If you are learning Spanish would you like to eliminate the confusion many beginners make when talking about liking someone as a person versus being attracted to them?
In English we normally use just one word, "like." Clarifying with more information indicates whether you have an attraction towards them or like them simply as a friend or person.
Here's how you can quickly and easily distinguish between the two and avoid a lot of embarrassment or misunderstandings when you are speaking Spanish with native speakers.
When people learn Spanish they are taught to use a form of the verb "gustar" which is "to like." In Spanish this is the natural way to say you like something.
I like to travel. Me gusta viajar. (meh goos-tah vee-ah-hahr.)
I like this movie. Me gusta esta película. (meh goos-tah ehs-tah peh-lEE-coo-lah.)
Note that in English when we say "I like" we are the one creating the action of the verb. In Spanish it is the opposite. Whatever you are saying you like is creating the action of the verb. A literal translation of the examples above would be "traveling pleases me" or "this movie pleases me." This may seem awkward at first but it's the natural way to say you like something in Spanish.
It's normally how you say you like something and so it is natural to use it when referring to people. It's a common mistake English speakers make since we use the same word whether the context is we like them as a person or we are attracted to them in a romantic way.
I like your mom. Me gusta tu madre. (meh goos-tah too mah-dreh.)
The problem with using "gustar" in reference to people is that it has sexual or romantic connotations. Ooops! In reality you are saying you have a romantic attraction to this person's mother.
There is one situation where "gustar" does not indicate romantic interest and that's when talking about public personalities like a famous singer or politician.
If you want to say you like someone simply as a person or as a friend you would use a form of the word "caer" instead of "gustar." "Caer" does not indicate any romantic or sexual interest.
I like your mom. Me cae bien tu madre. (meh kah-eh bee-ehn too mah-dreh.)
The literal translation of "caer" is "to fall" but when referring to people it refers to what you think of them as a person.
Notice in the example above "caer" is followed by "bien." That is because you need to clarify what you think of her. "Caer" alone is not enough to clarify what you think of this person.
You need to use an adjective to clear this up and get across your opinion of her. "Bien" translates to "good" in this example. If you don't like this person's mom you would replace "bien" with "mal" which means "bad."
I don't like your mom. Me cae mal tu madre. (meh kah-eh mahl too mah-dreh.)
Keep in mind that "caer" is expressing an opinion only when referring to people. It's not used in this manner for things or activities. Only "gustar" is used in those cases.
If you are learning Spanish this will help eliminate miscommunication with Spanish speakers by translating to the correct verb.
Now you can confidently express if you are attracted to someone in a romantic way or simply want to get the point across that you like someone as a person.