How important is the verb gustar (to like)? The answer is: very!! In fact, it’s not just this verb that’s important in Spanish, but also all the other words in the category known as “emotion verbs.” So, let’s have a look at why this is.


One significant reason is that verbs like gustar are frequently used in daily life. For example:


  • ¿Qué te gusta hacer? (What do you like to do?)
  • ¿Te gusta la música? (Do you like music?)
  • ¿Te gusta la playa o la montaña? (Do you like the beach or the mountains?)
  • No me gusta la salsa picante (I don’t like spicy salsa)
  • A ella no le gustas tú (She doesn’t like you)


Even when we log onto Facebook, we have the option of clicking the “me gusta button to express our approval of something.


Oh, and if you didn’t know this, then you should change your default language to Spanish. It’s a great way to learn useful new words!


In any case, the group of verbs known as emotion verbs are labelled as such for a reason: all of them refer to feelings. Let’s have a look:


  • gustar (to like), me gusta (I like)
  • encantar (to love, cannot be used to refer to people), me encanta (I love)
  • molestar (to bother), me molesta (it bothers me)
  • emocionar (to excite), me emociona (it’s exciting to me)
  • interesar (to interest), me interesa (I’m interested in)
  • importar (to matter, to be important), me importa (it’s important to me)
  • faltar (to lack), me falta (I lack that)
  • quedar bien/mal (to suit well/badly), me queda bien/mal (it suits me well/badly)


As you can see, the translations of these verbs aren’t always I + verb. That is because this  sentence structure doesn’t exist in English.


Therefore, in this article, you will learn how these verbs are structured and what parts make them up, as well as learn how to conjugate them perfectly using a handy three-step guide.


Introducing a different sentence structure


The main sentence structure in Spanish is as follows:


  • Subject (optional) + Verb + Complements


This can be seen in the following examples:


  • Juan toma un vaso de agua.
  • Mis amigos viajan todos los fines de semana.
  • He puesto las llaves encima de la mesa.


However, emotion verbs work in a different way. In these cases, the subject is not typically  the person involved in the action, but instead the object or situation that is causing the feeling. For example:


  • Me gustan las carreras de coches (I like car races).
  • Las carreras de coches me dan miedo (Car races scare me).
  • Me interesan las carreras de coches (I’m interested in car races).


Let’s break this structure down a bit further so that you can easily use it in a conversation.


Learning how this structure works


As a teacher, I’ve seen my students struggle quite often with the verb gustar, as well as with the other emotion verbs. I often hear sentences that sound like the following:


Common mistakes

Correct version

Me gusto la cerveza

Me gusta la cerveza

Me gusta los viajes

Me gustan los viajes

Se gusta comer pizza

Le gusta comer pizza

Ellos les gusta bailar

A ellos les gusta bailar

¿Te gusta las películas?

¿Te gustan las películas?


The reason for these mistakes is that the structure of the sentence is not particularly obvious at first. So, I’ve developed an easy system to help you use these verbs correctly.


First, we have to understand the constituent parts of an emotion verb sentence:


Section 1: The person having the feeling

Section 2: The verb

Part A: Optional Pronoun

Part B: Mandatory Pronoun

Part C: Emotion Verb

Part D: Grammatical Subject

A mí



A ti




A él, A ella


Singular verb:

Singular noun:
la pizza
tu pelo
mi casa

A Juan, A mi novia, etc.



A nosotros/as



A vosotros/as



A ellos/as



A tus amigos, A las chicas, etc.


Plural verb:

Plural noun:
las fiestas
los viajes
las cenas románticas


As you can see, the table above is divided into two sections. Let’s learn more about what we can find in each of these sections.


Section 1


This section refers to the person experiencing the feeling (the “feeling person”). In Spanish, this is not the subject of the sentence.


This piece of information is important for a reason: the verb is not conjugated according to the “feeling person.” However, it is in other languages, such as English, as we can see below:


  • I like it
  • He likes it


Just to be clear, in most Spanish sentences, the subject does precede the verb, like above. However, you must remember that in emotion verb sentences, the “feeling person” is not the actual subject.


So, what are the differences between the two parts of an emotion verb sentence? Well, it’s actually quite simple.


Part A in the table is optional. We only use it when we want to highlight the subject. This could be because two or more people are talking and it needs to be made more clear, or because you want to really emphasize that you like or dislike something. Here are some examples:


Person 1: Oye, Juan, ¿te gusta la pasta carbonara? (Hey, Juan, do you like carbonara?)

Person 2: A mi sí, pero a mi novia no, así que nunca comemos (I do, but my girlfriend doesn’t, so we never eat it).


Person 1: ¿Vas a venir a ver la última de La Guerra de las Galaxias? (Are you coming to see the latest Star Wars movie?)

Person 2: Qué va, a mí no me interesan nada las películas de ciencia ficción (Not at all, I don’t like Sci-Fi movies at all).


Part B, on the other hand, is mandatory. We have to use the right pronoun in order to indicate the person who is experiencing the feeling. This part is quite easy; just remember that in the third person we use le/les. Otherwise, we use the normal pronouns (me, te, nos and os).


Section 2


This is the verb section.


Part C refers to the verb itself, whether it be gustar or any of the other emotion verbs. Interestingly enough, this kind of verb usually only has two forms: third person singular and third person plural, as shown below:


  • Gusta/Gustan
  • Encanta/Encantan
  • Interesa/Interesan


It is important to note that it’s the final part (Part D) that actually makes the verb singular or plural. If the final part is an infinitive or singular noun, it will be singular. If it’s a plural noun, the verb will be plural as well. For instance:


Gustar + infinitive verb:

  • A mí me gusta cocinar (I like to cook).
  • A ellos les gusta ir al cine (They like to go to the movies).


Gustar + singular:

  • A mí no me interesa el fútbol (I’m not interested in soccer).
  • A ellos les gusta la canción anterior (They like the previous song).


Gustar + plural:

  • No me importan las diferencias de edad (I don’t care about age differences).
  • Les encantan las películas de acción (They love action movies).


Sometimes you can even have a second person form of the verb. A great example of this is the very famous song Me gustas tú by Manu Chao. This is possible due to the fact that it is another person who is causing the emotion in this case, and that person is being directly spoken to. This is a very romantic use of the verb and, thus, it is very common in songs. You can find examples of such songs here.


Now that you know the structure, let’s learn how you can easily use them in a sentence!


Three easy steps for using emotion verbs


If you follow this system, you’ll realize that it is actually very easy to form sentences with these verbs. Here are the three steps for doing so:


Step 1


Ask yourself: Do I need to emphasize who is feeling the emotion?


If the answer is Yes: Include Part A from the table.

If the answer is No: Do not include Part A from the table.


Step 2


Ask yourself: Who is feeling the action?


Use your answer to this question to choose the right pronoun from Part B.


Note: This is not going to affect the verb that immediately follows.


Step 3


Ask yourself: Is the action, idea, thing or fact that is causing the emotion singular or plural?


If it is singular (salir, correr, comer, tu coche, mi amiga): Use a singular verb.

If it is plural (los aviones, las películas, tus padres): Use a plural verb.


Remember that you have to say the verb prior to this step, so you must decide in advance if it’s singular or plural.




In this article, we have discussed two counterintuitive ideas:


  1. The verb isn’t conjugated according to the person feeling the emotion, but instead according to the object, action or idea creating the emotion.
  2. You have to say the verb (conjugated in the singular or the plural) before you say the subject. This is strange for most languages because we usually put the subject first and the verb after.


You’ll be in the clear if you can remember these two ideas and use them correctly. That, along with a little bit of practice, will help you to master emotion verbs in Spanish!


For advanced learners


The list below includes most of the major emotion verbs in Spanish. All of them follow the same structure. Can you think of any more? Write them down in the comments!



  • Me encanta
  • Me gusta
  • Me vuelve loco



  • Me da igual
  • No me importa



  • Me da miedo
  • Me da pánico
  • Me asusta



  • Me extraña
  • Me sorprende
  • Me alucina



  • Me alegra
  • Me pone contento



  • Me pone triste
  • Me entristece



  • Me duele
  • Me molesta



  • Me molesta
  • Me da coraje
  • Me enfada
  • Me da rabia
  • Me enoja
  • Me irrita
  • Me fastidia



  • Me preocupa
  • Me divierte
  • Me aburre
  • Me pone nervioso
  • Me da vergüenza


Image Sources


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