Spanish Verb Gustar Conjugation

Gustar Conjugation, Usage, and Examples

Bird in hand
Me gusta el pájaro. (I like the bird).

Chad King / Creative Commons

The Spanish verb gustar can be translated as "to like." This verb may be confusing for Spanish learners because gustar is considered a defective or impersonal verb, so it is often conjugated in the third person only. In addition, it requires a variation in the sentence structure.

This article includes gustar conjugations in the indicative mood (present, past, conditional, and future), the subjunctive mood (present and past), the imperative mood, and other verb forms, as well as examples, translations, and explanations of the peculiarities of the verb gustar.

Using the Verb Gustar

If you're a beginner at Spanish, chances are most of the sentences you've been using as examples follow roughly the same word order as we use in English, with the verb following the subject. But Spanish also frequently places the subject after the verb, and that is usually true with gustar. Here are some examples of gustar in action:

  • Me gusta el coche. (I like the car.)
  • Nos gustan los coches. (We like the cars.)
  • Le gustan los coches. (You/he/she likes the cars.)

As you can see, the sentences aren't quite what you might expect. Instead of following the form "person who likes + verb + the object liked," they follow the form "indirect-object pronoun representing the person who likes + verb + the object liked" (the indirect-object pronouns are me, te, le, nos, os, and les). In these sentences, the object liked is the subject in Spanish. Also, note that the subject of these sentences (the object that is liked) is always accompanied by the definite article (el, la, los, las).

If this seems confusing, here's an approach that might help: Instead of thinking of gustar as meaning "to like," it is both more accurate and makes more sense in this sentence structure to think of it as meaning "to be pleasing." When we say, "I like the car," the meaning is much the same as saying, "the car is pleasing to me." In plural form, it becomes "the cars are pleasing to me," with a plural verb. Note, then, the differences in the common and literal translations below:

  • Me gusta el coche. (I like the car. Literally, the car is pleasing to me.)
  • Nos gustan los coches. (We like the cars. Literally, the cars are pleasing to us.)
  • Le gustan las camionetas. (You /he/she likes the pickups. Literally, the pickups are pleasing to you/him/her.)

When the pronoun le or les is used, as in the third example, the context might not always make clear who is the person doing the liking. In that case, you can add the prepositional phrase "a + the person liking," as shown below, at the beginning of the sentence (or less commonly at the end of the sentence). Note that the indirect-object pronoun cannot be omitted; the prepositional phrase clarifies the indirect-object pronoun rather than replacing it.

  • A Carlos le gusta el coche. (Carlos likes the car.)
  • A María le gustan las camionetas. (María likes the pickups.)
  • ¿A ustedes les gusta el coche? (Do you like the car?)

Conjugating Gustar

Because gustar is nearly always used with subjects in the third person, it is often considered a defective verb. However, it can also be used with other subjects to talk about liking different people. Be careful though, because often the verb gustar, when used with people, denotes a romantic attraction. To talk about simply liking people, a more common expression uses the verb caer bien, as in María me cae bien (I like María). In the table below, you can see how gustar can be conjugated for each different subject using this romantic meaning.

Yo gusto Yo le gusto a mi novio. My boyfriend likes me. / I am pleasing to my boyfriend.
gustas Tú le gustas a tu esposa. Your wife likes you. / You are pleasing to your wife.
Usted/él/ella gusta Ella le gusta a Carlos. Carlos likes her. / She is pleasing to Carlos.
Nosotros gustamos Nosotros le gustamos a muchas personas. Many people like us. / We are pleasing to many people.
Vosotros gustáis Vosotros le gustáis a Pedro. Pedro likes you. / You are pleasing to Pedro.
Ustedes/ellos/ellas gustan Ellos le gustan a Marta. Marta likes them. / They are pleasing to Marta. 

Since gustar is frequently used to talk about things being pleasing to people, or people liking things, the tables below show the conjugations of the verb with the liked objects as the subject of the sentence. The verb takes the form of the third person singular if the person likes a singular noun or verb, and the third person plural if the person likes a plural noun.

Gustar Present Indicative

A mí me gusta(n) Me gusta la comida china. I like Chinese food.
A ti te gusta(n) Te gustan las frutas y verduras. You like fruits and vegetables.
A usted/él/ella le gusta(n) Le gusta bailar salsa. She likes to dance salsa.
A nosotros nos gusta(n) Nos gusta el arte moderno. We like modern art.
A vosotros os gusta(n) Os gusta caminar por la ciudad. You like walking around the city.
A ustedes/ellos/ellas les gusta(n) Les gustan los colores vivos. They like bright colors.

Preterite Indicative

The preterite tense is used to talk about completed actions in the past. In the case of gustar, it would be used in the context of seeing or trying something for the first time and liking it, or having liked something only for a certain amount of time.

A mí me gustó/gustaron Me gustó la comida china. I liked Chinese food.
A ti te gustó/gustaron Te gustaron las frutas y verduras. You liked fruits and vegetables.
A usted/él/ella le gustó/gustaron Le gustó bailar salsa. She liked to dance salsa.
A nosotros nos gustó/gustaron Nos gustó el arte moderno. We liked modern art.
A vosotros os gustó/gustaron Os gustó caminar por la ciudad. You liked walking around the city.
A ustedes/ellos/ellas les gustó/gustaron Les gustaron los colores vivos. They liked bright colors.

Imperfect Indicative

The imperfect tense is used to talk about ongoing or repeated actions in the past. In the case of gustar, it would refer to someone who used to like something, but doesn't anymore.

A mí me gustaba(n) Me gustaba la comida china. I used to like Chinese food.
A ti te gustaba(n) Te gustaban las frutas y verduras. You used to like fruits and vegetables.
A usted/él/ella le gustaba(n) Le gustaba bailar salsa. She used to like to dance salsa.
A nosotros nos gustaba(n) Nos gustaba el arte moderno. We used to like modern art.
A vosotros os gustaba(n) Os gustaba caminar por la ciudad. You used to like walking around the city.
A ustedes/ellos/ellas les gustaba(n) Les gustaban los colores vivos. They used to like bright colors.

Future Indicative

A mí me gustará(n) Me gustará la comida china. I will like Chinese food.
A ti te gustará(n) Te gustarán las frutas y verduras. You will like fruits and vegetables.
A usted/él/ella le gustará(n) Le gustará bailar salsa. She will like to dance salsa.
A nosotros nos gustará(n) Nos gustará el arte moderno. We will like modern art.
A vosotros os gustará(n) Os gustará caminar por la ciudad. You will like walking around the city.
A ustedes/ellos/ellas les gustará(n) Les gustarán los colores vivos. They will like bright colors.

Periphrastic Future Indicative 

A mí me va(n) a gustar Me va a gustar la comida china. I am going to like Chinese food.
A ti te va(n) a gustar Te van a gustar las frutas y verduras. You are going to like fruits and vegetables.
A usted/él/ella le va(n) a gustar Le va a gustar bailar salsa. She is going to like to dance salsa.
A nosotros nos va(n) a gustar Nos va a gustar el arte moderno. We are going to like modern art.
A vosotros os va(n) a gustar Os va a gustar caminar por la ciudad. You are going to like walking around the city.
A ustedes/ellos/ellas les va(n) a gustar Les van a gustar los colores vivos. They are going to like bright colors.

Present Progressive/Gerund Form

The gerund or present participle can be used as an adverb, or to form progressive tenses like the present progressive.

Present Progressive of Gustar está(n) gustando A ella le está gustando bailar salsa.  She is liking dancing salsa.

Past Participle

The past participle can be used as an adjective or to form compound verb forms using the auxiliary verb haber, such as the present perfect.

Present Perfect of Gustar ha(n) gustado A ella le ha gustado bailar salsa. She has liked dancing salsa.

Conditional Indicative

The conditional tense is used to talk about possibilities.

A mí me gustaría(n) Me gustaría la comida china, pero es muy salada. I would like Chinese food, but it is very salty.
A ti te gustaría(n) Te gustarían las frutas y verduras si fueras más saludable. You would like fruits and vegetables if you were healthier.
A usted/él/ella le gustaría(n) Le gustaría bailar salsa si hubiera tomado clases. She would like to dance salsa if she had taken lessons.
A nosotros nos gustaría(n) Nos gustaría el arte moderno, pero preferimos el arte clásico. We would like modern art, but we prefer classical art.
A vosotros os gustaría(n) Os gustaría caminar por la ciudad si no fuera peligroso. You would like walking around the city if it were not dangerous.
A ustedes/ellos/ellas les gustaría(n) Les gustarían los colores vivos, pero prefieren los colores claros. They would like bright colors, but they prefer light colors.

Present Subjunctive

Que a mí me guste(n) El cocinero espera que me guste la comida china. The cook hopes I like Chinese food.
Que a ti te guste(n) Tu madre espera que te gusten las frutas y verduras. Your mother hopes that you like fruits and vegetables.
Que a usted/él/ella le guste(n) Su novio espera que a ella le guste bailar salsa. Her boyfriend hopes that she like to dance salsa.
Que a nosotros nos guste(n) El artista espera que nos guste el arte moderno. The artist hopes that we like modern art.
Que a vosotros os guste(n) La doctora espera que nos guste caminar por la ciudad. The doctor hopes that we like walking around the city.
Que a ustedes/ellos/ellas les guste(n) El diseñador espera que a ellas les gusten los colores vivos. The designer hopes that they like bright colors.

Imperfect Subjunctive

The imperfect subjunctive can be conjugated in two different ways:

Option 1

Que a mí me gustara(n) El cocinero esperaba que me gustara la comida china. The cook hoped I like Chinese food.
Que a ti te gustara(n) Tu madre esperaba que te gustaran las frutas y verduras. Your mother hoped that you like fruits and vegetables.
Que a usted/él/ella le gustara(n) Su novio esperaba que a ella le gustara bailar salsa. Her boyfriend hoped that she like to dance salsa.
Que a nosotros nos gustara(n) El artista esperaba que nos gustara el arte moderno. The artist hoped that we like modern art.
Que a vosotros os gustara(n) La doctora esperaba que nos gustara caminar por la ciudad. The doctor hoped that we like walking around the city.
Que a ustedes/ellos/ellas les gustara(n) El diseñador esperaba que les gustaran los colores vivos. The designer hoped that they like bright colors.

Option 2

Que a mí me gustase(n) El cocinero esperaba que me gustase la comida china. The cook hoped I like Chinese food.
Que a ti te gustase(n) Tu madre esperaba que te gustasen las frutas y verduras. Your mother hoped that you like fruits and vegetables.
Que a usted/él/ella le gustase(n) Su novio esperaba que a ella le gustase bailar salsa. Her boyfriend hoped that she like to dance salsa.
Que a nosotros nos gustase(n) El artista esperaba que nos gustase el arte moderno. The artist hoped that we like modern art.
Que a vosotros os gustase(n) La doctora esperaba que nos gustase caminar por la ciudad. The doctor hoped that we like walking around the city.
Que a ustedes/ellos/ellas les gustase(n) El diseñador esperaba que les gustasen los colores vivos. The designer hoped that they like bright colors.

Gustar Imperative

The imperative mood is used to give commands or orders. However, remember that gustar is a different verb, where the subject of the sentence is the object that pleases the person. Since you can't command a thing to please someone, the imperative forms of gustar are very rarely used. If you wanted to tell someone to like something, you would say it in a more indirect way using a structure with the subjunctive, such as Quiero que te gusten las frutas (I want you to like fruit) or Exijo que te guste bailar (I demand that you like to dance).