Posted by: janecronin | November 26, 2017


“Gustar” is the best known of a group of verbs which are usually used the opposite way round from English.   You may think of “gustar” as meaning “to like”. However, it would be more accurate to say that it means “to please” or “to be pleasing”.  Therefore, when we use the well-known phrase “me gusta” which we translate as “I like” we are actually saying “it pleases me”.  The form of the verb “gusta” (omitting the final “r” of the infinitive) is the third person singular of the present tense, in other words, it means “it pleases”, “he pleases” or “she pleases”.  The two words together therefore mean “it/he/she pleases me” which is the other way round of saying “I like it/him/her”.   Usually we put the thing that pleases, for example Orihuela, after the verb, like this “me gusta Orihuela” (Orihuela pleases me – I like Orihuela).

Most people cope with those two words and simply learn their meaning without all the explanation, but it’s important to realise that the person and the tense of “gustar” changes in the same way as any other verb, but always keeping to the same pattern.  Therefore, if I happen to like something in the plural, such as cats, I have to then say that “they” please me so the plural form of the verb is needed.  Therefore “I like cats” is “me gustan los gatos”.  Notice that we use the definite article (los) here, so again the literal translation is “the cats please me”.

Once we start changing the person and tense of “gustar” it is slightly harder to get our head round.  Here are some examples:  ¿Te gusto?  (Do you like me?);  Sí, me gustas (Yes, I like you);  ¿Te gustó? (Did you like it?); “Os gustarán” (You – plural – will like them);  “Nos gustaba” (we liked, or, we used to like it).  If you haven´t come across these variations before, they do take a bit of getting used to.  In each case we have to turn the sentence round the other way to make literal sense of them: “Do I please you?”  “Yes, you please me”.  “Did it please you?”; “They will please you (plural)”; “It used to please us”.   If we want to name of person being pleased, that goes in front, like this:  A mi marido le gusta el fútbol (“to my husband it pleases him the football”, in other words “My husband likes football”).

There are a lot of other words that work in the same way, such as “doler” (to hurt) “me duele la cabeza” (my head hurts me); “sorprender” (to surprise) “me sorprende su actitud” (his attitude surprises me) and “interesar” (to interest).   A good way to get rid of an unwelcome cold seller, is with the phrase “no me interesa, gracias”.  That is, “it doesn´t interest me”, or as we would say, “I’m not interested, thank you”.

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