Did you know that gustar is not the most common ‘verb like gustar’?
Before I tell you what the most common verb in this category is, I’ll explain the question a little further and how I discovered the answer.
Spanish verbs can be grouped into 3 basic structures: normal, reflexive and ‘verbs like gustar‘.
It seems a shame that this third category doesn’t have a better name. But, nonetheless, this verb structure is extremely useful and will be the focus of the rest of the post.
As an aside, this verb category likely gets its English name due to ‘gustar’ being the most commonly used verb to introduce this topic in Spanish classrooms.
So how do ‘verbs like gustar‘ work?
How to form ‘verbs like gustar’
At first look, the structure of these verbs appears strange but we actually have this sentence structure in English as well.
Two examples in English would be:
It occurred to me…
The idea seems strange to me…
In Spanish, the structure is no different. All you have to do is mentally switch the action of the verb onto yourself (or whoever is receiving the action of the verb).
A few examples with gustar:
English: I like the movie.
Literal translation: The movie is pleasing to me (or more specifically ‘to me the movie is pleasing’).
Español: Me gusta la película.
English: I don’t like cheese.
Literal translation: To me cheese is not pleasing.
Español: No me gusta el queso.
If you want to apply these verbs to someone other than yourself, you need to use one of the following ‘indirect object pronouns’:
Me – Me.
Te – You.
Le – Him / her / formal you.
Nos – Us.
Os – You-all.
Les – Them / formal you-all.
Here are a few examples with these indirect objects pronouns in action:
English: Do you like this idea?
Literal translation: To you is this idea pleasing?
Español: ¿Te gusta esta idea?
English: We like speaking.
Literal translation: To us speaking is pleasing.
Español: Nos gusta hablar.
For more details on how to use this verb structure refer back to the podcast on ‘How To Use Verbs Like Gustar To Express Your Ideas’. In that episode, I go into a lot more depth on how to use these types of verbs.
The present tense conjugations for verbs like gustar
When it comes to conjugating any verb like gustar, they all follow a similar pattern.
The full conjugations for gustar are as follows:
|It is pleasing to me||(A mí) me gusta|
|It is pleasing to you||(A ti) te gusta|
|It is pleasing to him / to her||(A él / a ella) le gusta|
|It is pleasing to you (formal)||(A usted) le gusta|
|It is pleasing to us||(A nosotros) nos gusta|
|It is pleasing to you-all||(A vosotros) os gusta|
|It is pleasing to them||(A ellos / a ellas) les gusta|
|It is pleasing to you-all (formal)||(A ustedes) les gusta|
Note that the additional pronoun phrases in brackets (a mí, a ti etc.) are optional except in the case where we need to specify a third person such as “to him”, “to her” or “to my friend”.
English: My friend likes it.
Literal translation: To my friend it is pleasing.
Español: A mi amigo le gusta.
Note, however, we can drop the phrase ‘a mi amigo’ and simply say ‘le gusta’ if we already know from context that we are talking about ‘my friend’.
The importance of high frequency
One of the guiding principles of Real Fast Spanish is that you should learn high-frequency words ahead of low-frequency words. That’s not to say you should ignore low-frequency words altogether but what you should do is make a strategic effort to learn high-frequency words deliberately.
Moreover, this principle is used as a filter for decision making. It means that when you are first starting out there are hundreds of words you could learn but you can reduce the mental load and increase your ability to communicate more effectively by focusing on the most useful words first.
The reason that this idea is so important is that it speeds up the rate of reaching a conversational level of Spanish.
In this post, I’m going to continue with this guiding principle and provide the most frequently occurring verbs that behave like gustar.
How I determined the most common verbs like gustar
While researching this post I looked high and low to see if a ranking of ‘verbs like gustar’ had already been done somewhere on the internet.
I looked to the search engines, I looked to frequency studies I have used in the past, I looked in forums and I looked in a few books on the subject of Spanish word frequency.
In the end, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
One of the biggest problems with frequency studies is that often they don’t take conjugation into consideration.
For example, in a typical frequency study, the words quiero and quieres count as two occurrences of the verb querer as opposed to one occurrence for two separate words. This approach makes it difficult to figure out the order of frequency for a specific verb structure such as the subject of this post.
So what I decided to do was go about finding the most common ‘verbs like gustar’ by reviewing the data with the help of a person who has dedicated a career to data analysis—mi esposa.
We used a set of data known as ‘n-grams’ for the Spanish language.
Put simply, an ‘n-gram’ is a sequence of ‘n’ words in any given language. For example, the phrase or sequence of words ‘I love you’ is a 3-gram in English. And this 3-gram ‘I love you’ occurs more often than the 3-gram ‘I love baskets’ or a more random 3-gram ‘red high curve’.
Said in another way, the study of ‘n-grams’ is the study of the occurrence of sequences of words as opposed to individual words on their own.
As a matter of interest, the highest occurring 3-gram in English is ‘I don’t’ or ‘I do not’. In the data, they still counted the contraction of ‘do’ and ‘not’ as two sequential words.
The next step in determining the frequency of ‘verbs like gustar’ was to look for 2-grams in Spanish with an indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, nos etc.) in secession with a verb in the present 3rd person singular or 3rd person plural conjugations.
We then had to remove 2-grams such as ‘me dice’ which means ‘he says to me’ because it doesn’t follow the structure we are looking for: ‘it ___ to me’. Once we removed these 2-grams, we were left with the set of verbs we were looking for.
We later reviewed the data for past imperfect and past simple conjugations to make sure the list doesn’t change drastically for different verb tenses.
The results: the most commonly occurring verbs like gustar
The results of the data analysis showed the most commonly occurring ‘verbs like gustar’ in Spanish in order are:
|3||To make / do||Hacer|
|6||To permit / allow||Permitir|
|12||To be important||Importar|
|18||To cost / be difficult||Costar|
|20||To delight / love||Encantar|
A few notes on the results:
- Parecer is actually the most common ‘verb like gustar’ if you only use the data for the present tense.
- Dar is the most common when you include past conjugations.
So in the next section, I will give a few examples to reflect the occurrence of these tenses.
How to use these verbs in a Spanish sentence
This section is the most important part of this post because it’s where you put all of the above information into action.
Choose a number of these examples and work through them for yourself. Create your own sentences then try them out in your next Spanish conversation.
1. Dar – to give
You can learn about other uses of the Spanish verb dar here.
English: At that moment it gave him fear to ask for help.
Español: En ese momento le dio miedo pedir ayuda.
English: We didn’t use to care about politics, now we do.
Español: Nos daba igual la política, ahora sí.
2. Gustar – to like
English: Do you like to read?
Español: ¿Te gusta leer?
English: I didn’t use to like mushrooms.
Español: No me gustaban los champiñones.
3. Hacer – to do
Learn about other uses of the Spanish verb hacer here.
English: I need milk.
Español: Me hace falta leche.
English: What makes you laugh?
Español: ¿Qué te hace reir?
4. Parecer – to seem
English: It seems strange to me.
Español: Me parece extraño.
English: What do you think?
Español: ¿Qué te parece?
5. Ir – to go
English: Is it okay with you?
Español: ¿Te va bien?
English: This (medical) treatment is better for me.
Español: Este tratamiento me va mejor.
6. Permitir – to permit / allow
English: These glasses allow me to see better.
Español: Estas gafas me permiten ver mejor.
English: My job doesn’t allow me to relax.
Español: Mi trabajo no me permite relajarme.
7. Interesar – to interest
English: It doesn’t interest me to go to the beach today.
Español: No me interesa ir a la playa hoy.
English: This trip interests us a lot.
Español: Este viaje nos interesa mucho.
8. Quedar – to remain
Learn about other uses of the Spanish verb quedar here.
English: You aren’t left with any other option.
Español: No te queda otra opción.
English: I don’t have any flour left.
Español: No me queda harina.
9. Pasar – to pass
Learn about other uses of the Spanish verb pasar here.
English: What happened to you?
Español: ¿Qué te pasó?
English: The same thing happens to me often.
Español: Me pasa lo mismo a menudo.
10. Llamar – to call
English: What catches your attention in this book?
Español: ¿Qué te llama la atención de este libro?
English: That song caught my attention.
Español: Esa canción me llamó la atención.
11. Ocurrir – to occur
Ocurrir and pasar are almost completely interchangeable when they are used in this structure. The only difference is that ocurrir is slightly more formal.
English: What is happening to you?
Español: ¿Qué te ocurre?
English: These things never happen to me.
Español: Estas cosas nunca me ocurren.
12. Importar – to be important
English: I don’t mind (It’s not important to me).
Español: No me importa.
English: The exam results aren’t important to her.
Español: Los resultados de los exámenes a ella no le importan.
13. Dejar – to leave
English: This story leaves me with some questions.
Español: Esta historia me deja con algunas preguntas.
English: This diet does not leave me satisfied.
Español: Esta dieta no me deja satisfecho.
14. Llevar – to take
Learn about other uses of the Spanish verb llevar here.
English: It took me a long time to understand it.
Español: Me llevó mucho tiempo entenderlo.
English: This leads us to think that it’s possible.
Español: Esto nos lleva a pensar que es posible.
15. Poner – to put
Learn about other uses of the Spanish verb poner here.
English: It puts me in a good mood to see my friends.
Español: Me pone de buen humor ver a mis amigos.
English: The problems here make me very sad.
Español: Los problemas aquí me ponen muy triste.
16. Faltar – to be missing
English: What are you missing in order to reach your goals?
Español: ¿Que te falta para alcanzar tus metas?
English: My son is lacking motivation.
Español: A mi hijo le falta motivación.
17. Tocar – to touch
English: Your story is touching.
Español: Tu historia me toca.
English: It’s up to me to find a way to improve.
Español: A mi me toca encontrar una manera de mejorar.
18. Costar – to cost
English: Spanish verb conjugations are difficult for me.
Español: Las conjugaciones verbales españolas me cuestan.
English: What costs you the most to learn Spanish?.
Español: ¿Qué es lo que te cuesta más aprender del español?
19. Venir – to come
English: Is it okay with you to meet up with me this afternoon.
Español: ¿Te viene bien quedar conmigo esta tarde?
English: Nothing comes to (my) mind.
Español: Nada me viene a la mente.
20. Encantar – to love
When you love something or someone in a non-romantic way use this verb.
English: I love it!
Español: ¡Me encanta!
English: I love this type of food.
Español: Me encanta este tipo de comida.
21. Ofrecer – to offer
English: What does the new job offer you. (what advantages does the new job offer?)
Español: ¿Qué te ofrece el trabajo nuevo?.
English: This weekend offers me an opportunity to relax.
Español: Este fin de semana me ofrece la oportunidad de relajarme.
22. Servir – to serve
English: This attitude doesn’t serve me.
Español: Esta actitud no me sirve.
English: What good does it serve you to argue?
Español: ¿De qué te sirve discutir?
23. Llegar – to arrive
English: I came to like that place a lot.
Español: Me llegó a gustar mucho ese lugar.
English: If a difficult time comes, remember your dream.
Español: Si te llega un momento difícil, recuerda tu sueño.
24. Resultar – to result
English: I’m sorry, I can not possibly help you today.
Español: Lo siento, me resulta imposible ayudarte hoy.
English: I still find it difficult to believe his story.
Español: Todavía me resulta difícil creer su historia.
25. Preocupar – to worry
English: Nothing worries me.
Español: Nada me preocupa.
English: I worry a lot about the future.
Español: Me preocupa mucho el futuro.
‘Verbs like gustar’ is a great topic to focus your Spanish studies on. And with this post, you now have a list of verbs that are essential to know, practice and use.
The best thing about this verb structure is you only have to know the conjugations for the 3rd person singular and the 3rd person plural.
My challenge to you is:
- Choose five verbs from the list that you haven’t used or seen yet.
- Learn the present, past imperfect and past simple conjugations in the 3rd person for these verbs.
- Use them as often as you can for the next two weeks.
Once you have these verbs covered, come back and choose another five and go again. ¡Te viene bien saber estos verbos muy bien!
What sentences can you create using ‘verbs like gustar‘?