‘Gustar’ means ‘to like’ in Spanish but wrapping your head around exactly how to conjugate it can be quite the task!
What makes ‘gustar’ a tricky customer is the fact that it DOESN´T work the same way as the English verb ‘to like’. It actually agrees in number with the thing or things being liked, NOT the person or people doing the liking! So, we use ‘gusta’ when referring to a singular noun and ‘gustan’ when referring to a plural noun.
Nervous yet? Fear not! Come with me and let’s explore the ins and outs of ‘gusta’ and ‘gustan’.
Let’s dive into it!
The verb ‘gustar’ actually works more like the English “to be pleasing” than the verb “to like”.
The structure is as follows –
indirect object pronoun + gusta / gustan + noun
We use ‘gusta’ with a singular noun (or infinitive) –
Me gusta la playa. = I like the beach.
Me gusta ir a la playa. = I like going to the beach.
And ‘gustan’ with a plural noun –
Me gustan las playas en México = I like the beaches in Mexico.
‘Gustar’ CAN also work like a more “traditional” verb when followed by the preposition ‘de’ (or ‘del’), but it´s not that common in spoken Spanish –
Yo gusto de la cerveza. = I like beer.
Ellos gustan de las películas. = They like movies.
‘Gusta’ vs ‘gustan’
‘Gustar’ might translate as ‘to like’ in English but it actually works more like ‘to be pleasing’.
Ok, erm … tell me more, please!
Let’s dissect a sentence in English first –
The beach is pleasing to me.*
*Yeah, I know, you’d never actually say this in English … but just bear with me because it’s really gonna help you understand the Spanish verb ‘gustar’.
All gravy so far?
Well, we use ‘gustar’ in Spanish in pretty much the same way (yippee!).
Basically, the thing doing the “pleasing” is the subject of the sentence and the person being pleased the “indirect object”.
The word order is slightly different in Spanish, but the principal remains the same.
Here’s how it works –
indirect object pronoun + gusta / gustan + subject (noun)
So, first we need an indirect object pronoun.
This has to correspond to the person “being pleased” –
|Pronombres de objeto indirecto||Indirect object pronouns|
|le||him / her / it|
Now for the juicy bit!
The “indirect object pronoun” is followed by either ‘gusta’ or ‘gustan’.
And how do we choose between the two?
Well, they have to agree in NUMBER with the subject (remember that in this instance the subject is the thing doing the “pleasing”), of course!
So, if the subject is singular, we use ‘gusta’ –
Me gusta la playa.
Te gusta la comida.
Les gusta el juguete
As you can see, in all of the above sentences the subject (i.e., the thing doing the pleasing) is SINGULAR … there’s only 1!
If, however, the subject is PLURAL, we need to use ‘gustan’ –
Nos gustan las paletas
Le gustan los días soleados.
Les gustan los perros.
Phew! I hope you were able to take all that in!
Let’s have a look at some more examples –
Me gusta la comida italiana.
Literally: Italian food is pleasing to me.
Actual translation: I like Italian food.
Les gusta la carne.
Literally: Meat is pleasing to them.
Actual translation: They like meat.
¿Te gustan los gatos?
Literally: Are cats pleasing to you?
Actual translation: Do you like cats?
You can also replace the subject (the thing doing the pleasing) with a verb in its INFINITIVE form, but it can ONLY be used with ‘gusta’ –
¡Me gusta mucho salir!
Literally: Going out is very pleasing to me!
Actual translation: I really like going out!
Les gusta comer tacos.
Literally: Eating tacos is pleasing to them.
Actual translation: They like eating tacos.
‘Gusta / gustan + de’
There’s actually another way to use the verb ‘gustar’ (but don´t tell anyone!).
I’m joking, of course … but there is actually another way to use ‘gustar’ (although it’s nowhere near as common in spoken Spanish as “indirect object pronoun + gusta/gustan + noun”).
You can actually conjugate ‘gustar’ like a normal verb, but only if you whack a ‘de’ straight after.
The ‘de’ is followed by a noun or infinitive (yep, just like in the first method!).
When used with ‘de’ (or ‘del’), ‘gusta’ also has to agree with the subject (it is a verb after all!), so you can only use it in the third person SINGULAR –
- Usted gusta de = You (formal) like
- Él / ella gusta de = He / she likes
The ‘yo’ and ‘tú’ (or informal ‘you’) conjugations are slightly different –
- Yo gusto de = I like (NOT ´yo gusta’)
- Tú gustas de = You like (NOT ´tú gusta’)
Let’s have a look at some examples –
Ella gusta de hacer picnics los domingos.
She likes to have picnics on Sundays.
¡Hola! Soy Adrián y gusto enormemente de la cerveza artesanal.
Hi! I’m Adrián and I really like craft beer.
Well, it’s the third person plural conjugation: ‘ustedes’ (plural ‘you’), ‘ellos’ (masculine ‘they’), and ‘ellas’ (feminine ‘they’).
Just watch out for that pesky ‘nosotros’ (‘we’), as it’s conjugated as ‘gustamos’.
Ellas gustan de invitar a sus parejas a todas sus reuniones.
They like to invite their partners to all of their get togethers.
Por lo que veo, ustedes gustan muchísimo de climas calurosos.
From what I’ve seen, you guys really like hot weather.
Mi novia y yo gustamos mucho de ir a catas de vino.
My girlfriend and I really like going to wine tastings.
Oh, and here’s how to conjugate “gustar + de” –
Yo gusto de = I like (NOT ´yo gusta’).
Tú gustas de = You like (NOT ´tú gusta’)
Usted gusta de = You like (formal)
Él / ella gusta de = He / she likes
Nosotros gustamos de = We like
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes gustan de = They like
Conjugating verbs in Spanish is no small feat!
Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself struggling … just keep practicing and you’ll eventually get the hang of it!
Wanna learn more advanced Spanish grammar? Head on over to our article on the difference between ‘se’ and ‘le’.