Let’s learn how to say “like” in Spanish. The verb Gustar works very differently in Spanish from the verb “like” in English, but after this episode, you’ll be a master at using it with indirect objects.
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Today we’re finally going to learn the verb for talking about “liking” things in Spanish, so we can say things like “I like this kind of food” or “why didn’t you like that?” But this is going to take a bit of work, because there are some important nuances to using this new verb.
The verb is Gustar, and it means *something* like “to like”, or more literally, “to be pleasing”. Let’s demonstrate with an example. To say:
She likes this food.
The Spanish is:
Esta comida le gusta.
Literally, this sentence means “this food is pleasing to her”. But the unexpected thing is that this is the RIGHT way to translate the idea of “liking” something from English into Spanish.
And actually, a more common way of structuring this sentence looks like this:
Le gusta esta comida.
The subject is still “this food”. So it would be “To her is pleasing this food.”
For most English speakers, it takes quite a bit of reprogramming to make this feel natural. See if you can predict how to do the same thing with this next sentence; we’ll go through it one step at a time, first by restructuring the English. So we’ll begin with:
He likes my dog.
So how would you restructure that? To make it work for our new verb Gustar, you actually have to make the dog the subject, because in Spanish, the dog is the one doing the act of being pleasing. So we’ll restructure it to “my dog is pleasing to him”. So the Spanish would be mi perro le gusta. But then in sentences that use Gustar, the subject tends to be at the end of the sentence. So here’s the final Spanish:
Le gusta mi perro.
Now try it with this next one:
She likes those houses.
OK, begin with restructuring it in English first. What’s the subject of the sentence? It’ll be the houses. So we have “the houses are pleasing to her.” See if you can predict the Spanish: Las casas le gustan. And then we’ll put the subject at the end.
Le gustan las casas.
Now as you do this today, don’t skip any steps. It may feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it, so you can just go ahead and start going straight from English to Spanish, but that tends to lead to errors and mistakes that are really hard to fix over time. So for example, in the case of this sentence, “she likes those houses”, you might be tempted to translate this as le gusta esas casas. And that’s because to us native English speakers, it FEELS like the verb should be singular, not plural, since we’re only talking about one person. But since the subject is “those houses”, not the word “she”, the correct word is gustan.
Try it again in this next example. I’ll let you do the steps yourself instead of talking through them for you.
He likes my parents.
Le gustan mis padres.
OK, now let’s try this with something a bit different:
They like my car.
Les gusta mi auto.
In this case, it might intuitively feel like the verb should be plural, since we’re talking about more than one person. But the people are the indirect object, not the subject. The subject of the sentence is the singular noun “my car”. So make sure that as you translate these sentences, you’re absolutely clear on what is the subject and what is the object; that’s why it can be so helpful to rephrase it in your mind to an overly literal translation, for example “to them is pleasing my car”.
Let’s practice with more sentence examples. I’m going to use some pretty simple examples that only use gusta and gustan, so if you’re not getting these right, I actually recommend going back to the beginning of the episode and trying actively to predict everything accurately until you’re getting it perfect.
She likes my brothers.
Le gustan mis hermanos.
He likes to go to that place.
Le gusta ir a ese lugar.
Do you like this?
¿Te gusta esto?
I don’t like those dogs.
No me gustan esos perros.
They like doing that.
Les gusta hacer eso.
We like that a lot.
Nos gusta mucho eso.
All right, now we’re going to switch gears a little bit and actually talk about a different verb that works the exact same way. This verb is “Importar”, and it means something like “to matter”. Here’s a simple example:
This matters to her a lot.
Esto le importa mucho.
So once again, we’re using an indirect object, le, to say “to her”. We can change this to les to talk about more than one person:
This matters to them a lot.
Esto les importa mucho.
And just like with Gustar, the person feels a certain way about this thing, but it’s the thing that’s the subject of the sentence. So the verb will be conjugated not according to the person, who is the indirect object, but according to the thing that they feel something about. Here’s a concrete example:
Your things matter to me.
Me importan tus cosas.
Now this sentence is a bit weird in English; we do use the word “matter” sometimes, but the verb Importar is actually translated a few different ways. One way to translate it is “to be important”. So for example:
Are these words important to you?
¿Te importan estas palabras?
Is the dog important to them?
¿Les importa el perro?
But actually, the most common way to translate this is probably “to care”. Here’s an example:
I care about my friends.
Me importan mis amigos.
But wait a second. Once again, the subject is flipped around from what we do in English. In the English sentence “I care about my friends”, I am the subject. But the Spanish transforms into “my friends are important to me”. If you think about it, this means basically the same thing; it just puts the action on the friends rather than on me, grammatically speaking. So a smart thing to do when you encounter a sentence like this is to mentally translate it from “I care about my friends” to “my friends matter to me”.
Let’s practice this a bit. I’m going to give you a bunch of examples that use importa and importan, and I’ll translate the verb all three ways: “to matter”, “to be important”, and “to care”. Each time, translate it in your head as “matter”, and then find both the right verb conjugation and the right indirect object. And then, for all of these sentences, put the subject at the end.
These things matter to him.
Le importan estas cosas.
Is my life important to you?
¿Te importa mi vida?
They care about their house.
Les importa su casa.
My children matter to them.
Les importan mis hijos.
He cares about my mom.
Le importa mi mamá.
Our friends are important to us.
Nos importan nuestros amigos.
I care about my dog.
Me importa mi perro.
If you’re still struggling with this and getting it wrong more than half of the time, I don’t recommend going on in the episode; instead, go back and practice what we’ve already covered some more, or if you have a Spanish coach, ask them for more practice with these simple uses. We’re about to cover some more complex uses of both Importar and Gustar, but a good Spanish coach, such as the world-class coaches on the LearnCraft Spanish team, are gonna be able to work with you right where you are and help you master these fundamentals before moving on.
All right, if you’re ready, here’s a little quiz to combine Importar and Gustar, again in the same sentence constructions we’ve covered so far. In every single case, make sure that the person who feels a certain way is the indirect object, and the thing or person they feel something about is the subject. So if the subject is plural, you use an N at the end of the word, but you’ll use a singular verb conjugation if the thing is singular.
I like your parents.
Me gustan tus padres.
She cares about the house.
Le importa la casa.
My family isn’t important to you?
¿No te importa mi familia?
We like that place.
Nos gusta ese lugar.
I care about that city.
Me importa esa ciudad.
The war matters to them.
Les importa la guerra.
They don’t like the music.
No les gusta la música.
All right, now to make things more complicated, let’s start using more conjugations. For example:
You like me?
Literally “to you am I pleasing?” Or how about:
She likes us.
So this is literally “to her we are pleasing”. Here’s another example:
You matter to me a lot.
Me importas mucho.
All right, let’s practice all the present-tense forms of these verbs.
We don’t matter to him.
No le importamos.
He likes me quite a bit.
Le gusto bastante.
You(formal) matter to us.
Nos importa usted.
Yes, I like you.
Sí, me gustas.
We care about you a lot.
Nos importas mucho.
I think I matter to him.
Creo que le importo.
I like you(all).
Me gustan ustedes.
Do you like it when I do that?
¿Te gusta cuando hago eso?
Do you care about those three people?
¿Te importan esas tres personas?
My parents like us.
A mis padres les gustamos.
OK, I threw you a curveball with that last one because we had to use a redundant indirect object. Literally “to my parents to them we are pleasing.” Here’s another example:
These things matter to my father.
A mi padre le importan estas cosas.
In this case we have the named indirect object first, then the redundant indirect object pronoun and verb, then the subject last. Literally “to my father to him are important these things.” One more example with this exact same structure:
My mom likes my dog.
A mi mamá le gusta mi perro.
This is actually a very common sentence template for both Gustar and Importar, so let’s practice it just a little bit. Again, please stop at any point that this is beyond what you can do; you’re only going to really learn from this podcast if you’re working actively and predicting the Spanish out loud. But if you’ve been doing OK so far, let’s get some practice with redundant indirect objects along with these verbs.
This thing matters to my brother.
A mi hermano le importa esta cosa.
My friends(f) like your friends(f).
A mis amigas les gustan tus amigas.
The kids like the dog.
A los niños les gusta el perro.
My friends care about the party.
A mis amigos les importa la fiesta.
Your family likes what I did.
A tu familia le gusta lo que hice.
For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/126. Or if you’re ready, let’s practice all these uses of the present-tense forms of Gustar and Importar, using today’s final quiz.
She likes me.
Really, It doesn’t matter to her.
De veras, no le importa.
In the first place, I have five, not seven.
En primer lugar, tengo cinco, no siete.
I don’t like it when they talk among themselves.
No me gusta cuando hablan entre sí.
We don’t matter to them because we are six (people).
No les importamos porque somos seis.
She doesn’t care about the accounts.
No le importan las cuentas.
You have to pretend that it matters to you.
Tienes que hacer de cuenta que te importa.
Really, I might like it.
De veras, me puede gustar.
She doesn’t like us and you have to realize that.
No le gustamos y tienes que darte cuenta de eso.
It might be that it has seven words.
Puede ser que tenga siete palabras.
My memory of that is that she likes you.
Mi recuerdo de eso es que le gustas.
They like music, but they don’t like those things.
Les gusta la música, pero no les gustan esas cosas.
She doesn’t care about me because she doesn’t like me.
No le importo porque no le gusto.
She doesn’t care about those things.
No le importan esas cosas.
I don’t like that house, but I like those cars.
No me gusta esa casa, pero me gustan esos autos.
It’s all the same to me, she doesn’t like you.
Me da igual, no le gustas.
You matter to her because you’re sure of yourself(m).
Le importas porque eres seguro de ti mismo.
You matter to them and you have to be there at six o’clock.
Les importas y tienes que estar ahí a las seis en punto.
It has to matter to you.
Te tiene que importar.
It’s five o’clock and it has to matter to us.
Son las cinco en punto y nos tiene que importar.
It doesn’t matter, it’s not your fault.
No importa, no es tu culpa.
She has to realize that there are four people here.
Tiene que darse cuenta de que hay cuatro personas aquí.
Your plan doesn’t make sense.
Tu plan no tiene sentido.
You have to pretend that you like all four.
Tienes que hacer de cuenta que te gustan los cuatro.
She doesn’t like me, but she doesn’t have to like me.
No le gusto, pero no le tengo que gustar.
For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/126.
In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll learn more ways to conjugate Gustar and Importar.
This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.