It pleases me, I like it!
likes and dislikes in Spanish is challenging for English speakers,
because Spanish does not have a verb which can literally translate as
“to like.” Instead, you
must use the verb gustar
/ goo-STAHRR, which means “to be pleasing” to someone.
(to be pleasing to someone) is related to the noun gusto
/ GOO-stoh (pleasure,
taste). You may recognize gusto
from the expression Mucho
pleasure), which means “Nice to meet you” when you make
someone’s’ acquaintance. The
Spanish word gusto
is also used to refer to social or aesthetic taste, as in Tiene
buen gusto con la ropa
(S/he has good taste in clothing).
In English, the word “gusto” refers to an enjoyment or zeal,
a pleasure of life.
advanced students often do not completely understand or correctly use
the verb gustar.
The confusion starts
because the thing or things being liked in a gustar
construction are the subject of the sentence, because they are
what is doing the pleasing. In
an English sentence, the things being liked are the object of the
sentence, because they are receiving the action of being liked.
It’s hard for English speakers to accept the concept that the
things they like aren’t expressed as the objects of their desire but
rather as independent agents with the power to affect their happiness.
we have said, in Spanish you don’t like things.
Things are pleasing to you.
For example, to say “I like
chocolate,” you must literally say “Chocolate is pleasing to me” (El
chocolate me gusta OR Me
gusta el chocolate).
the thing being liked is actually the subject, you have to make the verb
plural when more than one thing is being liked.
Remember that to make a third person verb plural in the present
tense you must add –N
to the verb.
gusta el chocolate. (Literally = Chocolate is pleasing to me.
I like chocolate.)
gustan las fresas. (Literally = Strawberries are pleasing to me.
I like strawberries.)
gusta comer fresas con chocolate. (Literally = It pleases me to eat strawberries with
chocolate. I like to eat
strawberries with chocolate.)
When talking about an action that is liked, you always use
gustar in the singular with
an infinitive verb.
This is true even if there is more than one verb: Me
gusta cocinar y comer. (Literally = It is pleasing to me to cook and
note that in a gustar
construction, Spanish often uses the word “the” where English does
word order adds to the confusion, because in Spanish, object pronouns
such as “you,” “me,” “him,” and “her,” always go before
the conjugated verb. In
English, object pronouns always go after the verb.
example, in English, you say “You give me,” but in Spanish, you say
“To me you give” (Me
da usted OR
Usted me da).
further add to the confusion, Spanish word order is flexible with
regards to the subject of the sentence.
For example, to say “You give me,” one can say Usted me da
(You to me give) or Me
da usted (To me you
give), and it essentially means the same thing.
To say “I like chocolate” it is correct to say Me
gusta el chocolate
(To me is pleasing chocolate) or El
chocolate me gusta
(Chocolate to me is pleasing).
likes and dislikes is important when learning another language, so gustar
is often taught early on, even before students understand all the
grammar involved. To make
it simpler for the beginner, the gustar
sometimes presented in a chart such as this:
(when it’s not pleasing)
doing the liking
(to whom it is pleasing)
(item(s) that are pleasing)
(to him, her, You-polite)
(to them, You all–polite)
(when one thing is liked)
(when more than one thing is
The pronoun os (to you all-intimate) is used in Spain, but not in Latin America.
Latin Americans use the polite form les with all groups.
your sentence going from left to right.
If one thing is being liked, you use gusta.
If more than one thing is being liked, you use gustan. If something is
not liked, you put no in
front of the pronoun (me, te, le,
very careful of your pronunciation when you say Me
gusta / meh GOO-stah (It pleases me, I like it).
The Spanish word me /
meh is pronounced similarly to the English word “may” and not like
the English word “me.” The
“ee” sound in Spanish is spelled with an “i,” and the Spanish
word mi / mee means “my.”
notice that the word gusta ends in –A. Many
beginners try to use an –O on the verb, because they are thinking that
they need an “I” verb. That
doesn’t make sense here. Remember,
you are talking about something else that is pleasing to you, so
you must use the “s/he, it” ending of the verb.
way to understand gustar is
to change an English “like” sentence into a “pleasing” sentence
before you try to translate into Spanish.
for example, you start with “We like strawberries,” transform that
into “Strawberries are pleasing to us” and then you have Las
fresas nos gustan or Nos
gustan las fresas.
trick for understanding gustar is to look at the English word “disgust.”
In English, we can say “Chocolate disgusts me” and we know
not to say “I disgust the chocolate” by mistake.
It’s clear that the action is happening to us.
This is what is happening in a gustar
imagine that along with “disgust” we had a verb “gust” in
English. Then you would say
“Chocolate disgusts me” if you didn’t like it and “Chocolate
gusts me” if you did like it.
fact, there is cognate of the English word “disgust” in Spanish.
The verb disgustar / thees-goo-STAHRR means “to displease.”
It is used just like gustar. For example:
disgusta el chocolate.
(Chocolate displeases me. I
Me gusta el chocolate.
(Chocolate pleases me. I
next time you need to talk about something you like in Spanish,
think about it not “disgusting” you and see it this helps you come
up with the correct use of gustar.
of a “gustar” sentence
you will want to clarify or specify who is doing the liking (my
friend likes, María likes, he likes, etc.).
For these purposes you use the Spanish preposition a
/ah (to) in order to show to whom the item is pleasing.
Look at these examples of who likes chocolate and who doesn’t:
mi amigo le gusta.
(To my friend it is pleasing.
My friend likes it.)
No le gusta mucho a María.
(It doesn’t please María much.
María doesn’t like it very much.)
A ella no le gusta.
(It doesn’t please her. She
doesn’t like it.)
A Juan le gusta.
(It’s pleasing to Juan. Juan
A él le gusta mucho.
(It pleases him a lot. He
likes it a lot.)
usted le gusta, Señor Padilla?
(Is it pleasing to You-polite, Mr. Padilla?
Do You-polite like it, Mr. Padilla?)
No les gusta a ellos.
(It’s not pleasing to them.
They don’t like it.)
A ustedes les gusta más. (It
pleases You all-polite more. You
all-polite like it more.)
one person likes another, the word a
/ ah (to) will help you to know who is pleasing to whom.
Juan le gusta María.
(María is pleasing to Juan.
Juan likes María.)
Juan le gusta a María.
(Juan is pleasing to María.
María likes Juan.)
that even when you use a name or other specific reference, you still
have to use the pronoun le or les.
Spanish is redundant this way.
Also note that the phrase with a
/ ah (to) can go either before or after the gustar
in a “gustar” sentence
not necessary for clarification, the following expressions may be used
for emphasis in a gustar
mí me gusta.
(I like it.)
¿No te gusta a ti? (You-intimate don’t like it?)
A nosotros nos gusta mucho.
(We like it a lot.)
word mí / mee means
“me,” but it is only used after a preposition such as “to” (a
/ah) or “intended for” (para
/ PAHddah). You can’t use
mí in front of the verb.
word mí / mee (me, obj. of a
prep.) is spelled with an accent mark to differentiate it from the word mi
/ mee which means “my.” The
word ti / tee (you-intimated, obj. of a prep.) does not have an
accent mark because there is no other word that sounds like it in
with the earlier examples, the phrase with a
/ ah (to) can go either before or after the gustar
construction. So, you can
say A mí me gusta OR Me gusta a
mí (I like it).
like, I liked, I would like
is a regular –AR verb, and can be conjugated in all tenses, just like
any other verb. If you are
a beginner, you will mostly be talking about present tense things, but
there are some uses of gustar
in other tenses which may be helpful to you.
of all, you can use the verbs gustó / goo-STOH
(s/he, it pleased) and gustaron
/ goo-STAHddohn (they pleased) to talk about something you or
someone else liked in the past.
Note that there is an accent mark in gustó
/ goo-STOH. The
change in stress makes it third person past tense (s/he did)
rather than first person present tense (I do).
(It pleased me a lot. I
liked it a lot.)
¿Le gustó a usted? (Did it
please You-polite? Did
You-polite like it?)
No me gustaron.
(They did not please me. I
didn’t like them.)
A mí no me gustó tampoco.
(It did not please me either.
I did not like it either.)
the verb gustaría can be
used with an infinitive verb to talk about something you or someone else
would like to do. Remember
that you always use gustar in
the singular with an infinitive.
gustaría ir al cine?
(Would it please You (polite) to go to the movies? Would You
(polite) like to go to the movies?)
Sí, me gustaría.
(Yes, it would be pleasing to me.
Yes, I’d like to.)
may see gustar
in other tenses as well. For example:
me está gustando este chocolate.
(This chocolate is not pleasing me.
I’m not liking this chocolate.)
usted le gustará más ese chocolate. (That chocolate will please You-polite more.
You-polite will like that chocolate more.)
no me gustaba mucho el chocolate. (Before, chocolate didn’t used to please me much.
I didn’t used to like chocolate much before.)
in all persons
grammar textbooks usually concentrate on the third person forms (s/he,
it, they) of gustar because
the focus is on talking about things or activities that people like.
But what if you want to tell people you like them, or talk about
people that like you?
know how to say “I like strawberries,” but how would you translate
“I like you?” You can
say “You like chocolate,” but how do you say “You like me?”
You know how to say “We like them,” but how do you say
“They don’t like us?”
the answer, you have to go back to what gustar
really means – to be pleasing. Then
conjugate the verb appropriately. Here
is the present tense conjugation of gustar
and what each form means:
– I am pleasing = someone likes me
gustas – you (intimate) are
pleasing = someone likes you
gusta – s/he, it, is
pleasing, You (polite) are pleasing = someone likes him, her, it, You
gustamos – we are pleasing
= someone likes us
gustan – they, You (polite)
plural are pleasing = someone likes them or You all
“someone” that is being pleased (i.e. doing the liking in an English
sentence) is expressed with the indirect pronoun (me,
te, le, nos, les). This
generates sentences such as:
(Am I pleasing to you*? Do you* like me?)
Me gustas* mucho.
(You* please me a lot. I
like you* a lot.)
No le gusto a él.
(I’m not pleasing to him.
He doesn’t like me.)
No les gustamos.
(We’re not pleasing to them.
They don’t like us.)
This is the “buddy-buddy” or intimate “you” form.
Spanish that Works usually focuses on the usted
form because it’s more appropriate in customer service situations and
simpler for the beginner, but this isn’t the kind of sentence one
typically uses with a customer!
these phrases don’t come up too often, at least not in a grammar
class. Textbooks don’t
usually teach all the forms of gustar,
because classroom dialogues don’t get that personal, and the textbook
authors don’t want you to start thinking that gusto
means “I like.” In
fact, it means the opposite!
you’ll talk about liking objects or activities, so you will use gusta
(it pleases) and gustan (they
please). But sometimes
it’s helpful to know that gustar
is a regular verb and can be conjugated just like other verbs.
special use of gustar
speakers from Mexico sometimes use the verb gustar
similarly to an English “like” construction, to ask someone if he or
she would like something. For
example, you may hear an expression such as ¿Ustedes
gustan ir? (Would You all like to go?) or ¿Tú
gustas un poquito de pastel? (Would you-intimate like a little
is possibly an archaic use of the verb.
In Portuguese, which closer to Old Spanish, the verb gostar
means “to like.” So, Eu gosto means “I like,” just like you would expect in an
is a specialized and regional use of the verb, and should not be
confused with the standard use of gustar to mean “to be pleasing to” someone.
really like it! I love it!
Spanish verbs “to love” (querer, amar) are generally reserved for talking about love towards
people, and are not used to talk about things or activities one likes a
talk about something you really, really like, or “love,” you can use
the verb encantar / ehn-cahn-TAHRR.
This verb literally means “to delight” and is used the same
way that you use gustar. For example:
encantan las fresas.
I love strawberries.
A mi amiga le encanta cocinar.
My friend loves to cook.
that you like something a lot, you can also use mucho
/ MOO-choh (a lot). If you
like something more than something else, you use the word más
/ MAHSS (more). For
fresas me gustan mucho.
I like strawberries a lot. I
really like strawberries.
Me gusta más comer que cocinar.
I like eating more than cooking.
a few phrases to express things you like and don’t like. Then learn
how to ask someone if he or she likes something.
Be careful with pronunciation, especially of me
gusta / meh GOO-stah. Remember that gustar
doesn’t really mean “to like” but rather “to be pleasing.”
Remember that if one thing is being liked you use gusta, and if more than one thing is being liked you use gustan. If the “disgusts” / “gusts” trick works for you, use
this month’s quiz to see if you have understood everything.
And if you don’t have it all quite right, just keep telling
yourself, Me gusta el español, Me gusta el español, Me gusta el español...
this month's translation quiz
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