Unit 1 - Present Tense - Regular Forms
Lesson 1.4 - Gustar and Encantar: To like, and to love
Exercises 1.4 Quiz 1.4

Using the verbs gustar and encantar can be confusing. Let's see how they work.

Gustar and Encantar, the "backwards" verbs

These two regular -ar verbs deserve special attention because they are often tricky for English speakers.

The first is gustar Play Audio , which is used in Spanish to say that you like something.

But it probably doesn't work the way you expect.

Gustar actually means to be pleasing to.

That is an awkward sounding translation, but it reflects an important characteristic of the Spanish verb gustar.

Let's look at a similar English word instead.

Consider this sentence: The book interests me.

What is the subject of that sentence? What is doing the action?

It is The book.

It would not make sense to say I interest the book.

Back to Spanish, and Gustar

The verb gustar works in the same way as our English verb to interest.

To say I like the book in Spanish, we would say Me gusta el libro Play Audio or, to make the point more clear, let's rearrange the wording: El libro me gusta.

Just like with the English verb to interest, it is the book that is doing the action in this Spanish sentence.

A literal translation of El libro me gusta would be The book is pleasing to me.

Of course, we would never say it that way in English. We would instead say I like the book.

Usually used in the third person

Because of this, the verb gustar is most frequently used in the third person, either singular or plural.

To say I like the books in Spanish, we would say Me gustan los libros. Play Audio

Don't make the mistake of using the first person form gusto, because the subject of these sentences is not Yo, but instead los libros. The word Me in this sentence is an indirect object pronoun.

I call Spanish verbs like this "backwards" verbs because they turn our normal English sentences on their head.

But not always in the third person...

Here is one more example, to show that gustar is not always used in the third person.

To say I like you a lot, you would say Me gustas mucho. Play Audio See how that worked?

Encantar is also a backward verb

Encantar Play Audio means to like something a lot or to love something, and just like gustar it too works in reverse.

Me encanta el helado Play Audio means I love ice cream.

The subject is el helado, so we use the third person singular form of encantar.

A literal English translation of this example would be really awkward. Maybe something like Ice cream is loveable to me. It's best to not worry much about these literal translations, and just get used to the way Spanish handles these ideas. When it seems odd, just remember that we do the same thing in English with to interest.

What to look for in the exercises.

Errors with this form are very common among learners of Spanish. Here are some tips to help you spot them in our exercises.

Watch the English sentence indications of subject and verb to tip you off to the difference in grammar.

You will also notice that the exercise asks for the third person form, providing another clue that you are dealing with a "backwards" verb.

An Example Exercise

Note how the subject in the English sentence is the house, and the requested form is "3rd person singular".

The correct answer here is not the 1st person plural gustamos, but instead gusta. The house is pleasing to us. If you were tempted to use gustan here because We is plural, that too would be an error. The house is singular, so we use gusta.

Another verb of this type: faltar Play Audio

Faltar can be used to say to lack, but when used for that purpose it too is a backwards verb.

The thing being lacked is the subject of the sentence...

Me faltan los recursos que necesito para completar mi proyecto. Play Audio
I lack the resources I need to complete my project.

A brief quiz, and on to the end of Unit 1

The quiz for this lesson is short with only ten exercises. Once you finish it, the final lesson of this unit will let you practice all the regular present tense verbs in the same set of exercises.

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Additional Study Resources

Simple and complete explanation in this video (9:25)
Explains how to use gustar, and how to choose between gusta and gustan. (6:55)
Excellent resource showing how to transform the English into Spanish, plus a useful point about when to use gusta vs gustan.
Another overview of the use of gustar, encantar and faltar.
Includes a list of many other "backwards" verbs.
Chapter 11, "Gustar and similarly formed verbs". 4th edition, page 93.
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