We’ve spent quite a long time talking about Reflexive Verbs, so I’m now going to leave the subject alone for a while and briefly look at something that a lot of people tend to confuse with Reflexives. This is the particular Spanish way expressing ‘likes’, ‘loves’ and ‘dislikes’ – by saying that something ‘pleases’, ‘delights’ or ‘displeases’. For example, you are probably be very familiar with the form me gusta and know that it means ‘I like’.
Gusta is the third person singular form of the verb gustar – ‘to please’ – therefore the literal translation of me gusta is ‘it pleases me’ or ‘he pleases me’ or ‘she pleases me’. In other words, I like it, him or her.
This form is not Reflexive, because it has nothing to do with anyone pleasing themselves. I suppose someone some time may want to say me gusto (‘I please myself’ – that is, ‘I like myself’), but this is not really what we’re talking about or would normally wish to say.
The form me gusta is simply a different way round from English of conveying a certain idea. The same thing happens with me encanta (literally – ‘It delights me’ – ‘I love it’). Also included in this group of verbs are things like me sorprende (‘it surprises me’), me fastidia (‘it annoys me’), me interesa (‘it interests me’) and so on.
To change the person who is pleased, or who likes, we do not conjugate these verbs in the usual way.
This is how we change gustar.
I like (it pleases me)
You like it (it pleases you)
He/she likes it (it pleases him/her)
We like it (it pleases us)
You like it (plural) (it pleases you ‘a lot’)
They like it (it pleases them).
Notice that the Object Pronouns (they are actually Indirect Object Pronouns, for those who wish to know) happen to be the same as the Reflexive Pronouns EXCEPT in the third person (le and les NOT se).
If more than one thing pleases us, then the verb changes to a plural. For example:
Me gustan las patatas fritas.
I like chips – they please me, the chips!
Me encantan las patatas fritas
Chips delight me.
I’m feeling rather peckish so I think I’ll stop here and go and eat a big plate of them!
I haven’t done this for a while, but if anyone would like to email me their queries on this subject, I will try to answer them either directly or in the next article – I mean verbs, not chips.
Jane Cronin’s ‘Step by Step Spanish’ articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s ‘Step by Step Internet Spanish Course’.