Early on when you are studying Spanish, you probably learned the phrase “me gusta”. Me gusta this, me gusta that. While you are somewhat correct that it means “I like this, I like that”, it would be more correct to say “This is pleasing to me, that is pleasing to me”. That is why the verb conjugates differently than say “comer”.
Let’s have a look and dissect the verb Gustar (to like) and the several others that are similar to it.
In English the verb “like” is used as follows:
- I like Spanish class.
- You like flowers.
But Spanish is different. The verb “gustar” in Spanish depends on “what you like” and not the person who likes”
- Me gusta la clase de español.
- Te gustan las flores.
As you can see, the verb is conjugated according to the noun not the person. In the first sentence there is “gusta” because the noun is “la clase” thus is singular. The second sentence uses “gustan” because the noun is “las flores” and is plural. The form of gustar and the noun have to agree with each other.
Additionally, “Gustar” is preceded by an indirect object pronoun (me / te etc.). This indicates that the person is performing the action (of liking).
The conjugation of the verb “gustar” in present tense is pretty easy since you really are learning the aforementioned two terms:
(yo) → (a mí) Me gusta / gustan
(tú) → (a tí) Te gusta / gustan
(él/ella) → (a él/ella) Le gusta / gustan
(nosotros) → (a nosotros) Nos gusta / gustan
(ellos/ellas) → (a ellos/ellas) Les gusta / gustan
(ustedes) → (a ustedes) Les gusta / gustan
Here are some more examples in sentences:
Te gusta la fiesta - You like the party.
Te gustan las fiestas.- You like the parties.
Nos gusta la canción. – We like the song.
Nos gustan las canciones. – We like the songs.
Me gusta bailar. – I like to dance.
While it is more common to place the thing that is liked (noun or verb)
after the verb “gustar”, it may also precede the verb.
Me gusta la película. – I like the film.
La película me gusta. – (Literally: The film pleases me.)
Te gustan los dibujos animados. – You like the cartoons.
Los dibujos animados te gustan. – (Literally: The cartoons please you.)
Nos gusta nadar. – We like to swim.
Nadar nos gusta. – (Literally: To swim (swimming) pleases us.)
NOTE: If the thing liked is not a noun but an action (expressed by a verb in the infinitive), “gustar” is used in the third person singular.
Also NOTE: The indirect object (a mí, a tí etc.) normally precedes the indirect object pronoun when you want to:
- clarify the indirect object pronouns “le” and “les”
- give emphasis (to me, to you etc.)
A Tina no le gusta volar. – Tina doesn´t like to fly. (literally “To Tina, she doesn’t like to fly)
A los estudiantes no les gustan los exámenes. – The students don´t like exams. (literally “To the students, they don’t like the exams)
A Cándida le gusta el pastel. – Candida likes the cake. (literally “To Cándida, she likes the cake)
A mí me gusta dormir. – I like to sleep. (literally “To me, I like to sleep)
Once you feel confident in the structure above, try to expand using gustar in different tenses:
Preterite: gustó / gustaron
Imperfect: gustaba / gustaban
Future: va a gustar / van a gustar (gustará / gustarán)
Conditional: gustaría / gustarían
Some examples here:
No me gustó la película, fue muy aburrida. – I didn’t like the movie, it was very boring.
A ella le gustaban las fresas cuando estaba embarazada. – She liked strawberries when she was pregnant.
Yo sé que a ellos les va a gustar mi idea. – I know that they will like my idea.
¿Les gustarían las clases a los estudiantes? – Would the students like the classes?
Gustar isn’t the one verb that has these funky rules. Check out below for some very common verbs. Fortunately, they all work in the same manner.
Encantar: to love (like in a strong way)
- Me encantan los conciertos. – I love the concerts.
Parecer: to seem
- La película nos pareció corta. – The film seemed short to us.
Los cuentos nos parecieron aburridos. – The stories seemed boring to us.
NOTE: since parecer is usually followed by an adjective, the adjective must agree in number and gender with the item described.
Doler: to be painful, to cause sorrow
- Me duele la cabeza. – I have a headache.
Faltar: to be lacking, to need
- Me faltan cinco dólares. – I lack (need) five dollars.
Quedar (a uno): to remain (to someone), to have left
- Le queda un día de vacaciones. – He has one day of vacation left.
Tocar (a uno): to be one’s turn
- A ti te toca sacar la basura. – It’s your turn to take out the garbage.
Here are some other verbs that use the same form of “gustar” and the others stated above:
Aburrir – to bore.
Bastar – to be sufficient.
Caer bien / mal - to like someone.
Disgustar – to dislike something.
Fascinar – to be fascinating to.
Importar – to be important to.
Interesar – to be interesting to.
Molestar - to be a bother.
Picar - to itch.
Volver loco – to be crazy about.