closer to the verb:
What happens if you want to tell another person “I like you”?
In this case, the person being liked is tú. Recall that in these constructions, what or who is being liked is the subject of the sentence and thus, it must agree with the verb, so we use the conjugation for tú = gustas:
Pronoun verb subject (the person being liked)
As observed, tú is the subject of the verb and it agrees with the verb, thus we must use the form gustas (second person singular).
⤷TIP Remember that subject pronouns can be omitted so we can just say: me gustas (I like you). This implies “attraction” to another person, so if that is not your intention then you can say “me caes bien” to say you like someone as a friend.
Notice that in English, we say “I like it,” but in Spanish, we just say: me gusta. We don’t have to add a pronoun “it” like in English. Similarly, with the plural “I like them” we just say: me gustan.
⤷TIP Gustar conjugates like a regular –ar verb in any tense!
Cuando éramos niños, nos gustaba jugar en el parque.
When we were kids, we used to like playing in the park.
Me gustaron mis regalos de cumpleaños.
I liked my birthday presents.
Pronouns used with ‘gustar’
The second important thing you need to know is that constructions that have verbs like gustar, always go with an indirect object pronoun.
|Person||Indirect object pronouns|
*vosotros pronoun os is only used in Spain.
Depending on who likes the item/activity or to whom the item is pleasing, we use one pronoun or the other. For example, if I like swimming I would say:
Me gusta nadar.
But, if you like swimming, we need to use the pronoun referring to “you” → te.
Te gusta nadar.
Can you guess what happens if “we” like swimming?
Yes! Nos gusta nadar.
- To make a negative sentence just add no in front of the pronoun:
No les gusta nadar cuando hace frío.
They don’t like to swim when it’s cold.
Now let’s put everything we covered together. How would you say “he likes bananas”?
Step 1: What is the item/person being liked? → bananas = los plátanos
Step 2: Is it a singular or plural noun, or a verb? → plural noun
Step 3: Which gustar form matches the plural noun? → gustan
Step 4: To whom is it pleasing (look at the pronoun table ⇧) → le (to him)
Step 5: Form the sentence: indirect object pronoun + verb + subject
Le gustan los plátanos.
‘A’ + pronoun for emphasis or clarification
We can add the construction a + pronoun if we want to make clear or emphasize who likes the item/action. These forms are optional.
|Person||Pronouns after prepositions|
*a vosotros/vosotras is only used in Spain.
A mí me encantan los perritos pero a ti te gustan más los gatitos.
I love puppies but you like kitties more.
- You can also use this handy construction with people’s names instead of the pronoun:
A Carlos le gusta la comida salada, pero a Sofía le gustan los postres.
Carlos likes savory food, but Sofia likes desserts.
If you want to use a + pronoun, or a + name the indirect object pronoun is still obligatory.
A mí me gusta correr y a Esteban le gusta nadar.
- If you want to make make a sentence negative, place no in between a + pronoun and the indirect object pronoun:
- Finally, this a is also used to make questions before the question words quién/quiénes (who):
Now that you know how to use gustar, keep reading to learn about other verbs that work exactly like gustar.
Other verbs like ‘gustar’
Now that you how to use gustar you can apply the same strategies to many other verbs, remember the two important things with these verbs:
- You typically only need the él/ella form (the singular) or the ellos/ellas form (the plural)
- Use the singular if the verb is followed by a singular noun or an infinitive verb.
- Use the plural if the verb is followed by a plural noun.
⤷TIP Add an –n to the singular form and you’ll have the plural form!
- And, you need an Indirect Object Pronoun (me, te, le, nos, os, les).
Me interesan las novelas históricas.
I’m interested in historical novels.
In this case, las novelas históricas is a plural noun so we use the plural form of verb interesar (to interest), and because the novels are interesting to me, then we use the pronoun me. Easy peasy!
Other verbs you can add to your repertoire are:
Quedar (to be left over/ to fit)
I have a lot of work left to do.
These shoes don’t fit me; they are very small.
Caer + bien/mal… (to like/dislike someone)
I really like your friends.
⤷TIP Caer bien/mal or pesado (heavy) can be used with food to say that something you ate agrees/disagrees with you or was a heavy meal.
La comida me cayó pesada.
That was a heavy meal. Literal: The food was heavy on me.
Hacer + daño (to harm)
Dairy doesn’t agree with me. Literal: Dairy harms me.
Hacer + falta (to be needed/ to lack)
We need a fan in this office.
⤷TIP If you want to say you miss someone, you can say: Tú me haces falta. Notice that tú (you) is the subject, so the verb must agree with the subject tú.
Dar + miedo (to be scared)
Luis is scared of clowns.
Rats terrify my mother.
Literal: Rats give panic to my mother.
Dar + vergüenza (be embarrassed)
I feel embarrassed speaking in public.
Dar + risa (cause laughter)
This comedian makes me laugh.
Verbs like ‘gustar’ with adjectives
It is important to mention that some verbs that behave like gustar can be followed by an adjective in order to express the feeling the verb causes to us. Take a look at the following examples, and don’t forget that adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they modify.
For instance, you can express if something seems interesting or boring using the construction: parece + adjective (it seems + adjective).
|parecer + interesante |
to seem interesting
|Estos temas nos parecen interesantes.|
These topics seem interesting to us.
|parecer + aburrido |
to seem boring
|Este libro me parece aburrido.|
This book seems boring to me.
|poner + nervioso |
to get nervous
|Esta casa me pone nerviosa. |
This house makes me nervous.
|resultar + fácil/difícil |
to seem easy/hard
|Los exámenes me resultaron difíciles. |
The exams were hard for me.
|resultar + imposible|
to seem impossible
|Me resulta imposible llegar temprano.|
It’s impossible for me to arrive early.
|resultar + extraño |
to seem strange
|El desenlace nos resultó extraño.|
The ending seemed strange to us.
|quedar + genial/fatal |
to look great/terrible
|Tu nuevo corte de pelo te queda genial.|
Your new haircut looks great on you.
To sum up
In this post, we went over how the verb gustar behaves. There are two important things you need to remember:
1) The item/action being liked is the subject of the sentence and thus, it must agree with the verb.
- Use gusta if followed by a singular noun or an infinitive.
- Use gustan if followed by a plural noun.
2) We need to use an indirect object pronoun in order to express who likes the item/action.
- The pronouns are: me, te, le, nos, os, les.
The infinitive is a verb in its basic form, for example “to run,” “to eat,” “to be.” In Spanish, we have three infinitive endings:
–AR: bailar (to dance)
–ER: beber (to drink)
–IR: reir (to laugh)