Gramática: Querer y gustar


  • Use “querer” and “gustar” to explain your wants and likes

In English both of the following sentences use the basic subject-verb-object sentence structure: “I want a vacation” and “I like vacations.” They’re not the same in Spanish!

To contrast these thoughts we’ll need to learn the conjugation of querer (to want). For now, just memorize it as if it were irregular. But you may notice that it has a stem-vowel change that’s similar to tener—that’s actually a fairly common pattern in Spanish and you will learn more about it in the next section.

QUERER (to want)
singular plural
primera persona quiero queremos
segunda persona quieres queréis
tercera persona quiere quieren
  • Yo quiero una vacación. (I want a vacation.)
  • Juanito y yo queremos salir y jugar en el jardín. (Johnny and I want to go outside and play in the garden.)
  • ¿Quiere usted unos juguetes de madera? (Do you want some wooden toys?)

But in Spanish as we learned in the previous section, “to like” (gustar) is used in a different structure: in Spanish a person does not like a thing, but rather the thing is pleasing to the person.

  • A mi me gustan las vacaciones de invierno y a ti te gustan las vacaciones de verano. (I like the winter vacation and you like the summer vacation.)
  • A Juanito y a mí nos gusta salir y jugar en el jardín. (Johnny and I like to go outside and play in the garden.)
  • ¿Le gustan a usted los juguetes de madera? (Do you like wooden toys?)

Can you spot the differences in the sentence structure? Sentences with querer (to want) use the subject pronouns or just the nouns to say who wants the thing. But sentences with gustar (to like) use the indirect object pronouns (me – te – le – nos – os – les) to identify the person being pleased, and if you further specify the person being pleased, you need to use the preposition “a” (“a mí”, “A Juanito”, etc.).

Also, in sentences with querer the verb needs to agree with the person who wants the thing, whereas in sentences with gustar the verb needs to agree with the thing that is pleasing to the person.

  • Me gustan los rompecabezas. Quiero estos rompecabezas, por favor. (I like puzzles. / Puzzles are pleasing to me. I want these puzzles, please.)
  • Los niños quieren jugar el béisbol cada día. A los niños les gusta mucho jugar el béisbol. (The children want to play baseball every day. They children like playing baseball a lot. / Playing baseball is very pleasing to the children.)

It’s important not to confuse these two very common sentence structures!