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Tuesday
Oct262010

Spanish 'Verbs Like Gustar': What's Not to Like?

When learning basic vocabulary, beginners study the Spanish verb “gustar” to communicate what they like, or what they like to do. It may come as a surprise that the English verb conjugation “I like” is actually translated in Spanish to “it pleases me,” or “it is pleasing to me.”  The idea is the same, but the sentence construction is very different.

If it weren’t for the Spanish verb “gustar,” beginners would probably skip over learning about indirect objects and pronouns. Remember that a direct object answers the question “What?”, while an indirect object answers the question “To whom?” or “For whom?”. 

Understanding object pronouns brings to light the difference between the subject of a verb, (the person or thing performing the action) and the object of the verb, (the receiver of the action).

While communicating the same idea, note the difference between the subjects and objects below:

                  1.  “I like Pizza”: “I” am the subject; “Pizza is the (direct) object

                         (What do I like?   Pizza = the direct object)

                  2.  “Pizza is pleasing to me”: “Pizza” is the subject; “to me” is the (indirect) object

                        (To whom is pizza pleasing?   Me = the indirect object)

The second example illustrates a literal translation of the Spanish verb “gustar” in the first person and how indirect objects enter the grammatical equation. This comparison also explains why we don’t use the Spanish verb conjugation “gusto” for “I like”: where “I” is the subject of the verb “gustar,” a regular -ar ending verb.

Beginners usually memorize the third person verb conjugations of “gustar” without understanding the reasons why they are used with indirect object pronouns. In any case, it encourages beginners to use indirect object pronouns (me, te, le, etc.), and it provides the pattern for other common Spanish verbs that take on indirect object pronouns. 

There are other Spanish verbs that fall into the same verb group as “gustar”; they are commonly referred to as “verbs like gustar.” The most common Spanish “verbs like gustar” are: encantar, faltar, importar, molestar, and parecer.

I don't know why, but I always remember the first time I heard the Spanish verb "importar" in context, and the concept of using "verbs like gustar" finally sunk in. I heard someone respond, "A mí no me importa" which meant, "It doesn't matter to me" with me emphasized through "a mí."

The following excerpt from The Spanish Verb Conjugator’s ‘Basics’ section illustrates how to use “verbs like gustar”:  

Verbs Like Gustar (VLG):

The verb gustar is a regular -ar ending verb, but other regular and irregular verbs are used like gustar. Only the third person singular or plural forms are used because the person, place, or thing that is pleasing/liked (the object), will be either singular or plural: “it” or “they.” The object pronoun that comes before it (me, te, le, les, nos, os) communicates “to whom the object is pleasing.”

The indirect object pronouns precede ONLY the third person singular or plural forms:

            me  -  before gusta/gustan    it is/they are pleasing to me: I like

            te -  before gusta/gustan       it is/they are pleasing to you: you (inf.)* like

            le -  before gusta/gustan        it is/they are pleasing to him, her, you: he/she likes, you (f.)* like

            les -  before gusta/gustan      it is/they are pleasing to them, you all: they, you all (f. & inf.)* like

            nos -  before gusta/gustan     it is/they are pleasing to us: we like

            os before gusta/gustan      it is/they are pleasing to you all: you all (inf.)* like

Please note, if the object is a verb, “to dance” for example, use only the singular third person form (gusta,without an “n”) with the infinitive of the verb (bailar): “I like to dance.” (Me gusta bailar.)

Here is the irregular verb “parecer” (to seem) in the present tense as a Verb Like Gustar:

            me parece  (it seems to me).................... me parecen (they seem to me)

            te parece (it seems to you)...................... te parecen (they seem to you)

            le parece (it seems to him, her, you (f.)*...le parecen (they seem to him, her, you (f.)*

            les parece (it seems to them, you all)......les parecen (they seem to them, you all)

            nos parece (it seems to us)..................... nos parecen (they seem to us)

            os parece (it seems to you all).................os parecen (they seem to you all)

*you (inf.)=tú; you (f.)=Ud.; you all (f. and inf.)=Uds.; you all (inf.)=vosotros/as

About.com has a comprehensive database of Spanish Grammar topics. Here is a link to a lesson on the Spanish Verb Gustar and other Verbs like gustar.

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