Spanish The Verb "to like"

Overview

The verb "to like" is gustar. Gustar is a verb that confuses many English speakers at the beginning. Gustar is used to say like in Spanish. But unfortunately, the conjugation rules (the way you change the verb) are a little different from normal verbs.

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In the previous lesson, we learned the conjugations of the verb IR and how it works with infinitives to form the Simple Future tense (IR Verbs). In this lesson, we are also going to work with infinitives, but we will pair them with a different verb: GUSTAR. While we learned 6 conjugations of IR depending on the subjects, we will only learn two forms of GUSTAR.

In Spanish, GUSTAR means “to like”.  That means when you use this verb, you are talking about what someone does or doesn’t like. For example: “I like dogs”, “He likes her guitar”, “We like to cook”. In Spanish there are a few steps to creating this phrase:

NOTE! Remember an infinitive is the original, or unchanged, form of the verb. In English these sound like “to eat”, “to run”, “to talk”. 

Step 1: With GUSTAR, we are going to use a few new pronouns that are different from the subject pronouns we previously learned. We are going to use what are called indirect object pronouns. Let’s take a look at these new pronouns below:

Indirect Object Pronouns Used With GUSTAR

Me = INos = We
Te = You (informal)Os = You all
Le = He, She, You (formal)Les = They, You all
NOTE! The locations of these pronouns in the chart directly correlate to the placement of the subject pronouns we previously learned!

Step 2: We will pair these indirect object pronouns with one of two versions of the verb GUSTAR: GUSTA or GUSTAN.

GUSTA vs GUSTAN: The difference between gusta and gustan is simple. When something singular or an infinitive (verb) is liked, we use GUSTA (ex: I like pizza, she likes the blue hat, they like to swim).  When something plural is liked, we used GUSTAN (ex: you like puppies, I like doughnuts, we like games).

Singular liked object: GUSTA

Plural liked object: GUSTAN

Note: the use of gusta vs. gustan has nothing to do with how many people like the mentioned object or action. Only the object or action determines the use of gusta or gustan.

Step 3: Because le can refer to él, ella y usted and les can refer to ellos, ellas, y ustedes, we use the personal A. The personal A clarifies who we are talking about and always comes directly before the subject of the sentence or the subject pronoun used. For example: A Sara le gustan los chicos inteligentes. Usually this just follows the template of:

A + name or subject pronoun + indirect object pronoun + gusta(n)

But in the cases of yo and tú, it’s a bit different. We cannot say, “a yo” or “a tú”, so we have to say: “a mí” and “a ti”.

Step 4: Finally, we must always remember to add the appropriate Spanish word for “the” before the object being liked. Refer to our previous module on definite articles if you need more help choosing the appropriate form of “the”. 

A look at the final structure:A + Subject Pronoun + “NO” if used + Indirect Object Pronoun + Gusta or Gustan + “The” + Object Liked

Let’s look at a few examples. Can you match all words in these sentences to their component in the structure above?:

A mí me gusta la pizza. – “I like pizza.” The singular form “gusta” has been used because pizza is a singular item.

¿A tí te gusta corer? – “Do you like to run?” The singular form “gusta” has been used because “to run” is an infinitive.

A él le gustan los aviones. – He likes planes. The plural form “gustan” has been used because planes is plural. 

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.