Spanish Verb “Gustar” – Grammar Lesson

Mastering the use of the Spanish verb “gustar” is a bit challenging at first, because it works differently than “normal” verbs. However, it’s actually easy if you think about it in the proper way! In this post, you will learn how to properly use “gustar” in sentences.

The first thing you need to know is that gustar is not a “typical” verb like the ones you have studied until now. Consider a “typical” verb, for example the verb Bailar. As you know, 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 “typical” 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:

 

What are these mysterious blocks? Well, here are their properties:

  • 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! As you can see, the properties we mentioned above apply perfectly well, that is: both contain more than one word, the first one starts with “a”, the second one with a short personal pronoun from the list above ( in this case “me”). 

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

At this point, you might be asking yourself: “Do I always need to use the 2 blocks?”

Not really! I can choose to use only Block 2 if I want, and that is enough. This way: 

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 of the blocks pretty much any way I want. Watch this:

All of the sentences above are valid and they mean the same thing. So you pretty much have total freedom, as long as you respect the properties of 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:

  

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 when we are using the verb “gustar”.

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.

 

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.