As your Spanish teacher warned you, gustar is dangerous when talking about people, unless you intend to communicate romantic interest.
So how do you say I like you in Spanish? Here’s where the verb caer, literally ‘fall’, comes to the rescue.
- Me caes bien. I like you. You’re cool.
- Me cayó bien. I like him. He made a good impression on me.
- Me caíste súper bien. I liked you a lot when I met you. (Maybe I still do. Maybe now I don’t.)
Wholesale candy store, La Central de Abasto, Mexico City
The use of preterite in the last two examples fits well, since we’re probably talking about the specific experience when we met. The parallel here is with conocí.
Note that caerle, like gustarle takes as its subject the role that goes in the direct object position in English. This can take some getting used to. It’s easy to get confused about whether Les cae bien means ‘They like him’ or ‘He likes them’. (It’s the former.) If it helps, think of the literally translation: . I recommend learning the most common usages of caerle bien as set phrases (illustrated above) and figure out the rest on the fly.Creo que les caigo bien. I think they like me.
In the right context, caerle bien can be used as a back-handed complement or worse. Me cae bien. I like him but only as a friend. I’m not interested in him. Even: I don’t really like him but this is the nicest thing I can say about him without being rude.
Me cae mal
Naturally, caerle mal expresses the opposite idea.
- Me cae mal. I don’t like him.
- No me cae mal. I don’t dislike him (but I don’t like him very much).
Me cae gordo
Here are some options for when you want to branch out from mal into more interesting shades.
- Me cae pésimo = I really don’t like him. Recall that pésimo is the superlative form of mal.
- Me cae gordo. I really don’t like him. A word-for-word translation would be something like ‘he falls fat on me’. This is more informal than me cae mal.
- Esa chava me cae gordo/a. I don’t like her.
This last example illustrates an interest point. The word gorda agrees here in number and gender with the grammatical subject, esa chava. Since adverbs don’t inflect like this, this suggests that the complement of caerle is an adjective. And yet we don’t don’t say *ella me cae mala, so mal here is clearly an adverb. So gorda here may be a hypercorrection. In fact, many speakers accept and/or prefer Esa chava me cae gordo. I have heard both.
With food, caerle is about how something affects you, especially your health. Here are two examples I have heard:
- Te va a caer muy bien. This tea will be good for you. It will help you feel better. It will do you good. It won’t upset your stomach.
- Algo que le cayó mal. Something bad he ate, something he ate that made him sick, something that didn’t agree with his digestive system.