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Spanish Grammar: Verbs Like Gustar

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  • 0:03 Gustar
  • 5:00 Practice 1
  • 6:25 Other Verbs
  • 8:36 Practice 2
  • 10:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April Schmidt

April has a Ph.D. in Spanish and has been teaching college-level Spanish for the past eight years.

What sorts of things do you like? What interests you or bores you? Are there things that bother or upset you? In this lesson, you will learn to express all of these feelings in Spanish.

Gustar

?Te gusta el chocolate? ?Te encantan las fiestas? ?Te interesa el español?

As you can see, the same sentence structure is used to say that you like, love, or are interested in something. In this lesson, we'll be reviewing the sentence structure used with the verb gustar. Then you'll be learning some other verbs that follow the same pattern, such as encantar (to love) and interesar (to interest).

For some time now, you have been using the verb gustar to talk about what you do or don't like. Although gustar is translated as 'to like' in English, the sentence structure these two verbs use is actually quite different. The sentence Me gusta el café. is usually translated into English as 'I like coffee.' However, what you are literally saying is that 'Coffee is pleasing to me.' In the English sentence 'I like coffee,' 'I' is the subject, 'like' is the verb (which matches the subject I), and 'coffee' is the direct object (the thing that is liked).

However, in the Spanish sentence Me gusta el café, this construction is pretty much turned on its head. Although students often equate the first word, me, with 'I' in the English sentence, me is not the subject. It is the indirect object, showing to whom coffee is pleasing. Gusta is the verb and matches the subject, which again is not me.

Of course, the subject almost always comes before the verb in English and usually does so in Spanish, as well. However, with gustar, the subject usually comes after the verb. So, while el café might seem like the direct object, since it is in the same position as the word 'coffee' in the English sentence, it is actually the subject. So the verb needs to match café, which is why you use the third person singular form, gusta.

Sentences with gustar should follow this sentence structure: Indirect Object Pronoun + Gustar (conjugated to match the subject) + Subject. If the sentence is negative (saying someone does not like something) simply put a No in front of the indirect object pronoun.

The Indirect Object Pronouns are:

me - to me nos - to us
te - to you (informal singular) os - to you (informal plural)
le - to him/her; to you (formal singular) les - to them; to you (formal plural)

As you can see, le can mean 'to him,' 'to her,' or 'to you (formal singular),' while les can mean 'to them' or 'to you (formal plural).' If it's not completely clear from the context, you can add A + a noun or pronoun to clarify who le is referring to, as in A ella le gusta el café. A Juan le gusta el café. A Uds. les gusta el café., etc. In the yo, tú, nosotros, and vosotros forms, 'A + pronoun' is sometimes added for emphasis or contrast. For example, you might say, A ti te gustan las verduras, pero a mí no me gustan. (You like vegetables, but I don't like them.)

Remember, gusta/n matches whatever comes after it, not what comes before it. English speakers are always tempted to make the verb match the indirect object, which comes in front of it and looks like the subject. But then you end up with sentences like Me gusto café or Les gustan café--both completely incorrect. Gustar is most often conjugated in the third person singular or plural, gusta or gustan, and matches what comes after the verb, rather than what comes in front of it. If a verb in the infinitive follows gustar, indicating that someone likes to do something, use the singular form, gusta. For example, Nos gusta ir al cine. (We like to go to the movies.)

Práctica con Gustar

OK, let's try putting together a few sentences using gustar. Fill in the first blank with the correct indirect object pronoun (use the noun or pronoun that follows the preposition 'a' to help you decide which you need). Then choose between gusta and gustan based on what follows the verb.

1) ?(A ti) ___ (gusta / gustan) las películas de acción?
?Te gustan las películas de acción?

2) A mis amigos ___ (gusta / gustan) ir al cine.
A mis amigos les gusta ir al cine.

3) (A nosotros) ___ (gusta / gustan) este programa de televisión.
Nos gusta este programa de televisión.

4) (A mí) no ___ (gusta / gustan) las comedias.
No me gustan las comedias.

5) A Susana ___ (gusta / gustan) las películas con muchos efectos especiales.
A Susana le gustan las películas con muchos efectos especiales.

Verbs Like Gustar

A number of other frequently used verbs follow the same pattern as gustar. That is, they are preceded by indirect object pronouns, and the subject usually comes after the verb, so the verb needs to match what follows it, rather than what comes in front of it. Like gustar, many of these verbs are not translated literally into English, so the sentence structure in English can throw you off. Here are a few of the most commonly used verbs, along with examples of how they are used in sentences and both the conventional and literal translations into English.

encantar - 'to love'

Me encanta este libro. = I love this book. (This book is enchanting to me.)

interesar - 'to interest'

Nos interesa la ciencia ficción. = We're interested in science fiction. (Science fiction is interesting to us.)

aburrir - 'to bore'

Al actor le aburre este papel. = This role bores the actor.

molestar - 'to bother; to upset'

A mis perros les molestan las tormentas. = Storms upset my dogs.

doler - 'to hurt'

Me duele el brazo. = My arm hurts. (The arm hurts me.)

faltar - 'to not have, lack'

Nos falta dinero. = We have no money. (Money is lacking to us).

quedar - 'to have left'

Solo te quedan cinco dólares. = You only have five dollars left. (Only five dollars remain to you.)

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