All Likes and No Shares: Spanish Verb Gustar
Would you like to set the right tone for every conversation? Easy! Tell your companion that you like their hair or something they are wearing! There is nothing more effortless, and yet, it infallibly helps to cheer up and please anyone from the very start! And what if that conversation is in Spanish? Don’t worry – we got you covered! Let’s learn how to speak about the things you like in Spanish!
Like vs. Gustar
In English, you only need a simple structure:
- subject + like + object
to speak about the things that please you. However, in English, the active doer of this “liking” is the subject of the structure. E.g.:
- I like the painting.
- Do you like pizza?, etc.
In Spanish, however, the action is done by the thing that pleases you! So, the structure would be the following
- pronoun (indicating who likes a certain thing) + gustar + object (the thing you like)
The pronoun you’ll need to speak about your preferences is the indirect object pronoun, or simply the one that answers the question “to whom”. Here’s a complete list of Spanish indirect object pronouns:
Let’s try and use the Spanish “liking” structure.
First of all, brush up on the verb forms of gustar. It is a regular verb, so you’ll just need to refresh a simple rule here.
Now, it’s time to convert the familiar English structure to the unfamiliar Spanish one.
- I like the painting. – Me gusta la pintura.
Notice how the verb gustar is in 3rd person singular form gusta. It is so because in Spanish, it is the painting that is performing the gustar action, it is pleasing the person.
- I like the flowers. – Me gustan las flores.
See how gustan is the 3rd person plural form of gustar because las flores is the plural noun.
The Tricks of Gustar
If you are still struggling, imagine the English idea you’d like to express in the Spanish manner:
- I like your hair. – To me, is pleasing your hair.
Never mind the word order, because in Spanish it is much freer than in English. Pay attention to the meaning, because it is virtually the same, and to the “doer” of the action!
Remember: it is the thing you like that performs the gustar action!
We emphasize this because one of the most common mistakes is to match the verb form to the person of the indirect object. This is wrong because the subject in, say, the sentence
- Le gustan mis ojos.
is mis ojos – my eyes – that are pleasing for him.
Simple Cases of Gustar
Basically, if you are going to speak about the objects, phenomena, or qualities one might like, you will only need the 3rd person singular and plural forms of gustar:
- I like your hair. – Me gusta tu pelo.
- You like the soup, don’t you? – ¿Te gusta la sopa, no?
- He likes my eyes. – Le gustan mis ojos.
- We like his book. – Nos gusta su libro.
Complex Cases of Gustar
There are cases when a different form of gustar may be used. However, it only happens when the object of liking is a person or several people. For example,
- I like you. – Me gustas (tú).
Tú is optional here because the verb form is obviously 2nd person singular, but the example may settle in your memory better if you remember the song by Manu Chao. Some more examples will make things clearer:
- He likes you all. – Le gustáis (vosotros).
- Do you like me? – ¿Te gusto (yo)?
- Doesn’t he like us? – ¿No le gustamos (nosotros)?
Notice how the indirect object pronoun (le) is not matched to the verb form (gustamos) because the verb is matched to the subject (nosotros).
Let’s stop right here, as there is enough to sort through and memorize already. We’ll continue speaking about the verb gustar next week, and now it’s time for a short quiz!