Explanation about Gustar in Learning Spanish


The verb gustar is used to translate the English verb ‘to like’ and so is very common in Spanish. The important thing to bear in mind right from the outset, however, is that it does not actually mean ‘to like’, but ‘to be pleasing’. In order to say ‘I like coffee’, what you actually have to say is ‘coffee is pleasing to me’. Thus the verb will be in the third person singular, and the ‘to me’ will be translated by the indirect object pronoun me :

Me gusta el café.
I like coffee.
(lit. ‘Coffee is pleasing to me.’)

Obviously if the things liked are plural, then a third person plural verb must be used, as
the plural noun is the subject of the verb:

Me gustan las películas.
I like films.
(lit. ‘Films are pleasing to me.’)

The construction can be used with all indirect object pronouns as follows:

¿Te gusta mi coche?
Do you like my car?
(Is my car pleasing to you?)

Le gusta jugar al tennis.
He likes to play tennis/playing tennis.
(To play tennis is pleasing to him.)

No nos gustan las galletas.
We don’t like the biscuits.
(The biscuits are not pleasing to us.)

¿Os gusta la idea?
Do you like the idea?
(Is the idea pleasing to you?)

Les gusta patinar.
They like to skate/they like skating.
(To skate is pleasing to them.)

If the indirect object is named, it is normally placed at the beginning of the sentence and must be introduced by a, but the pronoun form is also included in the sentences and cannot be omitted:

A Juan le gusta el fútbol.
Juan likes football.
(Football is pleasing to Juan.)

A mis padres no les gusta la idea.
My parents don’t like the idea.
(The idea is not pleasing to my parents.)

This construction can cause some difficulty for English speakers and so needs to be studied very carefully. In colloquial Spanish you will come across the verb gustar being used in other ways,
i.e. not only in the third person, for example:

Me gustas mucho.
I like you very much/you are very pleasing to me.

Yo le gusto.
He likes me/I am pleasing to him.

There are a number of common verbs in Spanish that follow the same pattern as gustar, for example:

interesar (to interest)

Me interesan tus opiniones.
I am interested in your opinions.
(Your opinions are interesting to me.)

encantar (to delight/charm)

Les encanta la casa.
They are delighted by the house.
(The house is delightful to them.)

apetecer (to be appealing)
Me apetece salir esta noche.
I feel like going out this evening.
(It is appealing to me to go out this evening.)

doler (to hurt)

Me duele la cabeza.
My head hurts/I have a headache.

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