Gustar and similar verbs in past tenses

In Spanish, the verb gustar and all "inverted verbs" can be used in all tenses. The structure in any past tense follows the same rule as in the present tense.

To revise gustar in El Presente see:

Just like in the present tense, when conjugating in any past tenses, the verb still takes the form of the 3rd person:

  • 3rd person singular, i.e. the él/ella form (gustó, gustaba, ha gustado, había gustado...) for singular subjects
  • 3rd person plural, i.e. the ellos/ellas form (gustaron, gustaban, han gustado, habían gustado...) for plural subjects

We must identify the subject of the sentence to make it agree with the verb form. 

Here are some examples with different past tenses and different verbs:

El Pretérito Indefinido

¿Te gustó la paella ayer?Did you like the paella yesterday?

No me interesó el discurso.I didn't find the speech interesting.

El Pretérito Imperfecto 

No podía concentrarme. El ruido me molestaba mucho.I couldn't concentrate. The noise was bothering me a lot.

Cuando era joven no me interesaban los deportes en general, pero ahora juego mucho al fútbol.When I was young I wasn't interested in sports in general but I do play football a lot now.

El Pretérito Perfecto 

La obra de teatro nos ha aburrido mucho.We found [lit: have found] the play really boring.

¡Me ha encantado tu actuación!I loved your performance!

Siempre me ha apasionado cantar en público.I've always felt passionate about singing in public.

El Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto

No sabía que te habían molestado mis comentarios.I didn't know that my comments had bothered you.

Nunca les había gustado el novio de su hija.They had never liked their daughter's boyfriend.

Agreement

In the examples above, notice how when the subject (underlined in the examples) is:

  • singular then the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person singular of that tense (remember that an infinitive is considered a "singular thing") 
  • plural then the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person plural of that tense. 

Remember that when the subject is an infinitive, the verb gustar is used in the singular form. 

Me gustó mucho leer tus artículos.I really liked reading your articles.

Despite having a plural object (artículos), it is still "me gustó", not "me gustaron" because of the use of the infinitive. 

If we omit the infinitive though, we need the verb in the plural form.

Me gustaron mucho tus artículos.I really liked your articles.

Also notice how the indirect object pronouns, which indicate the person who is doing the liking, being bored, disturbed, interested etc., is always placed in front of the conjugated verb.

When the indirect object pronoun is plural (e.g. les, nos) indicating that more than one person is affected by the verb, it is a common mistake to think that the verb needs to agree with the plural indirect object pronoun and so we add the -n to the verb (e.g. gustaban, molestaban). This is wrong. Instead, we need to link the verb to the subject, which is the "activity or thing". Let's look at an example.

This is a common mistake:

"They loved the present":

  • Incorrect: Les encantaron el regalo.
  • Correct: Les encantó el regalo.

When seeing the plural indirect object pronoun "les" we may  think we need the verb to be "plural" also, but in this example we don't because the subject (activity/thing) is singular (el regalo).

  

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Examples and resources

No sabía que te habían molestado mis comentarios.I didn't know that my comments had bothered you.
Me gustaron mucho tus artículos.I really liked your articles.
Nunca les había gustado el novio de su hija.They had never liked their daughter's boyfriend.
¿Te gustó la paella ayer?Did you like the paella yesterday?
Me gustó mucho leer tus artículos.I really liked reading your articles.
¡Me ha encantado tu actuación!I loved your performance!
No me interesó el discurso.I didn't find the speech interesting.
La obra de teatro nos ha aburrido mucho.We found [lit: have found] the play really boring.
Cuando era joven no me interesaban los deportes en general, pero ahora juego mucho al fútbol.When I was young I wasn't interested in sports in general but I do play football a lot now.
No podía concentrarme. El ruido me molestaba mucho.I couldn't concentrate. The noise was bothering me a lot.
Siempre me ha apasionado cantar en público.I've always felt passionate about singing in public.
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