How to use GUSTAR and similar verbs

The verb GUSTAR (to like) is very common but it can be very tricky to use. In this tutorial we will learn how to cope with the tricky verb GUSTAR (to like) and other "back-to-front" verbs.

Gustar is one of the "back to front" verbs in Spanish. It means "to like" but unless you use it correctly you might say something totally different from what you mean. I'll explain. Look at these sentences:
Amar = to love
Acompañar = to accompany
Adorar = to adore
Cuidar = to look after
Te amo. = I love you.
Te acompaño = I accompany you.
Te adoro. = I adore you.
Te cuido. = I look after you.
OK. How do you say "I like you" in Spanish with "gustar"? If you said "Te gusto" you are wrong, because "te gusto" means "you like me". This is because "gustar" belongs to a group of verbs that seem to be back to front to English speakers.
They are usually verbs that express an emotional response to something. If you get confused with the verb "GUSTAR" it is better to consider that it means "to be pleasing to"
So to say "I like you" consider it as "to me - you are pleasing" then it is easier to work out how to say:
I like you. - Me gustas.
I like it. - Me gusta.
I like them. - Me gustan.
I like her. - Me gusta
I don't like them. - No me gustan.
Do you like them? - ¿Te gustan?
Does she like it? - ¿Le gusta?
Do you like it? (plural) - ¿Os gusta?
We like this hotel. - Nos gusta este hotel.
English
Spanish
Do you like the book? ¿Te gusta el libro?
Did you like the book? ¿Te gustó el libro?
I don't like dogs at all. No me gustan nada los perros.
I like the way she smiles. Me gusta como sonríe.
I don't like you going out with them.
(note the use of the subjunctive: salgas)
No me gusta que salgas con ellos.
Position of the words:
Note that the position is quite flexible and the thing that is liked can come before or after:
I like Sarah. Sarah me gusta. or Me gusta Sarah
I like her. Ella me gusta. or Me gusta ella.
Making the 3rd person clear
If you say "le gusta el chocolate" it is not clear if you mean "she likes chocolate" or "he likes chocolate". If you want to make it clear, you can add "a ella" or "a él" either before or after.
Note that the "a" comes before "the person doing the liking" not the "thing liked".
He likes brandy. "A él le gusta el cognac." or "Le gusta a él el cognac."
She likes beer. A ella le gusta la cerveza.
I think that Juan likes María. Creo que a Juan le gusta María.
Here are a few more examples of "back-to-front verbs". None of them are as difficult to get your head round as "gustar":
molestar (to bother), horrorizar (to horrify, to appall), hacer gracia (to be funny to someone), caer bien/mal (to get on well/badly with), doler (to hurt), importar (to mind, to care about), encantar (to like very much, be delighted by), interesar (to be interested in), hacer falta (to need for a purpose, to be necessary)
Does it bother you if I smoke? ¿Te molesta si fumo?
What bothers me is his attitude. Lo que me molesta es su actitud.
It's funny you should say that.Me hace gracia que digas eso.
I don't think it's funny at all.No me hace ninguna gracia.
My feet ache.Me duelen los pies.
He's got a headache (his head hurts).Le duele la cabeza.
What's it to you? (said: in a bad tempered way when someone is being nosey)¿A ti qué te importa?
I couldn't care less what they say.Me importa (un bledo) lo que dicen.
Would you mind leaving it until tomorrow?¿Te importaría dejarlo para mañana?
I really like it. (it's delightful)Me encanta.
I am not interested in politics at all.No me interesa la política en absoluto.
It's not necessary to write a long letter. No hace falta que escribas una carta larga.
You don't have to be a genius to know who said that. No hace falta ser un genio para saber quién dijo eso.
I get on very well with your cousin.Tu primo me cae muy bien.
I’m appalled at how badly those children behave. Me horroriza lo mal que se portan esos niños.


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