Verb Gustar in Spanish – Part I

Visiting Spain on holiday, especially in warm weather, you will surely discover and fall in love with a breadth of heavenly delicacies, such as patatas bravas, paella valenciana, gazpacho andalúz, jamón ibérico, pulpo a la gallega, tortilla, crema catalana, chorizo, fabada asturiana… The list is truly endless! Often, street vendors at food markets will have you taste these mouth-watering specialities then stare at you eagerly waiting for an ecstatic reaction, hopefully followed by an equally gleeful request from you to purchase some quantity of whatever you have just tried. And how to communicate your taste buds’ approval and not let down the vendor’s expectations? Simply say Me gusta! (I like it!) along with an ear-to-ear grin!

This very handy expression contains gustar which must be manoeuvred with caution because, although a regular verb of the verbal group ending in –ar, it doesn’t quite follow the subject-verb-object structure that is commonly expected in Spanish. Despite most dictionaries translate gustar as to like, a more accurate rendition in English would be to be liked/to be pleasing to. Bearing this in mind, one has to practise the following order to use it correctly:

 

MEGUSTAESPAÑA¹
TEGUSTANLOS ESPAÑOLES²
person/thing doing the likingverb expressing admiration / consentthing / person being liked
INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNSGUSTARSUBJECT

 

¹ → Spain is pleasing to me → I like Spain
² → Spanish people are pleasing to you →  You like Spanish people

 

As the table above shows, since one or many entities (objects or people) can be liked, subject can be either singular or plural. This consequently gives two possible verbal forms, that is, gusta for singular and gustan for plural. Either way, remember to always place the subject after verbal forms of gustar!

Finally, to complete the magic formula, here is the full set of Spanish indirect object pronouns:

SUBJECT PRONOUNSINDIRECT SUBJECT PRONOUNSENGLISH
yoMEto me
TEto you (sing.)
él/ellaLEto him/to her
nosotros/nosotrasNOSto us
vosotros/vosotrasOSto you all (plur.)
ellos/ellasLESto them

 

So, to quickly recap:

Spain is pleasing to me.  (I like Spain.)  → Me gusta España.

 

Let’s now look at some examples.

Me gustan las islas Canarias.  → I like Canary Islands.

Os gusta la Sagrada Familia. → You like the Sagrada Familia.

No le gustan las obras de Gaudí. → She doesn’t like Gaudí’s work.

¿Te gustan los caracoles en salsa? → Do you like (eating) snails with tomato sauce?

Nos gustan las bailarinas de flamenco. → We like flamenco female dancers.

Les gustan Shakira y sus caderas. → They like Shakira and her hips.

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