When you’re a beginner at Spanish, a great strategy is to master a handful of power verbs to get you speaking. For those who are traveling in the Spanish-speaking world and really just need to survive, getting the hang of some key power verbs allows you to express basic things like needs and wants. Go back and read those posts if you missed them, as they’re pretty important for daily life whether you’re in Mexico, Ecuador, or Chile. In this post we’re going to take a look at a verb that’s great for making small talk. Let’s dive in and learn about the Spanish power verb gustar (to like).
Conjugation in Simple Present
If you’re a beginner like me, trying to switch between the many tenses of Spanish can be difficult and intimidating. We’ve got plenty of posts for you advanced folks to challenge yourself, but for this series we’re sticking with the simple present tense just to get people talking. Here’s the simple present conjugation for the verb gustar:
(A mí) me gusta/gustan
(A ti) te gusta/gustan
A usted le gusta/gustan
A él le gusta/gustan
A ella le gusta/gustan
(A nosotros) nos gusta/gustan
A ustedes les gusta/gustan
A ellos/ellas les gusta/gustan
You like (familiar)
You like (formal)
You like (plural)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been learning Spanish in Latin America where the pronoun vosotros (you all, informal) is not used. If you’re learning Spanish to travel in Spain, you can add A vosotros os gusta/gustan to the list.
I realize that this conjugation can look a bit daunting compared to the ones we’ve studied in the previous power verb posts, so let me break it down a bit to try and simplify things:
- A mí, a ti, and a nosotros are all optional, as the pronoun is implied. If you just say nos gusta, it’s clear that you mean “we like.”
- Whether you use gusta or gustan depends on what it is exactly that you like/don’t like. For singular nouns and verbs, use gusta. For plural nouns, use gustan.
That’s really all there is too it! Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and think about it for a minute. I remember seeing this conjugation in Spanish class and thinking, “No way I’m going to remember this!” Sure, I still make some mistakes (doesn’t every gringo who’s struggling to travel throughout Latin America on survival Spanish?) but it’s not too tough to get used to.
Now let’s look at how to make positive statements with the power verb gustar. Here are some examples with English translations:
(A mí) me gusta jugar fútbol.
I like to play football.
(A ti) te gustan los animales.
You like animals.
A usted le gusta bailar salsa.
You like to dance salsa.
A él le gustan las clases de español.
He likes the Spanish classes.
A ella le gusta el café.
She likes the coffee.
(A nosotros) nos gusta montar bicicleta.
We like to ride a bicycle.
A ustedes les gustan los dulces.
You like the sweets/candy.
A ellos les gusta viajar en Colombia.
They like to travel in Colombia.
Hopefully now you have a better idea of when to use gusta and gustan. Give it a try at home and see if you can write a few positive statements with the power verb gustar.
As is usually the case with these power verbs, to make a negative statement you simply add no before the correct form of gustar. Here are a few examples:
(A mí) no me gustan las manzanas.
I don’t like the apples.
(A ti) no te gusta esta canción.
You don’t like this song.
A usted no le gusta beber tequila.
You don’t like to drink tequila.
A él no le gusta tocar la guitarra.
He doesn’t like to play the guitar.
A ella no le gustan las aretes.
She doesn’t like the earrings.
(A nosotros) no nos gusta limpiar la casa.
We don’t like to clean the house.
A ustedes no les gustan las camisas.
You don’t like the shirts.
A ellos no les gusta ese barrio.
They don’t like that neighborhood.
No one likes to be called a Negative Nancy, but practice makes perfect so go ahead and try to make some negative statements.
Forming yes/no questions is a little bit trickier than with the other power verbs we’ve learned. That’s because you move the a él/ella/usted/ellos/ellas part after the infinitive. Other than that, just raise the tone of your voice and you’re good to go. Here are a couple of yes/no questions with the verb gustar:
¿Te gusta los tacos?
Do you like tacos?
¿Le gustan jugar a ella tenis?
Does she like to play tennis?
¿Les gusta escuchar a ellos la musica?
Do they like to listen to music?
Now let’s look at a few other examples of questions to see how they are structured:
¿Qué te gusta cocinar?
What do you like to cook?
¿Adónde le gusta ir a él los sabados?
Where does he like to go on Saturdays?
¿Cuándo le gusta leer a ustedes?
When do you like to read?
See if you can form a handful of questions on your own now. Try to make a few simple yes/no questions as well as a few using words like qué, adónde, and cuándo.
We’ll have a few more posts on power verbs in the months ahead. If your New Year’s Resolution is to learn Spanish, we’ve got several resources to help you out. Make 2018 the year you pick up Spanish and travel to a Spanish-speaking country. After all, you’ve got plenty of choices. I’m not sure about you, but… ¡Me gusta viajar mucho!
About the Author:sasha
Sasha is a teacher, student, writer, photographer, web designer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they’re currently planning a trip through Central/South America.
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