Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gustar - Part 1

Gustar is one of those verbs that frustrated me for a very long time. I'd be fooling myself (and lying to you) if I said I've now mastered it 100%. But I have learned quite a bit and I want to share a little of that knowledge with you.

First things first, what does gustar mean to begin with? Well, typically it's defined as "to like". This is a pretty accurate and fair translation. Most of the time. Yes, I can imagine many of you are arching your eyebrows right now, thinking "what do you mean, most of the time?". As always, let's look at some examples.

Me gusta el libro - I like the book

Me gusta el cuarto - I like the room

Te gusto - I like you.

Simple enough, what's the big deal you ask? Well, this is where things start to get sticky, because our third example has been translated completely wrong.

Despite the fact we've been taught gustar means "to like", you will eventually be led astray with that definition. Instead think of gustar to mean "to be pleasing". Once you do that, you'll never be led astray.

Let's look at our third example again, this time with our new translation.

Te gusto - "I please you", or more accurately said in English, "you like me".

Much better, and this translation works for our other examples as well...

Me gusta el libro - The book is pleasing to me, or I like the book

Me gusta el cuarto - The room is pleasing to me, or I like the room.

But we're not quite out of the woods yet. Let's take another look at our third (Te gusto) example, right after I clue you in on a small, but very important detail.

If you're talking about objects or thing like books, movies, clothes, etc., the translation "to please" works quite well. But once you start talking about people, everything changes. Gustar then takes on an entirely new meaning - physical attraction. A detail some explanations of Gustar omit.

With that little detail in mind, let's revisit our third example.

Te gusto - Do you find me attractive?

Let's look at a few more...

Me gustas (mucho) - You are (very) pleasing to me, or I think you're (very) attractive.

Me gustan ellas - They are pleasing to me, or They're attractive to me. And remember, we're talking about a group of ladies, as indicated by the use of ellas.

Well, I think that's enough for one post. Wait...I almost forgot. If you want to tell someone you like them in the plutonic sense, then you need to use caer bien, which I'll talk about another day.

Hopefully this post gave you a little more insight into understaning and using the verb gustar. Of course there's always more to say, but Rome wasn't built in a day, so just take this in and meditate on it for a while.


***Note: Be sure to read Gustar Part 2.  Also, if you really want to really master the verb Gustar, then take a look at a course called Learning Spanish Like Crazy 2.  The course has over 30 lessons with 3 of them dedicated to the verb Gustar and other verbs that work in the same fashion.   If you're learning Spanish on your own, then you definitely want to take a look at it.


  1. Rodney,
    Thanks for tackling this. To be perfectly honest the verb gustar has given me fits. I am never quite sure that I get it right in certain cases. Perhaps you will finally set me straight :)

  2. Rodney,
    I am a new student to this language, and we are studying Gustar at this time. This is very helpful info, thanks.

  3. The above makes total sense and fits with what I've learnt but Mexicans have said 'gustas?' to me when they want to say 'do you want' [something]? (eg. when offering me something). Literally I understand this as 'you please?' which wouldn't make sense in English. Perhaps just a quirk of the language or grammatically incorrect Spanish?

    1. Actually, there is an English phrase that makes sense of "gustas." It may be regional or generational, but I have heard many times the phrase "if you please," which is interchangeable with "if you like" (or "if it pleases you").

      Example: "You can have a snack, if you please."

      I have also heard it used sarcastically quite a bit, as in do it whether you like it or not.
      Example: "Take your feet off the table, if you please."

  4. That's exactly how I've heard gustas used nicholas, when someone is offering you something, typically food, a drink, candy, etc.

    I would guess it's a colloquial usage and not so much grammatically incorrect. But I don't really know, I just go with it. I've read that "gustas?" is short for gustas probar, and a quick Google search seems to support the possibility that could be true.

  5. Me gustan a ellas - this is incorrect as written above. It should read: A mí me gustan ellas.