gustar is a defunct verb. in the presents tense you can only choose gusta or gustan depending on how many things are being referred to.
Because they always have shown till now its ("gustar" verb) use with the things liked, as subjects of the sentence. Here, Los caballos is the subject.
I cannot explain but I have noticed the verb "gustar" is conjugated differently than most the verbs I have seen. http://www.123teachme.com/spanish_verb_conjugation/gustar Using that chart I assume if it was one horse you would say "¿Te gusta el caballo?"
It functions the same as all other Spanish verbs but does not translate directly into "X likes Y" because they don't have such an expression in Spanish. Gustar means to please and it's what they use instead. Te gustan los caballos? Do horses please you/Do you like them? A ella le gusta fumar, To smoke pleases her/She likes to smoke. Te gusto? Do I please you/Do you like me?
If we use "los caballos" for "horses," how would we ask "do you like the horses?" (That is, those particular horses.)
Is it only context that distinguishes the two?
I was going to ask this same question. How do we differentiate between horses (all horses in general) versus the horses, as in, those horses over there? This has stumped me for far too long.
Because "you" is the object and the recipient of the action (gustar, received from the horses). The full expanded sentence would be "A ti te gustan los caballos?"
On the other hand, to reverse the question and ask if horses like the person, you'd say "(Tú) Les gustas (a) los caballos?" or "Los caballos les gustas?"
That is the awkward literal translation, which would be better phrased as "do you like ----"
I mean, you could say "Rice pleases me," but 99% of people would keep it simple and say "I like rice"
Gustan refers to los caballos (subject) and the te refers to singular you (object). There is no ustedes here :)
I actually changed my answer (which would have been counted as correct) because as I thought about it more, it seemed that the gustan referred to what the horses liked, not what you liked. So I answered "Do the horses like you" rather than "do you like the horses". Why does the verb agree with the horses rather than the person being asked?
I guess because that is grammatically incorrect in English, though it is widely used. "you like X" is a statement, "do you like X" is a question.
"te" answers who likes the horses. "te" = "you". The verb "gustar" behaves more like "please" and not "like". "The horses please you". The horses are doing the action and the verb conjugation reflects that.
Thank you. Then how does one say "Do they like horses?"
Is it other than "Ellos gustan los caballos?"
¿Les gustan los caballos? This will be covered in the clitic pronoun section. Just remember "gustar" behaves differently than other verbs and you will have an easier time in that section.
why is it "a les gustan los caballos" but "te gustan los caballos" (no "a")? two questions ago I was marked wrong for not including the "a", so OK, I need the a for the "to them, the horses are pleasing" (They like the horses). Why is this phrase different? Are both correct? Is it because one is a statement and the other a question?
Also, it doesn't matter if it is a statement or a question---
"Les gustan los caballos." = "They like horses."
"¿Les gustan los caballos?" = "Do they like horses?"
"A ellos les gustan los caballos." = "They like horses."
"¿A ellos les gustan los caballos?" = "Do they like horses?"
I believe that your first statement should be either "¿Les gustan los caballos?" or "¿A ellos les gustan los caballos?". Adding "A ellos" clarifies that "les" is "them", not "you" (ustedes).
Because we're asking "you" if you like horses = 2nd person informal.
"Te" is the indirect object. "gustar" means to be pleasing (to).
Are horses pleasing TO YOU? = TE gusta los caballos?