The Behavior of 'gustar' and similar verbs

Things to Remember

Prepositional Phrases and Syntax

One extra thing that Spanish does is to add prepositional phrases to clarify or emphasize the identity of the indirect object. In the case of the previous sentence, we can just add it and it will emphasize on it and be redundant. The English translation will remain the same.

Estas camisas me molestan a mí.
These shirts bother me.

In the case of a third person, the prepositional phrase will clarify the indirect object's identity.

  • Estas camisas les molestan a Raquel y a Susana.
  • These shirts bother them. (Just with the IO pronoun. No clarification.)
  • These shirts bother Raquel and Susana. (With the IO clearly identified, where we drop the pronoun in English.)

A Question of Emphasis

Although some people say that, when the prepositional phrase is present, the order mostly used is prepositional phrase+ verb + subject, the order can vary depending on what the speaker/writer wants to emphasize.

  • A Raquel y a Susana les molestan estas camisas.
  • Estas camisas les molestan a Raquel y a Susana.
  • Les molestan estas camisas a Raquel y a Susana.

Note how some things like the subject and its adjective, the IO pronoun and verb, and the "a" preposition plus the names remain together and act as groups. Also, as you should have noticed, in Spanish we must always write the IO pronoun whenever it exists. It does not matter if we emphasize/clarify it or not. It must be expressed at all times.

Finally, if we just take other verbs from this group, we can just apply the rules to all of them.

I like good grades.


Me gustan
las buenas notas a mí. (Where the prepositional phrase is redundant since there is one only "me").

They like good grades.(Natural)


Good grades are pleasing to them. (Literal translation reflecting a Spanish structure.)


Les gustan
Las buenas notas a ellos/a ellas/a ustedes/a los estudiantes, etc.

They like a good grade.


A ellos (or any plural acting as "they")les gusta
una buena nota.

Things to Remember