These verbs often confuse all learners of Spanish because they don’t conjugate in the same way we are used to conjugating verbs, or how other verbs in Spanish conjugate.
‘Gustar’ = to like
‘Encantar’ = to love
We are used to saying the subject of the verb + like/likes + what the subject likes, and the same with love: subject of the verb + love/loves + what the subject loves. E.g.
I like chocolate
They like the chairs
And most Spanish verbs work in the same way: subject of verb (not usually necessary) + verb conjugated to agree with the subject + object of the verb
Unfortunately, ‘gustar’ and ‘encantar’ don’t work like this, and in the large majority of cases the conjugated verb DOES NOT agree with the subject. As examples, the above sentences would translate as:
Me gusta el chocolate
Les gustan las sillas
Doesn’t seem to make much sense, right? Don’t worry, we’re going to go through step by step to make sure you understand how these verbs work.
The first thing to note is that to denote who is doing the liking, we must use an indirect object pronoun.
An indirect object pronoun denotes the indirect object of a verb and is usually translated as ‘to somebody’ e.g. ‘to me’, ‘to them’, ‘to us’. Here are some examples of indirect object pronouns in English, with the IOP written in bold:
He gave it to me
They gave the present to her/ They gave her the present
He spoke to us about his holiday
The IOPs in Spanish are:
Me (to me)
Te (to you (singular))
Le (to him/her/it)
Nos (to us)
Os (to you (plural))
Les (to them)
Whenever we use either ‘gustar’ or ‘encantar’, we MUST use one of these IOPs to show who is doing the liking.
The next thing to take note of is that the verbs agree with what is being liked.
Both verbs are regular -AR verbs, and most of the time we will be using only the third person singular or the third person plural of each verb i.e. gusta, gustan, encanta, encantan. If we look at the two previous examples again, we can see that whenever the thing that is being liked is singular, we use the third person singular of the verb, and whenever it is plural we use the third person plural:
Chocolate 🡪 gusta
Sillas 🡪 gustan
So, the two verbs are actually telling us what is liked or loved. For this reason, we prefer to think of the translations of the two verbs to be:
‘Gustar’ = to be liked
‘Encantar’ = to be loved
So, now we have broken down how these verbs work, it will be easier to formulate sentences using them. We are going to look at some simple examples using the verbs.
We’ll start with the simplest example. How would we go about saying ‘I like bread’?
The first step will be deciding who is doing the liking. Since it is ‘I’, we are going to use the I form of the indirect object pronoun 🡪 me
The verb being used is ‘like’, so we know we are going to need ‘gustar’. Next, we need to decide if what is being liked is either singular or plural. Since we are talking about bread, this is a singular noun so we are going to need the third person singular of the verb 🡪 gusta
The final part is the bread. In Spanish unlike in English, when we are speaking about a generic, abstract noun we MUST include the definite article of the noun i.e. the ‘el’ or ‘la’. Even though we are not speaking about a specific bread, we must use this 🡪 el pan
Putting this all together, we come out with our translation of the sentence:
Me gusta el pan
The sentence that we used at the beginning for ‘I like chocolate’ was formed in the exact same way: Me gusta el chocolate
Now let’s look at a different example. How would you say ‘They like the books’?
We go through the exact same steps:
- Who is doing the liking? It is ‘they’, so we need the they form of the IOP 🡪 les
- Is what is being liked singular or plural? It is plural so we need the third person plural of ‘gustar’ 🡪 gustan
- How do we say ‘the books’? ‘El libro’ is the singular, and so ‘los libros’ is the plural 🡪 los libros
So, when we put this all together we get:
Les gustan los libros
The sentence that we used at the beginning for ‘They like the chairs’ was formed in the exact same way: Les gustan las sillas
Hopefully these examples give you a good base understanding of how to go about using ‘gustar’ and ‘encantar’ in simple sentences. Using these verbs can become more complicated, but if you follow the guidance of this post you’ll be well on your way to mastering them.