The Spanish verb gustar is a bit challenging at first, because it works differently than “normal” verbs. But it’s actually easy if you think about it in the proper way! In this mini-lesson, I will explain how to do it 🙂
First, let’s consider a “normal” verb, for example the verb Bailar. The first person of the present tense is:
We can see 2 WORDS: the first person (yo), which we don’t always need to say, and the verb conjugated for that first person.
That’s how “normal” verbs work.
Now forget about that and open your mind to the amazing world of “gustar”.
Gustar and the “2 Blocks Model”
Forget about the boring 2 words!
For GUSTAR, instead of 2 words, you must picture 2 BLOCKS!! Here they are:
What are these mysterious blocks? Let’s get to know them. This will be the most important part of this lesson.
The properties of the 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 personal pronoun, one of these: me, te, le, nos, os, les
Let’s go to 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 personal pronoun (“me”).
So that is how we say “I like”: A mí me gusta…
“Seems a bit long”, you may be thinking. “Do I always need to use the 2 blocks?”
Not really, I can use only Block 2 if I want, and that is enough. Like this:
I will add Block 1 only if I want to emphasize the person.
And whether I choose to use only Block 2, or both, I can play with the order pretty much any way I want. Watch:
See? You pretty much have total freedom, as long as you respect the blocks themselves.
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 (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 it makes sense that there are different options for the third person.
Why “gusta”, and not “gusto” or “gustamos”?
Here is a dirty little secret that will (maybe) blow your mind:
The meaning of the verb “gustar” is not actually “to like”, but “to please”.
That is the reason the conjugation doesn’t depend on the person who likes, but on the THING that pleases that person. See:
“Ketchup pleases me, ketchup pleases you, ketchup pleases him”, etc.
The conjugation of the verb “to please” in English doesn’t depend on the person, but on the thing, and the same thing happens for “gustar” in Spanish.
Thus, answering the question: 99% of the time it will be either “gusta” or “gustan”, depending on whether the thing which is liked is singular or plural. Example:
So remember: when you arrive to the part where you have to conjugate “gustar”, forget about the person, just concentrate on whether the liked thing is singular or plural.
Example: a Dialog
With all this information, now let’s write a short dialog where two people talk about things they and other people like.
We will be using the blocks all the time. That means we will never say “yo” or “tú”: these words don’t belong to the blocks we have learned. Therefore they are not allowed.
We can’t say “yo”, but we can say “a mí”. We can’t say “tú”, but we can say “a ti”.
Again, that’s the most important thing to understand: we have a lot of freedom, but respecting the blocks you have learned.
Here is the dialog:
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.
That’s all for now. I leave you with a quiz to test your knowledge about the verb “Gustar”. If you want to do it, click on “Comenzar el test”.
Also, share this article! or comment below if you have doubt’s or suggestions. I will take them into account and try to improve it.
The verb GUSTAR