Gustar 3 step guide Spanish

Gustar in Spanish: A 3-Step Guide to Use It Fast In Conversation

Gustar is different

Gustar” (to like) is a very important and highly used verb in Spanish. However, its conjugation differs greatly from that of the other “regular” of Spanish verbs. Many Spanish learners get confused at the beginning of their journey on how to use it correctly when talking.

In this 3-step guide, we’ll see not only how this verb works, but how you can speed up your thinking process to use it faster and accurately in conversation.

A Convenient Guide in PDF

If you just want to get the quick guide to use gustar  fast and accurately, download the guide here in pdf for your personal use.

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Why Gustar is important

One significant reason is that verbs like gustar are frequently used in daily life. For example:

  • ¿Qué te gusta hacer? (What do you like to do?)
  • ¿Te gusta la música? (Do you like music?)
  • ¿Te gusta la playa o la montaña? (Do you like the beach or the mountains?)
  • No me gusta la salsa picante (I don’t like spicy salsa)
  • A ella no le gustas tú (She doesn’t like you)

And, I bet you see it everyday, if you use Facebook in Spanish – “Me gusta” is the Spanish version of the “Like” button!

By the way, having your Social Media language in Spanish can help you pick up new, common technology words.

Gustar and its cousins – The Emotion Verbs

“Gustar” is not the only verb that has a different structure in Spanish – that would be linguistically too inefficient.

There’s a group of verbs, known as emotion verbs, that are labeled as such for a reason: all of them refer to feelings. Let’s have a look:

  • gustar (to like), me gusta (I like)
  • encantar (to love, cannot be used to refer to people), me encanta (I love)
  • molestar (to bother), me molesta (it bothers me)
  • emocionar (to excite), me emociona (it’s exciting to me)
  • interesar (to interest), me interesa (I’m interested in)
  • importar (to matter, to be important), me importa (it’s important to me)
  • faltar (to lack), me falta (I lack that)
  • quedar bien/mal (to suit well/badly), me queda bien/mal (it suits me well/badly)

The English translation of these verbs is somewhat mixed – there’s not a completely equivalent structure that could be transferred from Spanish to English.

A Different Sentence Order

In Spanish, regular sentence order is as follows:

Subject (optional) + Verb + Complements

This can be seen in the following examples:

  • Juan toma un vaso de agua.
  • Mis amigos viajan todos los fines de semana.
  • He puesto las llaves encima de la mesa.

However, emotion verbs work in a different way. Grammatically, the subject is not the person involved in the action, but instead the object or situation that is causing the feeling. For example:

  • Me gustan las carreras de coches (I like car races – Car races make me like them).
  • Las carreras de coches me dan miedo (Car races scare me).
  • Me interesan las carreras de coches (I’m interested in car races).

Common Mistakes for Gustar

As a teacher, I’ve seen my students struggle quite often with the verb gustar, as well as with the other emotion verbs. I often hear sentences that sound like the following:

Common mistake >> Correct version

Me gusto la cerveza >> Me gusta la cerveza

Me gusta los viajes >> Me gustan los viajes

Se gusta comer pizza >> Le gusta comer pizza

Ellos les gusta bailar >> A ellos les gusta bailar

¿Te gusta las películas? >> ¿Te gustan las películas?

The reason for these mistakes is that the structure of the sentence is not particularly obvious at first. So, I’ve developed an easy system to help you use these verbs correctly.

A 3-step Guide to Quickly Use Gustar

Step 1: To remark or not to remark, that’s the question

Step 2: Who’s liking it?

Step 3: One or more liked things?

Step 1:  To remark or not remark, that’s the question

At the very beginning of your sentence, you need to think if you want to remark who’s the person “liking”.

There are 2 situations when you want to do that:

  • 3rd person

    The pronoun for 3rd person singular is “le“, plural is “les“. That means, if you say “Le gusta“, it could mean “She likes”, “He likes”, “my friend likes”, etc. For “les“, it could be “They like”, “You (plural) like”, “The teachers like”… So in many situations you need to make clear who’s actually the person you’re referring to.

  • Emphasizing

    Sometimes we can “double the pronoun” to emphasize an opposition or a disagreement. For example, you could say “No me gusta el café” (no need to use “A mí”), and I would say “A mí sí me gusta”, because I’m emphasizing the difference on subjects between me and you.

Step 2: The Pronoun (who’s liking it)

This part is actually easier than it seems. The pronoun always goes before the verb, and you have to use it always. It’s the same as in English. It’s different than other verbs in Spanish, but let’s forget about those for a minute.

You only need to remember these 2 rules:

  1. Always use the pronoun with gustar and other emotion verbs.
  2. The pronouns are not the regular Subject pronouns that you’re used to. This is the equivalence:

Yo >> ME
Tú >> TE
Él, Ella >> LE
Nosotros,as >> NOS
Vosotros, as >> OS
Ellos,as, Ustedes >> LES

Step 3: Singular or Plural

And then comes the verb. And, luckily, there are two forms of gustar that are almost always the only ones used.

This is the tricky part – the verb goes in singular or plural according to what is being liked, not to whom is liking.

That’s very unexpected for English speakers and speakers of other languages. But it’s not too hard! Just remember these rules:

  1. Gusta (singular)
    1. With a singular noun: la cerveza, el fútbol, ese coche, la película
    2. With an infinitive verb: jugar, hablar español, comer pizza
  2. Gustan (plural)
    1. With plural nouns: las cervezas, tus amigos, los animales

Step 3.5: No “a jugar”, Sí “el fútbol, la cerveza”

A common mistake for beginners is to say things like “Me gusta a comer pizza” or “¿Te gusta cerveza?”. This is because:

  • In English we say “I like to eat pizza“, but we don’t translate “to” in Spanish – Me gusta comer pizza.
  • In English we say “Do you like beer?” but in Spanish we need the article – ¿Te gusta la cerveza?

It’s not actually a step because you don’t need to conjugate anything, but remember these little words, too!

Download the 3-Step Guide to Gustar in pdf

Now that you understand how Gustar and other Emotion verbs work, you can download this guide in a 2 page pdf for extra convenience! You can print it and add it to your resources, or study it in your phone during your commute. You only need to write your email and get it directly – no spam!

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Posted in Grammar, Learning Resources.