Gustar-like verbs in Spanish explained

Verbs expressed using indirect object pronouns, and how to use them.

Verbs such as gustar are perhaps some of the most difficult verbs to master in the Spanish language, as they require the use of indirect object pronouns and literal translations do not always work! It might seem hard to get your head round now but, with our clear explanation and a bit of verb practice, you’ll be able to use them perfectly in no time!

How do gustar-like verbs work in Spanish?

Perhaps the most recognisable verb in this verb category is gustar itself. Gustar is often translated as “to like” in English, but its literal meaning is “to be pleasing to”.

With gustar, the subject of the sentence is the pleasing thing, whereas the person being pleased is expressed by an indirect object. In the following example, naranjas, or oranges,are the subject of the sentence – so gustar is conjugated in the third person plural form, to match the plural word naranjas. The indirect object me” demonstrates who the oranges are pleasing.

Example:

Spanish 👉 Me gustan las naranjas
Literal English translation 👉 Oranges are pleasing to me
Everyday English translation 👉 I like orange

Spanish: Me gustan las naranjasLiteral English translation: Oranges are pleasing to meEveryday English translation: I like oranges.

How are gustar-like verbs formed in Spanish?

In Spanish, verbs like gustar, aburrir, interesar, fascinar… all use indirect object pronouns to express the person or thing being pleased by the subject. In everyday English, we would say that the “thing doing the liking” is expressed by the indirect object pronouns. Look at the following examples:

Te gustan los pingüinos 
Penguins are pleasing to me
You like penguins
Nos gusta Escocia
Scotland is pleasing to us
We like Scotland

Gustar-like verbs are always conjugated to match the form of the subject – the thing doing the pleasing, in the case of the verb gustar. For example:

Me gusta la película
The film is pleasing to me
I like the film
Me gustan las películas
Films are pleasing to me
I like films

If a sentence using gustar begins with a subject, more focus is given to the pleasing thing/thing being liked (the subject) than the person being pleased/the liker (the indirect object). For example:

Me gusta el pollo
Chicken is pleasing to me
I like the chicken

In order to emphasize the person being pleased/the liker, sentences with verbs like gustar may use the preposition a, followed by a noun or a pronoun, that matches the form of the indirect object. For example:

Me agrada su regalo
I am pleased by your gift
I like your gift
Me agrada su regalo a mí
I am pleased by your gift
I like your gift

Gustar con personas

So far, we’ve looked at how gustar verbs are formed, how they work, and examples with food, films, countries, and animals. But what about using gustar with people? Look at these examples:

Me gusta el libro
The book is pleasing to me  
I like the book
Me gusta Juan
Juan is pleasing to me
I like Juan

Here, they have the same (me gusta …), as they have the same subject – third person singular. With people, the subject can change. Look at the following example in comparison, and notice how, in the left example, tú is in the second person singular, rather than the third person.

Me gustas
You are pleasing to me 
I like you
Me gusta Juan
Juan is pleasing to me
I like Juan

Remember that Gustar is conjugated as a regular verb, therefore:

We can omit the subject (tú), as the information is already shown in the verb (gustas):

Me gustas tú  > Me gustas

We can also put the subject (tú) in front of the sentence:

Me gustas tú  > Tú me gustas

REMEMBER! If the subject changes, you must also change the verb.

  • Tú me gustas
  • Él, ella  me gusta
  • Vosotros/as me gustáis

ATTENTION! The liker/person being pleased can also change

  • Tú me gustas > a mí
  • Tú le gustas > a él, ella
  • Tú nos gustas > a nosotros, a nosotras

Practice

Do you want to practice using gustar-like verbs in Spanish? Take our quiz on Gustar-like verbs!

Jasmine Winthrop

Jasmine Winthrop

Marketing Assistant in Entrelenguas

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