Viernes de Vocabulario: Liking, Disliking, and Loving

Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms. 

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Like_dislike_love

 

me gusta (un objeto)                        I like (whatever)
me gusta (una persona)                   I am attracted to (whoever)

 

You probably know that me gusta means ‘I like it’, but it’s not that simple.  Me gustan los gatos, I like cats.  Me gusta el helado, I like ice cream.  However, as soon as the subject of gustar is a person, the meaning changes from ‘I like …’ to something like, ‘I fancy …’ or ‘I like like …’  You can sometimes use it to mean you think someone is doing a good job, especially if you are talking about a public figure.  Me gusta el presidente usually means ‘I like the president’ in the sense that I think he’s good at being president.  Me gustan los Beatles means I like their music.  However, this usage can be questioned, especially for the sake of humor.  If I say, me gusta mi maestro ‘I like my teacher’, a friend can turn around and ask, ¿Te gusta como maestro o como hombre? ‘Do you like him as a teacher or as a man?’

 

me cae bien (una persona)             I like (whoever)

 

caer bien (literally ‘fall well on’), like gustar (and indeed, almost all the verbs we’ll look at today, except for querer and amar), works the opposite of what you’d expect as an English speaker.  The person doing the liking is not the grammatical subject but the object[1] of the verb, and the thing or person being liked is the subject.  So: Juan me cae bien means ‘I like Juan’, while to say ‘Juan likes me’ you have to say le caigo bien a Juan.  And as you may have guessed, someone can also caer mal, which means you don’t like them.

 

quiero (a una persona)                   I love (whoever)
quiero (un objeto)                           I want (a whatever)

 

How about love?  If you love someone, you will almost always want to say querer instead of amar.  Quiero a mis amigos, a mis padres, a mi gato, y a todos mis compañeros de clase.  I love my friends, my parents, my cat, and all of my classmates.  Querer can be romantic, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.  (If you are worried about being misunderstood and want to be quite clear about this, you can say se te quiere (literally ‘you are loved’) instead of te quiero (‘I love you’), but people do use this word with their friends all the time.)

 

However, you can’t querer ice cream, books, or naps.  Or rather, you can, but it doesn’t mean you love those things – it means you want one[2].  So how can you tell someone that you love piña coladas and getting caught in the rain?

 

me encanta (un objeto)                   I love (whatever)
me fascina (un objeto)                    I really dig (whatever)

 

The most natural-sounding way to say you adore something is to say me encanta.  The McDonald’s slogan (“I’m lovin’ it”) is translated me encanta.  Me encanta Oaxaca means I love Oaxaca.  You can also say me fascina which literally means something fascinates you.  Me fascina la comida oaxaqueña; I’m really into Oaxacan food.  You can use both of these verbs to describe your feelings about people as well, but it will sound like you have a crush on whoever you’re talking about.

 

amo (un objeto o una persona)       I love (who or whatever)

 

Finally, you can use the verb amar ‘to love’.  In most contexts, this word sounds too strong – it refers not simply to romantic love but the kind of romantic love that you expect will last forever.  Some people use this about their parents (amo a mis padres, I love my parents), but few would say it directly (te amo, papá sounds strange).  Patriotic love also often uses this word.

 

It’s perfectly correct to say amo los libros, los perros, y las puestas del sol (I love books, dogs, and sunsets), but you run the risk of sounding like a teenage girl or a drama queen.  Stick to me encanta and me fascina.

 

Of course, there are many more ways to say you like – or dislike – someone or something, including tons of informal and colloquial phrases.  Post your favorites – or ask questions about some you’ve heard – in the comments!

 

[1] Making matters even more confusing, it’s an indirect object rather than a direct object, but we won’t get into that right now.

[2] Don’t worry, te quiero doesn’t ever mean ‘I want you’ in a sexual way.  You have to say te deseo for that, although me gustas comes pretty close.

 

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