Gustar is a unique verb. We learn it early because it’s useful to be able to say you like something, but grammatically it’s an advanced concept.
In English, we say ‘I like … , you like … , he likes … , etc. In this case we conjugate ‘to like’ based on the person doing the liking (I, you, or he). In Spanish, we conjugate the verb gustar based on the thing being liked. The person doing the liking becomes the indirect object in the sentence.
Me gustan los zapatos = literal: The shoes give me like
When the liked object is singular, we use the form gusta. When it’s plural, we use gustan (e.g. los zapatos). There is no change between masculine vs feminine objects.
To indicate who is doing the liking, we use one of the indirect object pronouns before the verb (me, te, le, nos, os, les).
So for example:
I like books
= me gustan los libros
=> literal: the books give me like/pleasure
You like the dress
= te gusta el vestido
=> literal: the dress gives me like/pleasure
Typically we use just the two conjugations of gustar (gusta and gustan). The exception is when the object liked is a person. In this case, gustar is conjugated based on the person liked and takes the additional forms.
I like you = me gustas (you give like to me)
He likes me = le gusto (I give like to you)
Look at the following sentences using the verb gustar. One contains an error, the other a corrected version. Can you tease out the issue?
INCORRECT: Yo me gusta el chocolate
CORRECT: A mí me gusta el chocolate
In the example above, you see we never use the subject pronouns yo, tú, él preceding the verb gustar. The verb gustar is often proceeded instead by prepositions phrases – á mí, a ti etc. These phrases introduce, clarify, or emphasize the indirect object pronoun, but they are not required.
INCORRECT: ME gusta cocinar / Me odio cocinar
CORRECT: Me gusta cocinar / Yo odio cocinar
It’s not uncommon for students to apply the same logic to the verb ‘to hate’ as the verb ‘to like’. However, odiar is not like gustar. There are other verbs that follow the same structure as gustar as we’ll see in the following section, but ‘odiar’ is not one of them.
There are several verbs that are constructed similar to gustar. We’ll look at 10 commonly used by native speakers. It’s important to use these verbs correctly to make sure you are understood.
Note the verbs quedar (to suit) and caer (to like) are always followed by either bien or mal to signify whether the meaning is positive or negative. Paracer (to seem) is also often followed by bien or mal, but can be followed by other adjectives as well.
1. encantar – to love /delight in
a mí me encanta cantar = I love to sing
a mí me encantan los veranos = I love summers
2. importar – to care / matter
a ti te importa la naturaleza = I care about nature
a ti te importan los animales = I care about animals
3. doler – to hurt
a él le duele la cabeza = His head hurts
a él le duelen los pies = His feet hurt
4. parecer – to seem
A ella le parece bien tu idea = It seems like a good idea to her
A ella le parecen interesantes las novelas históricas = She finds historical novels interesting
5. tocar – to touch / to have to / deal with
A usted le toca siempre hacer los informes = You always have to make the reports
A usted le tocan los trabajos más difíciles = You deal with the most difficult works
6. interesar – to be interested
a nosotros nos interesa la política = We are interested in politics
a nosotros nos interesan los derechos humanos = We are interested in human rights
7. quedar (bien o mal) – to fit/ suit / look (good or bad) on
a vosotros os queda bien ese sombrero = That hat suits you all well
a vosotros os quedan mal esas camisetas = Those shirts don’t look good on you all
8. caer (bien o mal) – to fall / to like
a ellos les cae mal el nuevo profesor = They don’t like the new teacher
a ellos les caen bien sus nuevas compañeras = they like their new colleagues
9. faltar – to lack/be missing
A ellas les falta un mes para terminar la escuela = They only short one month to finish school
A ellas les faltan muchas cosas por aprender = They still have to learn many things (They lack many things to be learned)
10. molestar – to bother
A ustedes les molesta el ruido = The noise bothers you (formal)
A ustedes les molestan las personas maleducadas = Rude people bother you (formal)
Here are some humorous instances where these verbs are used. Disfruta bien :)
“Hola. No me importa. Gracias”
“Hi. I don’t care. Thanks”
“Tengo demasiada tarea para mañana … voy a ver qué serie me falta de ver en Netflix”
“I have too many tasks for tomorrow … I am going to see which series I haven’t seen yet (I’m missing) on Netflix”
“Tu opinión me parece tan interesante como ver la pintura secar”
“Your opinion seems to me as interesting as watching paint dry”
“No me molestan los niños brutos, no!”
“Rude kids don’t bother me, no!”
“¡Me encantan los rumores sobre me! Me entero de cosas que ni yo sabía que había hecho.”
“I love the rumors about me!. I find out things that I didn’t even know that I had done.”
Quedar (bien o mal)
“Estoy segura que ese gorro tiene onda, en lo que a la moda respecta, pero quítatelo. No te queda bien”
“I’m sure that hat looks cool, as far as fashion is concerned, but take it off. It does not look good on you.”