The verb GUSTAR and other verbs like GUSTAR confuse many Spanish students because these sort of verbs do not really exist in English. The literal translation of GUSTAR is “to please” which is unfortunate for anyone who has to teach high school Spanish as you will have to tell them the way to say “I like it” is actually “it pleases me” and suffer the inevitable giggling.
There are several verbs that work like GUSTAR such as encantar, convenir, cansar, disgustar and enojar, just as a few examples. (To like, to be convenient/be good for someone, to be tiresome, to be displeasing, to anger). All of them may be conjugated following the same rules as GUSTAR.
When conjugating verbs like GUSTAR, you do not conjugate based on the person who likes something, you conjugate based on the thing that they like. To convey who is doing the liking, you will need to use indirect object pronouns. I know, I am getting into linguistic terms now, I will bring it back to simple explanations, I promise.
For example “I like food” would not be “Yo gusto comida” which is how you normally conjugate a verb but instead “Me gusta la comida”.
Conjugate the verb GUSTAR and verbs like GUSTAR
Me gusta(n) – I like
Te gusta(n) – You like (informal)
Le gusta(n) – You like (formal)/ he/she likes
Nos gusta(n) – We like
Les gusta(n) – You all like/They like
You add the “n” when you are talking about plural things. For example “Me gusta la comida” (I like food) versus “Me gustan las papas” (I like potatoes).
For the sake of simplicity of this article, I will keep only show examples of the present tense here. For examples on how to conjugate the verb GUSTAR in other verb tenses look here. I would, however, like to note some additional words you may add for emphasis or clarity.
(A mí) me gusta(n) – I like
(A ti) te gusta(n) – You like (informal)
(A usted/a él/a ella) Le gusta(n) – You like (formal)/ he/she likes
(A nosotros) nos gusta(n) – We like
(A ustedes/a ellos/a ellas) les gusta(n) – You all like/They like
As you can see, the translations are the same. Me gusta, te gusta and nos gusta. These extra words could just be for emphasis. However, you might want to add these words for clarity in some instances.
For example: “Le gusta el fútbol” could mean you like soccer, he likes soccer or she likes soccer. If you add “A él” in front, you will clearly be saying “He likes soccer.”
Apply these rules to any gustar-like verb and you are set!
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