Common Mistake with Spanish Verbs like Gustar

Students learning Spanish often find a bit of initial difficulty with verbs like Gustar, which literally means “to give pleasure,” but is actually translated as “to like” something. In Spanish, to say that you like something, you end up essentially sayig hat something gives you pleasure. For example:

“Me gusta jugar al tenis” means “I like to play tennis,” but it is literally translated as “Playing tennis gives me pleasure.”

“Les gustan las películas a ellos” means “They like movies,” but it is literally translated as, “Movies give them pleasure.”

So as you can see, you are not going to conjugate the Spanish verb gustar as you normally would. For example, “Yo gusto al tenis” is wrong! Verbs like Gustar are always conjugated in the third-person singular or plural form depending on the “thing” or “things” giving pleasure to someone.

Now here’s the common mistake that many Spanish-learning students will make after learning this. Many will use the infinitive form of verbs like gustar the wrong way. Here’s an example of the right and wrong way to say, “You’re going to like the movie”:

The wrong way:

Vas a gustar la película.

The right way:

Te va a gustar la película (or) Va a gustarte la película.

Remember, in Spanish, a verb like gustar is actually used to convey an action happening to someone, not someone conveying the action themselves.

So looking at the right way, the literal translation would be, “The movie is going to pleasure you.” Te represents the indirect object; Va a represents the action of the movie (The movie is going to …); gustar representes the infinitive verb following the use of “IR;” and so you end up with, “The movie is going to give pleasure to you,” or commonly translated as, “You’re going to like the movie.”
Let’s take a look at another example, this time using the third-person plural format: “We are going to like all three cities.”

The wrong way:

Vamos a gustar las tres ciudades.

The right way:

Nos van a gustar las tres ciudades (or) Van a gustarnos las tres ciudades.
The nos represents the indirect object. Van a represents the action that “las tres ciudades” take (going to); and gustar represents the infinitive verb to give pleasure. Thus, the three cities are going to give us pleasure, or more commonly translated as “We are going to like the three cities.”

Other Spanish verbs that function similarly to gustar include:

fascinar (ex. Me fascina comer tacos – I am fascinated with eating tacos)
encantar (ex. Me encanta vino tino – I love red wine)
importar (ex. No me importa gastar dinero – Spending money doesn’t matter to me)
molestar (ex. Ele me molesta cada dia – He bothers me every day)
parecer (ex. Esa chica me parece linda – That girl seems beautiful to me)

Hope this helps!