‘Me gusta’ vs ‘Me gustaría’ in Spanish

In Spanish, any verb can change its purpose and meaning depending on the tense that’s being used. This is the case of ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’ in Spanish. On top of having different meanings and intentions, both ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’ work with different elements. As a result, they’re not interchangeable. 

So what’s the difference between ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’ in Spanish? ‘Me gusta’ means ‘I like’. It is used to talk about likes and dislikes. ‘Me gustaría’ is the conditional form of ‘me gusta’ and it means ‘I would like’. It is used to talk about desires and is used as a polite expression.

When starting to learn Spanish, it’s easy to confuse ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría. That’s why in the following sections we’ll explain to you the difference between them as well as the contexts where you can use them and some examples to see how you can apply them. By the end of it, you will understand the difference between ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’. 

What’s the difference between ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’?

Both ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’ are different tenses of the verb ‘gustar’. Therefore, their intentions and grammar elements used with them are completely different. Here is a quick overview of these verbs. 

Me gusta is conjugated in the present tense, as a result, it can be used to talk about preferences (likes and dislikes). In this context, it can work with nouns and infinitive verbs. It’s translated as ‘l like’.   

Me gusta la comida china
I like Chinese food

On the other hand, me gustaría is the conditional form of ‘gustar’. Therefore, we use it to talk about desires (things we would like to do). In some contexts, ‘me gustaría’ can also be used as a polite expression. It works with infinitive verbs and conditional clauses. It means ‘I would like’. 

César, me gustaría aprender español más rápido
Cesar, I would like to learn Spanish faster

In the following sections, we’ll show you when to use these tenses as well as some basic phrase structures that they follow. 

When to Use ‘Me gusta’ in Spanish

In their present form, ‘me gusta’ is used to talk or ask about likes and dislikes. As a result, it’s translated as ‘I like’. However, in Spanish, ‘me gusta’ is only used to talk about food, objects, activities, and animals. 

Although it can also be used to talk about people, this verb expresses a physical attraction. Since it’s in the present tense form ‘me gusta’ expresses real facts and information. Here are some contexts where you can apply ‘me gusta’ and the sentence structures that you need to use:

To talk about activities you like: 

When talking about activities you like to do, this is the phrase structure you need to follow. Notice that the verb in infinitive form expresses the activity you like. 

Me gusta + (mucho) + [verb infinitive form]

A mí me gusta cocinar y ver televisión
I like to cook and to watch movies

 Me gusta mucho aprender idiomas y conocer otras culturas
I like learning new languages and knowing other cultures a lot

Take Note: ‘Me gusta’ is the conjugation for the first person (Yo), to talk about yourself. If you want to talk about other people’s likes or dislikes, you will need to replace me with the correct indirect pronoun

A Tania le gusta dormir
Tania likes sleeping

If instead of talking about likes, you want to talk about dislikes, you only need to add ‘no’ before ‘me gusta’. 

La verdad no me gusta bailar
To be honest, I don’t like to dance

To talk about objects, food and animals

When talking about things, food and animals you like, you will need to use one of the following phrase structures:

Me gusta + (mucho) +  [singular definite article]+ [singular noun]

A mí me gusta el programa que Paula me recomendó
I like the tv show that Paula recommended me 

Me gusta mucho la comida Mexicana porque es muy picosa 
I like Mexican food a lot because it’s very spicy

As you may know, in Spanish, the number of a noun will affect a whole phrase structure. So if you want to talk about plural objects, this is how you do it:

Me gustan + (mucho) + [singular definite article]+ [plural noun]

Me gustan mucho los perros pequeños
I like small dogs a lot

Mamá, ¿me gustan las donas de chocolate?
Mom, do I like chocolate donuts?

Expressing affection or appreciation for someone

In Spanish, we can never use ‘me gusta’ to express that we find a person agreeable. Instead, we use ‘me cae bien’ or ‘me agrada’. Both expressions are still translated as ‘I like’.

Paula me cae bien I like Paula

Me caen bien los primos de Laura I like Laura’s cousins

Related Resource: Me gusta vs Me cae bien

When to Use ‘Me gustaría’ – I would like

In Spanish, ‘me gustaría’ is the conditional form of the verb ‘gustar’. Therefore, it’s translated as ‘I would like’. Unlike ‘me gusta’, ‘me gustaría’ doesn’t talk about real facts. Instead, it’s used to express future desires which haven’t happened and we don’t know if one day they will come true. Here is the phrase structure you need to follow:

Me gustaría + [verb in infinitive form]

La verdad, me gustaría salir contigo
To be honest, I would like to date you

Me gustaría hablar español perfectamente
I would like to speak Spanish perfectly 

No sé bailar, pero me gustaría aprender
I don’t know how to dance, but I would like to learn

¿No te gusta España? A mi me gustaría vivir en ahí unos meses
You don’t like Spain? I would like to live there for a few months

Me gustaría tener más dinero para poder viajar por todo el mundo
I would like to have more money so I can travel around the world 

To ask politely

In addition to talking about desires, ‘me gustaría’ can also be used as an expression of politeness. Here are some examples:

Joven, me gustaría ordenar dos ensaladas, por favor
Young man, I would like to order two salads, please

Señorita, me gustaría hablar con su supervisor, por favor
Miss, I would like to speak to your supervisor, please 

Me gustaría otro pedazo de pastel, por favor
I would like another piece of cake, please

Related Resource: How to order food in Spanish

Take Note: As a conditional tense, ‘me gustaría’ also works with conditional sentences in Spanish. When being used as an expression of politeness, ‘me gustaría’ can be replaced with ‘quisiera’.

Wrapping Up

In Spanish, ‘me gusta’ and ‘me gustaría’ are two different tenses for the verb ‘gustar’. Therefore, the intention of these phrases is completely different. That’s why in this article we explained the differences between these words as well as the elements and phrases structures that they need to follow. Here are some quick takeaways:

Me gusta

  • Means ‘I like’.
  • Talks about real facts and information about likes and dislikes.
  • Express likes about objects, food, activities and people (in a romantic way). 
  • Works with singular and plural nouns as well as infinitive verbs.
  • Works with infinitive verbs when talking about activities and nouns when talking about objects.
  • It’s conjugated in plural form (me gustan) when talking about plural objects.

Me gustaría

  • Means ‘I would like’. 
  • Expresses future desires.
  • It can be used as a polite expression.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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