The verb “Gustar” in Spanish

The Spanish verb “gustar” works differently than “normal” verbs. In this post, you will learn how to properly use “gustar” in sentences.

First, consider a “normal” verb, like the verb “bailar” (to dance). The first person of the present tense is:

(Yo) bailo.

We can see 2 words: the first person “yo”, and the verb conjugated for that first person.

That’s how “normal” verbs work.

But “gustar” works differently.

 

Gustar and the “2 Blocks Model”

For “gustar”, instead of 2 words, we need to imagine 2 BLOCKS!! Here they are:

 

The properties of these blocks are:

  • Each block contains ALWAYS more than one word. It is impossible that it contains only one.
  • The first word of Block 1 is always “a”
  • The first word of Block 2 is always a very short personal pronoun, one of these: me, te, le, nos, os, les

With that in mind, let’s see a specific example. How do we say “I like ketchup” in Spanish? This way:  

There they are, the 2 blocks! The properties we mentioned above apply perfectly well: both contain more than one word, the first one starts with “a”, the second one with a short personal pronoun.

So that is how we say “I like”:    A mí     me gusta…   

But you might be asking yourself: “Do I always need to use both blocks?”

Not really! You can skip Block 1 and write only Block 2, and that is enough:

We will add Block 1 only if we want to emphasize the person. It would be like in English “Me, I like…”.

Whether we choose to use only Block 2, or both Blocks, we can play with the order of the blocks pretty much any way we want. Watch this:

All of the sentences above are valid and they mean the same thing. As long as we respect the properties of the blocks themselves, we are OK. 

 

The rest of the persons

For now we have only learned “I like”. It is now the moment to extend it to all persons:

  

Take your time to read through it until you are familiar with all persons.

Did you notice that for the third person (both singular and plural) there are several options for Block 1? Of course, that is because we can be talking about different people: he likes, she likes, María likes, my friend likes… So the third persons present more variation in Block 1. 




Why “gusta”, and not “gusto” or “gustamos”?

The meaning of the verb “gustar” is not actually “to like”, but “to please”.

That is the reason the verb is not matched to the person, but the the THING that pleases the person. See:

“Ketchup pleases me, ketchup pleases you, ketchup pleases him”, etc.

So regardless of the person, 99% of the time we use the verb “gustar” it will be in the forms “gusta” or “gustan”, depending on whether the thing which pleases is singular or plural. Example:

  

Example: a Dialog

Let’s now write a short dialog where two people talk about things they and other people like. Notice the blocks in blue: 

Did you notice the place of the word “no”? The word “no” goes between the two blocks, if you want to build a negative sentence.

 

Do you feel that you have mastered the verb “gustar”? In that case, you can click here and learn about other verbs that work exactly like “gustar”.

Or click here to see all our Grammar Lessons.