Costar in Spanish: Conjugations, Meanings & Uses


In this short guide, we will cover the following topics for ‘costar’ in Spanish:

  1. What does ‘Costar’ mean?
  2. ‘Costar’ Conjugations
  3. How to Use ‘Costar’ in Spanish
  4. Expressions & Idioms with ‘Costar’
  5. Synonyms of ‘Costar’ in Spanish

What does ‘Costar’ mean?

Definition – As the direct translation of ‘to cost’, in Spanish, costar is used to talk about an object’s price. However, it also expresses that a person has difficulties performing an action or reaching a goal. 

In Spanish, ‘costar’ changes its meaning depending on which elements you use and how you conjugate it. Below are the definitions and translations in English.  

  1. When talking about how much something is, it is translated as ‘to cost’
  2. When expressing that someone or something struggled to achieve something, costar means ‘to be difficult’, ‘to find it hard’, ‘to be hard’ or ‘to struggle’.

‘Costar’ Conjugations 

In some tenses, the verb ‘costar’ in Spanish has an irregular conjugation. Its stem will have some changes in present, present subjunctive, and imperative.

costar stem changes in spanish

Just so this makes more sense, in the following conjugation charts, you’ll find the corresponding endings for each tense as well as the stem that you need to use for each person. 

Indicative

Present tense conjugation

To conjugate costar to the present tense, only nosotros and vosotros will use ‘cost’ whereas the rest of the pronouns will change this regular stem to ‘cuest’. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YocuestoI cost
cuestasYou cost
Él / Ella / UstedcuestaHe/She cost
NosotroscostamosWe cost
VosotroscostáisYou cost
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascuestanThey/You cost

Preterite tense conjugation

PersonConjugationTranslation
YocostéI costed
costasteYou costed
Él / Ella / UstedcostóHe/She costed
NosotroscostamosWe costed
VosotroscostasteisYou costed
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascostaronThey/You costed

Imperfect tense conjugation

PersonConjugationTranslation
YocostabaI costed
costabasYou costed
Él / Ella / UstedcostabaHe/She costed
NosotroscostábamosWe costed
VosotroscostabaisYou costed
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascostabanThey/You costed

Future tense conjugation

The future and conditional tenses will use the infinitive form ‘costar’. Check out this table and add the endings for each conjugation.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YocostaréI will cost
costarásYou will cost
Él / Ella / UstedcostaráHe/She will cost
NosotroscostaremosWe will cost
VosotroscostaréisYou will cost
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascostaránThey/You will cost

Conditional tense conjugation

PersonConjugationTranslation
YocostaríaI would cost
costaríasYou would cost
Él / Ella / UstedcostaríaHe/She would cost
NosotroscostaríamosWe would cost
VosotroscostaríaisYou would cost
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascostaríanThey/You would cost

Progressive Tenses

Me está costando trabajo aprender español. 
I’m struggling with learning Spanish.

Perfect Tenses

conjugation chart showing how to conjugate costar in perfect tenses

Siempre me ha costado trabajo hablar con la gente. 
I have always struggled to talk to people. 

¿Cuánto les ha costado el boleto de avión?
How much was your plane ticket guys?

Costar Subjunctive Conjugations

Present subjunctive conjugation

Notice that to conjugate costar to the present subjunctive, you’ll need to use the regular stem ‘cost’ for nosotros and vosotros while the rest of the pronouns will change to ‘cuest’. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YocuesteTo cost
cuestesTo cost
Él / Ella / UstedcuesteTo cost
NosotroscostemosTo cost
VosotroscostéisTo cost
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascuestenTo cost

Imperfect subjunctive conjugations

PersonConjugationTranslation
Yocostara / costaseI costed
costaras / costasesYou costed
Él / Ella / Ustedcostara / costase He/She costed
Nosotroscostáramos / costásemosWe costed
Vosotroscostarais / costaseisYou costed
Ustedes / Ellos / Ellascostaran / costasenThey/You costed

Perfect subjunctive

graphic showing how to conjugate costar in subjunctive

Ojalá estas flores no te hayan costado mucho. 
I hope these flowers weren’t too expensive. 

Sin el descuento, este celular me hubiera costado más caro. 
Without the discount, this phone would have been more expensive. 

How to Use ‘Costar’ in Spanish with Examples

In Spanish, there are two main ways to use ‘costar’:

  1. Explaining how much something is
  2. To say that something is difficult to do or achieve

Here is a detailed description that will show you how to properly use ‘costar’ in Spanish. You’ll learn how to connect the verb with other elements and practice to increase your knowledge in the language.

To talk about the cost or price of something

As the direct translation of ‘to cost’, in Spanish, ‘costar’ is used to talk about the price or cost of things. Although this could refer to amounts of money, it can also describe non-monetary costs such time or effort. 

Remember that when referring to the price of something, you need to conjugate the verb according to the thing that you’re talking about.

[Noun] + [‘costar’ conjugated] + [amount] + [complement]

El libro cuesta $200 más envío.
The book costs $200 plus shipping.

Esa guitarra costó más de $15,000.
That guitar cost more than $15,000.

No creí que ese platillo costaría $600.
I didn’t think that dish would cost $600.

Given that ‘costar’ refers to prices, you can also use this verb to window shop and ask for prices. Notice that in this case, the translation would how much is :

¿Cuánto + [‘costar’ conjugated] + [determiner] + [noun]?

¿Cuánto cuesta esta lámpara?
How much is this lamp?

Señora, ¿cuánto cuestan estos zapatos?
Madam, how much are these shoes?

¿Cuánto crees que cueste un boleto a México?
How much do you think a ticket to Mexico would cost?

Related resource: How to Buy in Spanish: Guide to Shopping Phrases & Vocab

Take Note: As established before, in Spanish, the verb ‘costar’ doesn’t always have to do with money. In some cases, it can also express that a person has to pay a non-monetary cost to acquire something. 

[Indirect object] + [‘costar’ conjugated] + [determiner]

Cometió errores que le costaron muy caro.
He made mistakes that cost him dearly.

El equipo no entrenó y le costó una derrota.
The team did not train and it cost them a defeat.

Antonio come mal y le está costando su salud.
Antonio eats poorly and it is costing him his health.

No te cuesta nada llevar estas bolsas.
It costs you nothing to carry these bags.

Expressing that something is difficult to do or achieve

Costar is also used to describe things that something or someone finds difficult to do or that turn out to be harder than expected. In this case, ‘costar’ means ‘to find it hard’, ‘to struggle’, or ‘to have a hard time’.

[Indirect object pronoun] + [‘costar’ conjugated] + (adv) + [verb] + [complement]

Me costó mucho subir las escaleras.
I had a hard time climbing the stairs.

Nos costó caminar porque había mucho lodo.
We struggled to walk because there was a lot of mud.

Le cuesta aceptarlo, pero es cierto.
She finds it hard to accept, but it is true.

A nosotros nos cuesta mucho aprender español. 
For us, it’s very difficult to learn Spanish. 

Costar Expressions & Idioms

The verb ‘costar’ in Spanish is used in a couple popular expressions that refer to the price that needs to be paid for something. Since these expressions are used in our daily communication, you should consider including them into your conversations.

Costar un ojo de la cara: it’s used to say that we have paid a high price for something. It means ‘to cost an arm and a leg’.

Costar una pasta: This expression is a Castilian Spanish variation of ‘costar un ojo de la cara’. As a result, it can be used to express that something is very expensive. It is translated as ‘to cost a bundle’.

Synonyms of ‘Costar’ in Spanish

Valer: If we’re speaking about the price of something, we can use this verb to replace ‘costar’. ‘Valer’ means that a thing has a determined price or value. It can also be translated as ‘to cost’, ‘to value’ or ‘to be worth’.

Ser difícil: If ‘costar’ is used in a context where you’re describing that something is difficult to do, you can use ‘ser díficil’ which literally means ‘to be difficult’.

Resultar: When talking about something that requires more effort or is more complicated than expected, this verb can be used instead of ‘costar’. ‘Resultar’ means ‘to turn out’.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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