mögen, gern, gefallen – What is the difference

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. Everyone does it everyday, because everyone likes it (except haters who, naturally, gonna hate) and it rhymes with viking. What activity am I talking about? Exactly…  hiking. Hiking is great fun, even more so in the very hot summer. Everyone likes hiking.  Hiking already has like 1,100,031 likes on Facebook. Likings for hiking have been hiking up much to hiking suppliers likin…. ok obviously we’ll talk about liking today. Liking in German. And what is liking in German?

"To silently and skeptically approve of the quality and/or efficiency of something or someone."...

this is what would be written on Wikipedia… if…. they would stop deleting my contribution that is.
But seriously… there are 3 main translations for the English word to like and recently a reader asked about the differences between them (thanks Paola). And since she is certainly not the only one to wonder when to use which I figured this calls for a

German is Easy – What is the Difference – Special

And here are the subjects of our investigation:

  • mögen – gefallen – gern

While only one of them, mögen, literally translates to to like, all 3 are used in phrasing that would be done with to like in English…

  • I like Berlin.
  • Berlin gefällt mir.
  • I really really like all the food examples over at Duolingo.
  • Ich mag die ganzen Essensbeispiele da bei Duolingo sehr.
  • I like swimming.
  • Ich schwimme gern.

Now, of course there are overlaps between all 3 but they are not always interchangeable…

  • Ich mag gerne Pizzaessen. (sounds childish)
  • Ög moog nut brå (sounds Swedish)
  • Ich Berlin gern. (sounds super duper wrong… and it is)

so we’ll take on the words one by one, have a quick look at where they’re coming from and see what they are used for and after a dreadful 3500 words I will sum up everything with a few concise sentences that could have spared you the rest had I just said those. Sounds good? No? Well at least it sounds honest :)…


Mögen is a German modal verb and the literal translation of the English to like.

  • Ich mag dich.
  • I like you.

Now, mögen is actually related to the English modal verb may and both are related to the German word die Macht which means power. Seems weird at first but in English it is visible too

  • He might be mighty...

Anyway… so  mögen and may come from something that meant “to be able to, to have the power to” and that means they were kind of  close to the meaning of  can… especially may still is.

  • This may be true.
  • This can be true.

At least to me, the difference between those 2 sentences is rather small. Now… mögen is a modal verb in German because it originally was the same as may. And it still is used that way, too.

  • Das mag wahr sein.

But today, this meaning is way less important than the to like one… and that evolved a few hundred years ago…. evolution triggered by people being negative.

  • Ich mag das nicht.
  • I may that not (lit.)
  • I can’t do that. (which could also be “Ich vermag das nicht.” in todays German)

changed and became

  • I don’t like that.

Far fetched? Maybe. But again, at least the beginnings of the shift are visible in English as well… the word dismay expresses dislike and it comes from may nonetheless.
Anyway… so mögen is the German to may but it first and foremost means to like.
Now let’s talk about the usage. In a way mögen is the little sister of to love. It expresses how you feel toward something or someone. So of course it works great for people and things.

  • Ich mag meinen Chef und meine Spüle.
  • I like my boss and my kitchen sink.

It also works for facts. By facts I mean pieces of information that need sentence or sentence like structure of their own to be expressed.

  • Ich mag, wie sie redet
  • I like how she talks.
  • Ich mag es nicht, dass du mich immer unterbrichst.
  • I don’t like that you always interrupt me.
  • Ich mag es, den ganzen Tag zu schlafen.
  • I like it to sleep all day.(lit.)

  • I like sleeping all day.

Now, of course everyone is like “Why is there an es only in one of the examples?”… uh… oh…. uh… that wasn’t exactly the question I expected. But it’s a really good question, actually. Someone should probably look that up…
But seriously… I don’t think there is a simple rule to that. It might have something to do with the length of the fact. The only thing I can say for sure is that the es is kind of mandatory if you have a zu-construction.

  • Ich mag es, bei Regen zu lesen.
  • I like reading while it rains.

In these sentences you either need the es or a rather obvious

pause after “mag” to make it work. All right. So, mögen can be connected to nouns (things and persons) and to facts. The one thing it cannot really be connected to directly are activities ie. verbs.

  • Ich mag den ganzen Tag schlafen.

In many languages this works just fine. But not in German. At least not yet, that is. People say things like that from time to time but I think it would be marked in a test because officially you’d be supposed to say

  • Ich mag es, den ganzen Tag zu schlafen.

One reason why a direct connection without the zu doesn’t really work (yet) might be the may-origin of mögen.

  • Ich mag den ganzen Tag am Strand liegen.
  • I may be lying on the beach the whole day.

Okay… so we shouldn’t connect the verbs directly .. at least not in writing. But what about this:

  • I like sleeping all day.

Is there something like this in German so we don’t have to bother with the zu-construct and the stupid es we have to use for that? Well, the sleeping in the English sentence functions as a noun and as we’ve learned nouns can be connected to mögen. The thing is… the ing-form in English can be a lot of things

  • I like sleeping (noun)
  • My cat is eating (verb)
  • The movie is interesting (adjective)

So naturally the differences become kind of blurry. German is much more… German with that. Of course you can also make verbs into nouns in German, but that will show. A noun will get an article and a gender and a capital letter. Das Schlafen is not just sleeping. It is be THE sleeping. And that makes it a little bit clunky… even more so if there is additional information about the noun.

  • Ich mag das den ganzen Tag Schlafen.

So … I hope you get the idea… what? Oh you think it is complicated? Well, then check out about when to say “I like to verb” and “I like verbing” in English and tell me if that is any easier…
All right. Here’s one more example

  • I like visiting my horse.
  • Ich mag es, mein Pferd zu besuchen…. way to go
  • Ich mag das mein Pferd Besuchen …. clunky and robotic
  • Ich mag mein Pferd besuchen… officially wrong and ambiguous

So let’s recap… mögen can be connected with things and persons or with facts that are phrased as a side sentence or with a zu-construct. You shouldn’t connect it with “nounified” verbs, because those sound clunky and you shouldn’t connect it directly with verbs because as of yet, it is officially wrong. People do it anyway but it often sounds a bit childish. And there is no need, after all…. because when it comes to liking activities, gern is by far the better pick.


Gern is turbo-common in German.

  • “Willst noch ein alkoholfreies Bier?”
    “Ja, gern.”
  • “Would you like another non alcoholic beer?”
    “With pleasure/ Oh cool, of course.”
  • “Danke.”
  • “Thank you.”
    “No problem./My pleasure.”

And as if it weren’t common enough, marketing people saturate their texts with by placing it in positions even more abstract, implausible and counterproductive than the whole Kama Sutra.

  • Bei weiteren Fragen, schreiben sie uns gern eine E-Mail.
  • If you have further questions please  write us an e-mail with pleasure.

So what is this gern. It comes from the Indo-European root *gher which meant to like something or to want to have something. Are there English words with that root. Sure, there are. For instance greed (die Gier in German), yearn or charisma. And at least for yearn and greed it isn’t too far fetched. I like it, I want it, I want it all for myself… my precious.
The German gern used to mean something like eagerly or zealously … remember the origin…  if you like or want something, if you yearn for something you will work gern to get it.
Today’s gern still describes how you do something… but the meaning has shifted a little bit and the best translation is maybe with pleasure. Just the usage is completely different.

  • Ich schlafe gern.
  • I sleep with pleasure. (lit.)
  • I like sleeping.

And there we are… this is what gern is used for. It is an adverb that describes an activity and you could exchange it with other adverb like often or reluctantly.

  • Ich schlafe gern/often/reluctantly.

Of course they all mean different things but grammatically they work the same. Having gern in your sentence changes it from a statement about what you are doing to a statement on how you feel about doing that in general…

  • Ich esse Pizza.
  • I am eating pizza.
  • Ich esse gern Pizza.
  • I like eating pizza.

So… gern is used whenever you want to express that you generally like an activity. Now, mind you… it expresses the same as to like but it NOT a literal translation of it. German just uses a completely different structure here, a structure that allows us to use verbs as verbs without having to make them into clunky, capitalized, gendered German nouns. That is what makes gern so great and useful.

  • Guckst du gern fern?
  • Do you like watching TV?
  • Als ich Kind war, habe ich total gern Spinat gegessen.
  • When I was a kid, I really liked eating spinach.
  • Ich mache gern Sport, wenn es richtig richtig heiß ist.
  • I like doing sports when it is really really hot.

If you want to say that you don’t like something you can just put a nicht in front of gern.

  • Ich gehe nicht gern direkt nach dem Essen schlafen.
  • I don’t like going to bed right after having eaten.

But there is another way…a softer way. The word ungern… also used a LOT in daily talk.

  • “Kannst du mir einen Gefallen tun und 2 Stunden auf meinen Hund aufpassen?”
    “Hmmm… ungern, ich habe echt viel Arbeit.”
  • “Could you do me a favor and watch after my dog for a couple of hours?”
    Hmmm…. I’d rather not actually… I really have a lot to do.”

Ungern sounds really diplomatic and soft. It leaves a chance that you may be swayed while still expressing that you’d rather not do it. An alternative to ungern is the combination nicht so gern… the so softens the negative nicht enough. But let’s do an example with ungern.

  • Ich würde ungern erst um 12 zu Hause sein.
  • I would be at home no earlier than 12 not with pleasure (lit.)
  • I wouldn’t like being at home only at 12./ I’d prefer being at home earlier than 12.
  • Katzen werden nur ungern nass.
  • Cats don’t like getting wet.

Hmm… if only the last example had some pun potential… I really could use a joke right now… I feel like it does but I can’t put my finger on it right now…
anyway… that is gern.
You use it when you want to say that you generally like activities. It expresses the same idea as to like but the structure and grammar is COMPLETELY different. Putting gern into a sentence changes the whole meaning from “I do that” to “I like doing that” and I am sure that it is hard in the beginning to catch on to that little word, especially when someone uses it in a question… dialogues like this one happen every day :)

  • “Wohnst du gern in Berlin?”
    “Ja, ich wohne in Berlin…”
    “Uh… ja, ich weiß… aber wohnst du GERNE hier?”
    “Ohhhhhh… that is like do you like living here, right? Yeah I think we had that in German class…”

Now, before we move on let’s quickly ask and immediately answer 2 questions. One: is there a difference between gern and gerne?
Two: Does gern work for things and persons? By itself, not at all …

  • Ich dich gern.

That means nothing because there is no verb in it. But you can combine it with haben and then it works for people… not really for your fridge or a place though.

  • Ich habe dich gern.
  • I have you with pleasure/gladly. (lit.)
  • I like you.

I don’t really know if there is a difference between this and the mögen version… I think with haben it sounds a little less mature but also a bit warmer .. maybe because “Ich mag dich” is also what people say when they are about to break up… you know.. THIS sentence:

  • Ich mag dich  wirklich ABER irgendwie…
  • I really  like you BUT somehow…

All right. And now that you’re single again, walking down the street and going to bars with friends is a totally different thing… and you’ll certainly use the last option for to like a lot…


Gefallen… depending on what is your mother tongue this verb can be either really simple or really really frustrating for you. But it is important and you can not do without it. What does it mean? Well… that’s the point. It doesn’t really translate to English. It is I like with the grammatical roles reversed. Let’s look at this. First English

  • I like the movie.

Grammatically, I is the subject and movie is the object. I do the action (here: to like)  and the movie is what I do it to. And as far as meaning goes… movie is the thing that I feel affection for.

  • Der Film gefällt mir.
  • The movie ____ to me.

Grammatically, the movie is the subject now. Movie does the action. And I am the object, so I am done something to. But still the MEANING is about the same… I feel affection of some kind for movie. It is NOT this:

  • The movie likes me.

Sure, grammatically the situation is the same… but the meaning is reversed.Now the movie feels affection for me.  So … what could we put into the blank? One option is to please.

  • The movie pleases me.

This illustrates how gefallen works. But we have to be careful. The words do have some common ground but to please is almost NEVER translated as gefallen and vice versa.
All the Romance languages have a direct translation with the same grammar. And those words are in fact related to the word to please. But in English a word with the same meaning AND the same grammar doesn’t exist.
Now, where does gefallen come from? In fact, it is nothing but the ge-form of the verb fallen which means to fall.

  • Die Würfel sind gefallen.
  • The dice have fallen (lit.)
  • The die is cast.

And as random as that may sound… this is the origin of the verb gefallen.  Just imagine some Germanic tribe people playing dice in their hut.

  • “Tripple six… that has fallen well for me.
  • “Dreifach 6… das ist mir wohl gefallen.

This is still a quite literal use because dice do actually fall. Then, a few centuries later a white knight rides by a tower when he suddenly hears a cry…

  • “Help, help”
    “What’s that?”
    “I’m over here in the tower. I am a prisoness.”
    “What? A princess? Sounds like she’s in need for some rescuing… now, that fell well for me.”
  • “Hilfe, Hilfe.”
    “Was war das?”
    “Ich bin hier drüben im Turm. Ich bin eine Gefangene.”
    “Oh … eine Prinzessin. Klingt, als müsste sie ein bisschen gerettet werden. Na, das ist gefallen mir wohl.”

So gefallen has broadened and now refers to your fate in general, be it at a dice game or elsewhere. And then, again a few centuries later, some king listens to some piano piece played by a young guy named Goethe. After Goethe has finished, the king has this to say…

  • “Hmmm… that piece of music fells to me, indeed.”

Now, confused looks everywhere… wasn’t there something crucial missing? People start whispering…

  • “What does he mean? How did it fall? What is fells, is that a word?”
    “Pshhhh… the king liked it. He just doesn’t bother with qualifiers. Now say that it fells to you too or you risk beheading.”

And so a new verb was borne. Gefallen changed and shifted from the original meaning  some fate or lot falls to you to you LIKE what has come to you.
And there we are today… when you use gefallen you’re mainly making a statement about whether or not you like something but you’re using the grammar of “it pleases me”.

  • Berlin gefällt mir.
  • I like Berlin.

And now let’s talk about the usage. And for that it is important that we keep the original roles in mind. The thing or person that gefallen you does something to you. So gefallen is way less about your inner world than mögen.
When you use mögen you are making a statement about your feelings and your feelings only. You are saying absolutely nothing about the object.
With gefallen you at least partially describe the object or person. Take for instance a picture.

  • Ich mag das Bild.
  • I like the picture.

The picture can be ungodly ugly. But you feel something for it. You like it.

  • Das Bild gefällt mir.
  • I like the picture.

Here, there is at least some implication that the picture is pleasing to you in a way.  Someone else might still find it ugly but to you it is not. It is nice, pretty or whatever. Same for a song.

  • Ich mag den Song.
  • Der Song gefällt mir.
  • I like the song.

Gefallen is saying more about the song than is mögen. Mögen really is just about you while gefallen is making a little implication of the song being pleasing to you.
Gefallen is used to talk about looks and other appearances of people or things. Think of the woman that is sitting at the bar… and your friend says this to you…

  • Die Frau da gefällt mir.
  • That woman over there… she is kind of nice.

He cannot mögen her because he doesn’t even know her. But he can like her looks, attitude, hair-style, body language or whatever. So gefallen is more superficial than mögen. Mögen is a feeling, gefallen more of a quick judgment based on appearance.

  • “Wie findest du meine neue Frisur?”
    Gefällt mir gar nicht.”
  • “How do you like my new hairdo?”
    “I don’t like it at all.”

So…  gefallen is used a lot in context with seeing  or  hearing. It doesn’t really work for smells or touch.

  • I like the smell.
  • Mir gefällt der Geruch.
  • Ich mag den Geruch / Der Geruch ist schön.

I don’t know why but the version with gefallen sounds incredibly odd to me. So… think of gefallen as connected to your eyes, ears or your conscious in some way but not to your nose, your tongue or your fingers. Mögen works just fine for all of them.
And here comes another really important point… gefallen is a temporarily limited thing… or at least to an extend. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at this:

  • I liked my girlfriend a lot.
  • I liked the movie a lot.

The first sentence implies that I don’t like her anymore. In the second one, all I am saying is that I liked the movie but I am not saying that I dislike it now. So context does a lot of work here. In German, mögen ALWAYS works like the first sentence. When you put it in past you’re saying that you liked it but you DON’T anymore…

  • Ich mochte meine Katze sehr… (but not anymore because it ran away or tore appart my 10,000 dollar cash stack )

For gefallen, it is the other way around. You can and should use it in past tense. When you use it in present that usually means that the thing you like is right there… remember, it works kind of like to please. So if something or someone is to please you, that implies presence.

  • Der Film hat mir sehr gefallen.
  • I liked the movie a lot.

This is saying nothing about how you are feeling right now… actually people would assume that you still like it. With that phrasing you’re just saying that, when you watched it, the movie was pleasing to you if you will. And you can’t really say this at the bar after movie night.

  • Der Film gefällt mir sehr.

That only makes sense if you’re watching the movie right at that moment. If you want to express general affection for the movie you’d use mögen… in present tense.

  • Ich mag den Film sehr.
  • I like the movie a lot.

Now, this “rule” is not super strict. You will hear people using gefallen in present although the thing or person is not present right now. Especially in context of people that does make some sense though since it implies that you will see them again.

  • Jim gefällt mir sehr. (so I’m looking forward to meeting him again)
  • Jim is quite my type / I kind of like Jim.
  • Jim hat mir sehr gefallen.
  • I liked Jim quite a bit.

The second version leaves it open. So it is not like the same example with mögen where using past tense would imply that you don’t really anymore.
So… this sort of behavior with regard to tenses is one huge difference between mögen and gefallen.
Now… speaking of differences…  is there a difference between activities and things/persons… like there was for gern and mögen? Well,  gefallen doesn’t really work with activities… maybe even less so than mögen.

  • Mir gefällt, den ganzen Tag zu schlafen.

This sounds just weird. Maybe it is not wrong but people just don’t say that.
And as far as facts go… yeah … you can do it.

  • Mir gefällt, wie sie redet
  • I like how she talks.

And to be  honest… this is an example where there is little to no difference to the same sentence with mögen. There is definitely an overlap between mögen and gefallen and at times either phrasing is fine. But just try to remember…  mögen talks about your feelings, gefallen talks about your judgment of something and makes an implication that the thing is pleasing in a way.

  • I like you.

This would make no sense as

  • Du gefällst mir.

Why not? Because you want to talk about how YOU feel and not about what effect the OTHER person has on you.

  • I like your looks/style.

This is what the German gefallen sentence sounds like.
Can you mögen something that doesn’t gefallen you? I think yes, although I can’t give you an example.

So… let’s wrap this up at this point. We have talked about the 3 different ways to say “I like…” in German. The first one, mögen, is pretty much straightforward to like and you express your feelings with that. The feelings can be toward a living being, a thing or a fact. The only thing for which mögen doesn’t work that well is an activity. You can do it but then you need to make a verb into a noun and is not the best German. So if you want to express your feelings towards an activity, towards doing something, then you’d use the second option… the gern-phrasing.
And then finally we have gefallen. It has this weird role reversal to pay attention to. It is interchangeable with mögen in many occasions but it others it is not. It is best to think of gefallen as making a judgment about the appearance of something or someone.
And that’s it. That was our German blah of the bla what is the diff blah blah blah … If you have any question… go right ahead and leave me a comment. I like reading them :). I hope you liked it and that you maybe got to like German a little more with another confusion out of the way. Now there were 3 likes in the last 2 sentences… can you tell which one is which :)

Further reading:

The verb 2 – the German modal verbs and other things

93 responses to “mögen, gern, gefallen – What is the difference

  1. This post was very good. Thanks!!!


  2. I didn’t know about the difference between gefallen and mögen in the past, but it actually makes sense.

    I’ve already seen constructions like ‘Ich mag den Film gern’. Is it right or is it just a redundant construction?

    Thanks, dude!


    • Oh that is redundant indeed as far as meaning gies.Just as “Das gefällt mir gut.”
      However, I think sometimes when people say it it is simply to make the sentence longer and rounder

      “Ich mag das.”… this is very aprupt
      “Ich mag das gern.” … this feels more German because you have this qord at the end, that decides everything… although here it doesn’t really since “schlecht” is no option.

      Also, there is this:

      “Ich mag das ganz gerne.”

      This is something people say in response to

      “Das mag ich nicht/ Ich mag das nicht.”

      The “nicht” is a qualifier, the most exreme there is and by putting “ganz gerne” there the sentence has the same elements:

      ” Ich mag das [how much].”

      And “ganz gerne” is not “gerne”. It is a toned down gern so it is more like “I kinda like it” or “I like it all right” or “I like it ok”
      Just saying “Ich mag das” would feel a little disjointed. Your content is connected to the conversation but your structure is not, if that makes sense… so this is a common structure which I would say, is actually preferable although it has this redundant “gern”.. hope that made sense :)


  3. Great post. It would probably have taken me years to pick up on the subtle differences between gefallen and mögen (particularly in relation to using the two words in the past tense) on my own. Thanks!

    One thing that I’ve been wondering about for a while now is what to use when ordering something in a cafe or restaurant. To me, there doesn’t appear to be a discernible difference between “Ich hätte gern…” and “Ich möchte…” but I feel like I hear the former more often than the latter. But then sometimes I hear “Kann ich zwei Bier haben” or something along those lines instead. Is there really a difference between the constructions or do people just like to mix it up from time to time?


    • That is an interesting question and I actually take a lot of pleasure in answering it because I can deal a blow to all the textbooks I hate so much… they propagate “Ich möchte” but in reality it is just as you have observed. People do not use that in restaurants. I never do. I either say:

      “Ich nehme…” or
      “Ich hätte gern…”

      in stores like a bakery some people also say:

      “Ich kriege…”

      but this is kind of blunt.
      As for möchte… yeah it is a polite form but it is also a kind of determined.

      “Ich möchte einen Kaffee”.. to me that sounds like
      “I am sticking with protocol but I WANT a coffee and I have NO friendly vibe to send your way.”
      It sounds like a very blunt statement in comparison with “Ich hätte gern…”
      Ich hätte gern… this is expressing a wish you have… and it is also used for unrealistic wishes
      “Ich hätte gern ein Pony.”
      “Ich möchte ein Pony.”
      This sounds like there is a chance you get one…so… maybe “Ich hätte gern…” might sound humbler.
      And what about “Ich nehme…” … of course it is super straight forward in your face direcr and yet to me it feels more friendly that “Ich möchte… ” (and I do work in a bar). “Ich nehme…” you acknowledge the situation. Both the waiter and you know why you’re there. You are going to get something. So after saying “Hi, hello” you might as well just say it. It is honest. You would say it to your friend that way. No need for false politeness. I perceive “Ich möchte …” to be really stiff in that context. Moms say that
      “Ich möchte, dass du deine Hausaufgaben machst”
      and people use it to express their dreams
      “Ich möchte mal nach Australien” but even there I would prefer “Ich will”… why use politeness :)… you want it, full stop.
      So bottom line… I would recommend using “Ich hätte gern…” and NOT “Ich möchte…” the latter will make you stick out, at least in the Berlin area.
      Oh and one more thing (just came to my mind last minute):
      möchten is a modal verb. Modal verbs are modal verbs because they put OTHER verbs into a modality.
      “Ich möchte eine Kaffee.”
      There is no other verb. Of course “haben” is implied but with haben it sounds super stiff
      “Ich möchte einen Kaffee haben.”… “well, then why don’t you order one”.. that’s what I would think ;)


      • Just came across this, and this is really interesting to hear. Up until now I would have used “Ich möchte…” when ordering something (when I eventually go to a German-speaking country). This is one thing that kind of sketches me out about German language textbooks. Sometimes I don’t know how much faith to place in some of the expressions they recommend.


        • Well, I’d say generally they are pretty okay. Trust them but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be different. The thing is that are largely copying old books and maybe 40 years ago “möchte” had a different feel, or people were more “seclusive” (if that is a word)… as we’re on the topic, let me add some standard waiter phrases

          – Was darf’s denn sein? (also very common in bakeries and the like)
          – Wissen Sie schon? (casual)
          – Haben sie was gefunden? (after someone took some time to check the menu)
          – Was kann ich ihnen bringen? ( kinda formal)

          What I never hear is:

          – Was möchten Sie.

          That’s what people would say to an unsollicited phone call or something… it sounds a bit “leave me alone”-ish… just a bit :)
          By the way… if you’re THE Sam, then thanks a lot :)


      • Or you can say “ich nehme gern” and wonder why the German natives at the table pause and look at you wonderingly, then say “you just don’t use gern with nehme”. Having already used it themselves with what appeared to be every other verb in the dictionary. Sigh…..


        • Aw :)… bad German. Bad, bad, bad. Stop confusing students!!
          Seriously though… you can of course use “nehmen” in combination with “gern”

          – Thomas nimmt gerne sein iPad mit auf Klo.
          – Thomas likes taking his …

          But as with the others, it is a general statement which is why it sounds odd as an order

          – Ich nehme gern einen Kaffee.
          – I like taking a coffee.

          I think I can imagine a German saying that though, if he or she has had a little too much contact with the marketing-gern

          – Fragen Sie uns gern nach unseren Sonderangeboten.
          – Ich nehme gern einen Kaffee.

          It’s out of place in both sentences :)


  4. great post, as always! :)
    so, the first like goes with gern, the second with gefallen and the third with mogen. :)
    i would add that i find a very interesting feature of german to have an alternative to mogen that goes with the dative. for instance the english sentence “i like beer” might be translated “ich mag das Bier” or “das Bier gefallt mir”. english and the first german translation see the event as being transitive but the logic says that the action “like” affects more the subject and not the object. so, in other languages “like” becomes intransitive, the subject takes the dative case and the object agrees with the verb. it is the case of the second translation or the case of some romance languages as spanish or romanian[my mother tongue :)]. i hope i’m not mistaken with the two translations but i thought that this is one of the cases when gefallen overlaps with mogen. thanks for the post!


    • Everything you said was perfectly right except one minor little thing… it doesn’t work with the beer example because there you’re talking about taste :D … and gefallen doesn’t talk about taste. It talks about optics, sounds and thoughts but not taste, smell or touch… when you say

      “Das Bier gefällt mir” it sounds odd to me and I would think you mean the looks of the beer, like… the label or something…. ok, actually I would think that you are not a native speaker and I would tell you that gefallen doesn’t really work for taste :)… how is that in Romanian though? Can you use your gefallen for everything including smell, taste and touch?


      • i am glad i used das Bier in my example :)) after reading your answer i checked the post again. you’ve said it clearly that gefallen is connected with images, sounds and thoughts but obviously it eluded me. now it’s soooo clear :D and once again i am mesmerized by the german attention payed to details
        regarding the romanian gefallen … well, romanian as spanish and italian has only one verb to express all the likes and this verb is intransitive and goes with the dative: imi place berea (rom), me gusta la cerveza (sp), mi piace la birra (it). also, like the english “like” it covers all the cases marked by germans gern, gefallen and mogen. french and portuguese, however, keep the transitive approach: j’aime la biere (fr), eu gosto de cerveja (pt)


        • Well…. of course what I have written here is more a description of tendencies rather than “rules”… so it’s not like every German always does it the way described here :). Anyway… I like, that Spanish uses the word for taste to express the like-idea… “Mir schmeckt der Film” :D


  5. Hi Emmanuel thanks a lot for the post!! I’ll really have to do quite some work to fix it all in my head. I had never thought germans would pay so much attention to how they like things..sure english does it too but it’s much more straight forward…..Ah these germans…what a sentimental tribe they are! :)
    Hey did you give up learning italian or did I get it wrong? Now I wouldnt really know why anybody would want to learn italian in the first place (btw I am italian) but what’s the toughest part in learning it? Just curious.
    hmmm now how would I go ahead and say “I like your post”?……on that annoying social network I would click on the “gefällt mir” button…but is that correct? should it be “ich mag deine Post?”.instead? Ciao e grazie ancora per il post.


    • Well, thanks for asking the question :)…
      As for my Italian… I started learning it when I was “done” with French because I found it a nice language and then I was preparing for a visit to a friend of mine in 2010. Knowing French and English it is pretty easy as far as vocab goes but what’s really frustrating is that Italian is incredibly idiomatic. I have often been told simple short sentences of which I knew all words and yet it didn’t make any sense until someone said “We just say that in that situation”… oh ok. Also, I have problems with the way of emphasizing things by moving them around. A colleague recently said this to me:

      “Melo fai un café?”

      I understand all the words but this totally is against all understanding of the grammar. I was like… “What gramamr is that? What does the lo refer to? How can you have 2 direct objects with one verb?”
      Then I understood that there is a comma:

      “Melo fai, un café”

      and that makes perfect sense… but in spoken the comma is not realized and that is weird because in German these kind of grammar commas are really really audible :)
      Anyway… I think you have no chance to learn italian without being in Italy and that was different for French. I was able to learn that just fine without ever being there. Oh and not to forget the verb tables… to me as a German with my super reduced Germanic conjugation these tense-mode-tables are a huge pain… luckily when you’re not taking a course you can just forget about them and you’ll still be able to level up :)

      And finally what can you say for liking the post… well, either version is fine…
      Gefallen is just more focussed on the moment… you read it, you liked it, done.
      Mögen maybe implies a somewhat longer relationship between you and the post. Like.. you read it a few times and you keep referring to it adn you carry it in your memory as something you like… yeah, not everything that gefallen will be stored. A picture can gefallen you and the next day you have forgotten about it. Just the way it is one Facebook :). Stuff you mögen is often stored in your memory… ecco :)


      • Hi again..you know what? your last sentence about gefallen and Facebook really made everything clearer to me. I guess I just needed to “visualize” it somehow and you gave me the best picture I could get. Thanks a lot really.
        About italian being very idiomatic…hmm yes..must be…we also rely a lot on sayings…that is words of wisdom coming from nobody knows where. On top of that I feel we really like to bend the grammar..that sentence you mentioned “me lo fai un caffe?” is a very clear example. That’s plain wrong to me. You can use that in spoken italian but you can not write it. About the sentence having a comma…did you anybody tell you that? coz I dont think there is a comma…at the most there might be a question mark as in a conversation A:”me lo fai?” – B:cosa? – A:”un caffe!”. The only proper sentence is “mi fai un caffe?”. By the way…what area is your colleague from? you know…we have quite a lot of regional varieties and dialects. How does it go with standard italian? are you able to read books easily?
        Last but not least…your use of “ecco” at the end is just perfect and feels veeeery italian. Very few foreigners would know how to use it properly.
        That’s something they dont teach in books.
        Complimenti! :)


        • Yeah, I did like that Facebook aspect myself when it popped up in my mind. That’s one of the reasons why I appreciate comments so much… because often they help to really flesh out things or they make me aware of things I missed out on :)
          As for the comma… I might actually have assumed that based on my German understanding of punctuation. With a comma it made sense to me.In either case, the person who said it is from Mezzogiorno and I had a friend from Lazio who was also familiar with this phrasing.
          But I still think Italian is a beautiful language and maybe the day will come when I will get back to it and reach for fluency … Ratzinger style :D


  6. Hello Emmanuel, your site is full of pearls of wisdom, in the form of answers to questions, where you explain a variety of words and expressions which are NOT listed in your official word of the day or grammar pages. A few examples: zuhören vs lauschen, hinweisen vs verweisen, meaning of gelten, etc etc etc. I would like to systematically go through all of your explanations but have not found a way to do so. Sometimes, web sites have ‘site maps’ which are helpful, but this option is not available. Could you suggest a way to find and access all of these little hidden treasures? I asked you previously about searching your site and you gave me a very effective solution, but in this case, I am looking for hidden gems and therefore cannot use a key seach word. Herzlichen Dank, Lucius


    • Hi man, this is a tough question… or better it is a tough task :).
      There are 2 problems. The first one is that I don’t really remember what I’ve said where… I mean I do on a large scale but as for those little “and by the way, the difference to blah blah blah is…” I didn’t keep track of it.
      And then making it accessible would mean that I’d have to “tag” it in some way. I could use WordPress tags but Google doesn’t really fancy more than 6 tags that much so I would lose visibility.
      And then, there is also a lot of stuff actually “burried” in the comment sections for the words… so all in all, I agree with you that it would be kind of neat to have it but I don’t have a practical solution at the moment. And on the other hand…isn’t it also nice to just find things ;) …(I hope it is.) :)


  7. Hello from Mexico!

    I just found this blog and I must say this is my best finding when it comes to my German learning. I can easily tell how much you enjoy giving all these examples and I specially love how funny you are. You had me laughing out loud a few times while reading this entry. Now I will start reading ALL the other articles in your blog. :)


  8. I am sorry , but yet another question came up in my mind :) It is regarding Mögen as mag and möchte. I read this very interesting topic on Mögen, gern and gefallen a while back but forgot to post my question then as I was apprehensive if my question is at all correct :) This topic has not covered mag and möchte. Well am I correct that mag is used for “always” liking; and möchte is for “current” or “immediate” desire ? Or is it also to do with liking an “activity” and liking a “person” or thing. Like what do I say for I like sleeping for long in weekends , is it mag or möchte ? Similarly there are two questions which mean the same , but may be different versions of “mögen” be used – Do you like trance music ? Do you like to hear trance music ? Which version shall be used in these ? Thanks again for your quick reply for my last post !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay… so “möchte” is basically a polite “want”.

      – Ich möchte ein Bier. (Ich will ein Bier)
      – Ich möchte, dass du mir zuhörst. (Ich will, dass…)

      Sometimes it can be a “shall” as well

      – Du möchtest dich beim Chef melden. basically means
      – The boss told me to tell you that he or she wants to see you.

      But möchte is never an expression for general liking. And it NEVER works with persons.

      – Ich möchte dich.

      This is sooooo awkward :D
      Then, the 2 questions… to me they are pretty similar in what they are asking… but anyway, one is asking whether you like a thing and the other is asking whether you like an activity… so the default and best translations would be this:

      – Do you like trance music?
      – Magst du Trance, das Genre? (people wouldn’t say trance music here… at least not the ones who know trance)

      – Do you like to hear trance music?
      – Hörst du gern Trance?

      And to complete this, let’s do the question that asks for current desire:

      – Would you like to hear some trance music?

      Here, you could technically use “möchte”

      – Möchtest du ein bisschen Trance hören?

      But “möchte” does sound very formal and I think

      – Hast du Bock, ein bisschen Trance zu hören/auf ein bisschen Trance?


      – Willst du ein bisschen Trance hören?

      or in colloquial German

      – Magst du ein bisschen Trance hören?

      All those are better than the version with “möchte”
      In fact, “möchte” is overrated in language books, because also in stores I would recommend to not use it… because it actually sounds very demanding in a bakery

      – Ich möchte 1 Brot.

      This is just a

      – Ich will ein Brot

      in disguise. I, and the people around me say:

      – Ich hätte gern…
      – Ich nehme…

      It might be a regional thing, but in Berlin, möchte will stick out


      • Thank you so much :) It cleared up a bit of mess in my mind :D
        So it is like möchte can be always be thrown out and “gern” be used instead, as möchte is bit more demanding or formal. But just for the sake of clarity, I would like to be clear on the point, in case we need to choose one of the two only “möchte” and “mag”, “möchte” should be used for activity while “mag” for a Nomen, and let’s say we have an activity which has a sense of always the presence of liking , should we use there mag as well ? For example in a sentence. Man ______ am Wochenende lange schlafen. (May be I constructed a wrong sentence .. but still I hope you understood my query), should I use möchte or mag ? I understand that use of gern makes it a lot easier to construct grammatically correct sentence though.:)


        • Wait wait… don’t throw out “möchte” so fast :)… I think there is a misunderstanding. “Möchte” means “I want”… “gern” is used to express “I like” in context of liking activities. So in fact you can almost never exchange “möchte” for a “gern”-conctruction. You can always replace “möchte” with “will” … you’ll just sound more direct then. And you can replace “möchte” with “hätte gern”… then you’ll sound more idiomatic.
          But “möchte” does work with things too

          – Ich möchte einen Kaffee.

          Sure, this can be seen as a short form of “Ich möchte haben” with “haben” being the activity … or machen.

          – Ich möchte das nicht.

          But in this sentence it is not clear which verb it would be that got cut out and it doesn’t matter anyway because the meaning is just “I don’t want that”.
          So… “möchte” plus a thing works fine.
          Ooof…I hope I am not confusing you, I feel a bit confused now actually :D.
          As for the example sentence… you can use either möchte or of course a gern-construction. With the latter you’re expressing a general liking:

          – Man schläft am Wochenende gern aus.
          – People like to sleep in on weekends.

          with “möchte” you’re also making a general statement because you’re not giving a specific Wochenende but you’re sort of jumping into the situation. So maybe on weekends there is construction going on in your street. You complain to some local authority and you justify your complaint by saying:

          – Am Wochenende möchte man (ja gerne/auch mal) ausschlafen.

          – On weekends people would like to sleep in.

          I hope all that made sense… if not keep on asking :)


          • Thank you again :) Hope you are having a nice weekend!
            I now got the difference between gern, will/möchte with your example, it is so much clear now ! Though in the end I got confused, as I thought möchte is for temporal liking and mag is for general or always liking. I am so sorry, that the usage of möchte here for sleeping on weekends has got me pretty confused,as the statement in English would be normally a person likes sleeping on weekends. So even if it is not specific which weekend , it speaks about sleeping on weekends as an “always” phenomenon. Like ich mag Tee, would mean I always love Tea, though ich möchte Kaffee would sound for a request for coffee (now, may be at home or restaurant :) ).Similarly a person loves to sleep on weekends, sounds like he always likes the activity and there is no temporal phenomenon.

            I am really grateful for your patience for my silly questions :D


          • There are no silly questions… except maybe “Is this site about German?” :D


      • AndreRhineDavis

        Perfect example:
        gefallen = to appeal
        Das gefällt mir = That appeals to me

        Person experiencing is in the dative, just like in German. And there is also no passive form, you cannot say “I am appealed” or “I am appealed by that”.

        And just like the German, “I like that” more implies an emotional attachment on my part, whereas “That appeals to me” is a lot more about the object being attractive or appealing and being an object of my desire.


        • Oh wow this is really cool… I like that MUCH better than “to please” :). I feel like “gefallen” is a little bit stronger and sounds less technical of course but other than that you’re totally right… the meaning and the grammar matches up very well.
          To appeal gefällt mir sehr.


  9. :D of course this site is ! Thanks for sharing tricky aspects of German with all :)


  10. There is most certainly a verb like that with the same grammatical construction in English, think of the verb “to disgust”. It denotes a strong disliking, except the subject and object are flipped round — in fact — it’s related to the Spanish verb “gustar” with the same construction also.


    • I agree and disagree :). It is true that “to disgust” is kind of like the opposite (extreme opposite) of “gefallen” and it can help people understand the cnstrcution However, it is not the same. Why not? Because “to disgust” can be perfective… that is, I do it to someone and after that he or she is “that”… just like to paint.

      The movie has disgusted me. Now I am disgusted.

      This doesn’t work with “gefallen” and (as far as I know) it doesn’tw ork with “gustar” or its relatives either. There is no

      I am “gefallen”.

      There is no result, in a way. “Gustar” and “gefallen” have no perfect state, they do not have a direct object… there are several ways to look at it. But anyway… that is a noteworthy difference between those and the English “to disgust”


  11. Hey Emmanuel
    I’m still fairly new to German and I really enjoy your blog
    I’ve had two things now that I’ve stumbled upon confuse me greatly and I’d really appreciate an explanation :D
    In this post you said “das ist gefallen mir wohl” and I would have thought that the way to say that would have been “das ist mir wohl gefallen”
    Also, in another post (the one about …zu…, um… zu…, or ) I was confused when you wrote “Ich habe vergessen, meinen Herd auszumachen” because I would have thought that would be “Ich habe meinen Herd aus zu machen vergessen”
    I don’t know if these are both part of the same grammatical issue I’m having or not, but as an English speaker they seem to be the same issue
    Can you help? Thanks!


    • You’re right… it is the same issue :)… anyway, the first sentence is a fictional example of old German. I don’t know for fact which order they would have chosen but I do know that the word order was much freer than today, especially with regards to the position of the verbs. By today’s standards your version is the correct one

      – Das ist mir wohl gefallen.

      Now, for the second example… many many people make that mistake and the reason is simply that they apply the “verb at the end rule”… but this is only half the truth. I have yet to wrote about this but the basic thing is that the verb goes to the end of the “clause”… or in more normal terms… each activity has its own little sentence (main sentence and side sentence). I can squeeze the side sentence into the main sentence but unless I have to it is better to keep them separated.

      – Ich habe eine Pizza gegessen, weil ich Hunger hatte.

      Here, we have two activities… eating and having … and I chose to say the main sentence first (with the verb at its respective end) and THEN comes the second activity. I can do it differently

      – Ich habe heute, weil ich HUnger hatte, eine Pizza gegessen.

      Means the same. It is just more complicated than the other version and more complicated than necessary.
      And for the “zu-sentences” it is the same thing

      – Ich habe vergessen, den Herd auszumachen.

      We have two activities… “forgetting” and “turn offing” … um.. turning off… and we present them one after the other.

      – Ich habe den Herd auszumachen vergessen.

      This is correct too but MUCH more complicated and MUCH less idiomatic.
      And then… the verb is “ausmachen” with a separable prefix and hence it is “auszumachen” as one word”. If you haven’t done it yet, I recommend the post called “the box model”… (on the course page). It is quite theoretical but it is essential to understand German word order there are a lot of examples in there similar to the ones we’ve had.
      Hope that helps :)


  12. Coming back to this article, I have a couple more questions. One thing that struck me as interesting is that “mögen” is a modal verb that typically (mostly?) requires a “zu” construct to connect to a verb. Of course gern works perfectly in this situation with verbs, but it is still an interesting exception, as I thought the fundamental grammar of modal verbs is that they can easily connect to infinitive forms of other verbs..

    I like playing the guitar.
    Ich spiele gern die Gitarre.

    Ich mag die Gitarre spielen. —> I may be playing the guitar / I like playing the guitar.
    Ich mag es, die Gitarre zu spielen —> I like playing the guitar.

    Is this the right idea?
    My understanding as of now is that knowing whether “mögen” with verbs/activities needs an “es… zu” or not is just something that needs to be felt out as one learns German. And that it the simplest thing to do is to just stick with “gern(e)” when it comes to expressing like with verbs/activities.

    Another question.

    In English, one can say they “love” something as an expression of “really like”

    I love chocolate.
    I love going surfing.
    I love Berlin.
    (et cetera)

    My guess is “lieben” in German reserved exclusively for relationships/feelings? And one would stick with expressions like “gefällt mir sehr” and “total gern,” but just thought I’d ask :)


    • So first question… yes, you got it.

      – Ich mag Gitarre spielen.

      As “I like”, this sounds childish and I feel like “spielen” should actually be capitalized.

      – Ich mag Vanilleeis, Fahrradfahren und Gitarre Spielen.

      As “I may”, it just sounds rare, or dated. People don’t really say that.
      And the other question… no, you can definitely use “lieben” for things and activities too :)

      – Ich liebe Schokolade.
      – Ich liebe es, in die Sauna zu gehen.

      It works just like “mögen” and people use that all the time… not as much as Americans though.

      – OMG, I LOVED that movie.

      That would be

      – Boha, der Film hat mir richtig richtig gut gefallen.

      or various colloquial forms

      – Der Film war der Hammer.

      “Lieben” is used if there has been some time you and the thing or activity have been together :D

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Could I ask you to explain the ‘es…zu’ construction a little more? I understand that you’ve said there is no easy to explain ‘rule’ for the situation, but I was mainly wondering if that construction could be used with verbs other than ‘mag’ or ‘liebe’, and their conjugations? This is a little confusing for me because in English, neither like or love are modal verbs, but ‘mogen’ is in German and liebe is not, but they can both be used with this construct. Not to lecture you on English, but this confusion occurs for me because ‘to + verb’ in English gramatically functions as a noun, and ‘like/love’ are adjectives in “I like to eat”.

    I’m struggling to think of another example in English, let alone German, where it makes sense to say “Noun verb to verb noun”, without the ‘to’ meaning ‘in order to’ (or um…zu in German), e.g. I work (in order) to buy a house. I suppose the opposites, “I hate to eat pizza” is the only one.

    Also, could I ask why exactly does a sentence like ‘Ich mag Pizza essen’ sound childish/incorrect? Doesn’t that follow the standard way to use German modal verbs, e.g. Ich kann Pizza essen’ (meaning I have the physical power to eat pizza)?

    Finally, just to round it off; In case you haven’t answered it yet, does “Ich muss es, Autos zu essen” make grammatical sense (even though it logically is complete rubbish), following the ‘es…zu’ construction?

    Thanks for your time, and
    Sorry for my daftness.


    • Ok so let’s take this one by one…

      Are there other verbs besides “mögen” and “lieben” and the opposites that require the following construction:

      – Ich verbe es, zu …

      Yes, there are many… “vermeiden” (avoid), “verstehen” (in sense of knowing how), “wagen” (dare), “vorziehen” (prefer), “ablehnen” (refuse) just to name a few. As I said, some might work without the “es” but it sounds better when it is there.

      By the way… you said that in “I like to eat” the “like” is an adjective and “to eat” is a noun. Are you sure of that? Shouldn’t there be a verb somewhere?

      As for other examples for a to-construct that doesn’t mean “in order to”…

      – I try to sleep. I avoid to waste stuff. I forget to call.

      There are many more, but maybe this isn’t what you meant.


      When does a sentence like “Ich mag Pizza essen” sound childish? Always. It is not super childish and adults do say that but it is colloquial, informal language that comes across a bit naiv… at least to me.

      Why is “mögen” used with “zu”?
      You’re right that “mögen” is a modal verb. But German modal verbs aren’t like the English ones in that they ONLY work as modal verbs. Some of the German modal verbs can be used either way… as a modal or as a normal verb that takes an object. “Können” is one example

      – Ich kann kochen. (modal)
      – Ich kann das. (normal verb)

      and “mögen” is another:

      – Ich mag schwimmen.

      this is the modal use and the translation of that is

      – I may be swimming.

      But no one would understand it that way. People would perceive “mögen” to be a normal verb

      – Ich mag das Buch.
      – Ich mag Schwimmen. (note that I capitalized the “schwimmen” now… I think I have to)
      So if I want to connect a second verb to a normal verb, I need at least “zu”.

      – Ich mag es, zu schwimmen.

      “Müssen” is different in that it is very “modal”

      – Ich muss das.

      This sounds odd to me. Some people might say it in certain situations but generally “müssen” is used the modal way. That’s why

      – Ich muss es, zu…

      makes no sense at all. You’d just say

      – Ich muss…

      And just to make sure, let me say it again… you can do that with “mögen” as well… but then it means something else.

      – Ich mag fernsehen.
      – I may be watching TV.

      Let me know if that helps.


      • Hi, thanks for the reply. It has answered most of my questions.

        Firstly, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that like/love were adjectives in that sentence. Maybe I was too tired to be studying German :) Yes, there needs to be a verb there somewhere. I may have meant to say verbs instead of modal verbs, but I’m really not sure :( sorry!

        Also, if I could some followup questions to make sure I understand, that would be wonderful.

        For number 1);

        To translate ‘mögen’ as the modal verb usually translates it to mean ‘may’, instead of like. Most people will use it as a regular verb meaning a softer version of ‘lieben’. Have I understood it correctly?

        Also, with the other verbs that you have mentioned such as ‘forgot’, and that some work without the ‘es’. Am I correct in understanding that the sentence can be constructed in the following ways?

        “Ich vergesse, auf dem Tisch zu stehen” –> (I forget to stand on the table)
        “Ich vergesse es, auf dem Tisch zu stehen” –> (I forget it, standing on the table)(?) (Here, does ‘es’ refer to the theoretical entity of the subordinate clause, ‘auf dem Tisch zu stehen’?)

        Are both gramatically correct, although it sounds better with ‘es’?

        By the same logic, is ‘Ich liebe, auf dem Tisch zu stehen’ also gramatically correct?

        Can these also be constructed using ‘dass’, e.g. “Ich vergesse, dass ich auf dem Tisch stehe” (Of course you would have to be quite daft like me to forget something like that)

        Sorry for picking silly examples, just wanted to focus on understanding the grammar.

        And for question 2),
        If ‘Ich mag Pizza essen’ always sounds childish, is this only ‘reserved’ for ‘mögen’ as a modal verb, and not for others? For example, as you mentioned at the end with the really modal ‘müssen’, are ‘Ich muss Pizza haben’, or ‘Ich muss auf dem Tisch stehen’ normal-sounding constructions?

        Again, thanks for answering my questions, and sorry there are so many!


        • Oh don’t worry… it’s good to flesh it out a bit more :). So…

          1) Yes, “mögen” conjugates like a modal but it is mostly used and understood as a normal verb. As a modal it means “may” but not in sense of allowance.. that would be “dürfen”


          The version without “es” is correct in the “vergessen”-example. With it, it sounds odd and might be wrong, too (dunno). As I said… it is really hard to tell and, sadly, logic won’t help here :)
          The dass-version you made is correct.
          “Ich liebe, auf dem Tisch zu stehen.” is correct as far as I know but it sounds a bit strange… I can’t decide whether poetic or wrong :D


          With the modals that are usually understood as modal, the version without “zu” sounds just fine :)


          • Thanks so much for helping thus far, I think I just have one final question (and it’s an easy one!)

            As you’ve said that sometimes it sounds wrong without ‘es’ like with ‘vergessen’, and that logic won’t help to determine which is correct, is it just best to ‘rote learn’ which verbs need ‘es…zu’ and which verbs just use ‘zu’?

            Again, thanks for your help!


          • Well, actually my advice would be to not bother. The only thing you should “rote” learn are new words :)…. who cares if there is an “es” too much or one missing if you’re able to converse fluently about anything. And if you have enough exposure it’ll correct itself over time. Seriously, don’t worry too much about small details :)


  14. Just wanted to say a big thank-you for this entertaining and very helpful page, including your thorough follow-ups to people’s questions! Like some other commenters, I had the same confusion about mögen being modal yet *not* being applied to verbs — but your replies cleared that up, and I accept that that’s just how it is. At an early stage I picked up that möchten is the subjunctive form of mögen, and möchten (like a “proper” modal verb!) *does* get used with a verb in the infinitive and no “es” or “zu” (even though that infinitive is often dropped in conversation), so I was actually wondering how it is possible to say “I like ” in German — well now I know! It’s mögen after all :)

    As a side note, here in Thüringia I’ve noticed the same usage patterns when ordering in restaurants/cafes etc.: I always hear either “Ich nehme …” or “Ich hätte gern …” from the native speakers, never “Ich möchte”, despite the fact that the latter is what I was taught in class. So I have drifted towards “Ich hätte gern …” myself now.

    Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoops, that should read ‘so I was actually wondering how to say “I like *noun*” in German’ — looks like my angle brackets were gobbled up as HTML.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m working in a bar and I feel like I keep hearing people say just plain “Ich hätte” more often… like

      – Ich hätte einen Kaffee.

      At least to me this doesn’t sound friendly at all… something between distanced, technical, slightly arrogant and stiff. I would much prefer “Ich nehme einen Kaffee”… it’s plain but it’s neutral and honest. I hope this “Ich hätte ..” doesn’t catch on :)


      • Ich hätte gerne, dass diese Seite schneller schreibt. Like that? :P


        • The site isn’t writing :)…. you have to do passive here.

          – …, dass diese Seite schneller geschrieben wird.

          In a context like this I think I’d prefer a more general expression of “wish”

          – Es wäre schön, wenn diese Seite schneller geschrieben würde.

          or if you want to sound poetic

          – Ich wünschte, diese Seite würde schneller geschrieben.


  15. Bin deutsch, aber mag den Blog

    Wie gesagt, ich bin deutsch aber mag den Blog hier einfach aus irgendeinem Grund sehr. (little game for you englisch native speakers: mark my misstakes and the words shown on this page). Doch einen kleinen Fehler hat er “heute” (jaja, ist nicht von heute, aber egal). “Ich mag den ganzen Tag schlafen” IST möglich, WENN es in einer wörtlichen Rede steht. “Ich mag den ganzen Tag schlafen”, sprach der ausgelaugte Freund. Geht. MUHAHAHA


  16. Thank you so much for doing these lessons. They are so helpful. I’ve been reading one every day and my German has improved loads. Keep them coming!


  17. I’ve visited Bayer, awesome place, and they are like “friendly blunt” when asking for stuff wherever they are. I know they speak a different language (dialect) however it has some contrasts with the german. It seems like they tend to make it easier to express their “likes”, it is stiff, but intrinsically polite. Anyway, thanks a lot for the posts…You said you work in a bar, I think you should work as a teacher, cause you would be amazing, you made it very easy to understand, but I don’t know if you would work ‘gern’ as a teacher. Grüße aus brasilien! Alles gute! =D


    • That would be quite an overdose, working as a teacher and then going home to the blog :). I like doing this but I don’t want to “eat too much of it”, if that makes sense. Also, I don’t have a degree in this field and most schools in Berlin wouldn’t take me because… you know, Germany loves degrees. There was one school that let me be a sort of intern and I think they would have given me a chance sooner or later but … I let it drop. I just didn’t feel like I want to go to that school every day and teach. Schools are bound by the books they’re using (and I pretty much HATE how textbooks are… I really do from the depth of my heart). And often they’re business first and some teachers end up in a class with 15 people that have completely different levels AND want to do different things (some want to just talk, others want grammar). And everyone complains because they’ve payed big money. That is not fun at all :).
      For now, bar is a good contrast. I’ll save the teaching for when I’m too old for bar.
      Thanks for your nice feedback und liebe Grüße aus Berlin


  18. Bayern*… Shame on me =(


  19. Thank you for all this information. You have helped me so much. I have a question regarding the use of ‘gern’. I moved to Germany last year with my husband and am desperately trying to learn German via your site, text books and Duolingo. Living in Bavaria means that listening to the conversation around me doesn’t help! However, when I find a willing volunteer (victim) I ask them to check my dialogue. My latest was… Ich hätte gern einen schwarzen Kaffe bitte…. I would like a black coffee please. I was told I should say Ich hätte gerne (not gern), how do I know when to use gern or gerne?

    Thanks again.


    • Weird that you got corrected. To me there is absolutely no difference between the two. Like… I use either one depending on how I feel and on rhythm. There’s definitely no difference in meaning. If anything, then “gern” just might be generally considered wrong in a certain dialect but dialects should generally keep their mouth shut when it comes to correct language :)
      As a matter of fact, the Duden, a dictionary with a high reputation, lists both and the entry itself is for “gern”.
      So… “gern” is just fine.



  20. Thanks for that. Sometimes I get frustrated because I try so hard to get everything correct – an unfortunate personality trait. But what really winds me up is when I don’t understand why something is right or wrong. You’ve reassured me. VIELEN DANK.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I have discovered several sites, blogs, university web sites (e.g., Dartmouth German), Duolingo ,etc., but your site is truly informative and easy to follow.
    I have been frustrated with Rosetta Stone since it is entirely immersion and has no explanation for what is being said, or being ASKED to say. I now have to bookmark your site and hope I haven’t missed pearls and tips (from the top) that won’t be repeated. How long have you offered this Blog? I am a retired orthopedic surgeon and now find myself immersed (that word again) in trying to learn both conversational as well as writing/reading,mostly out of interest in my forebears’ native tongue. All have been German. Thanks. Mark A Bauer, MD


  22. the ‘es’ following mag is because German uses overt pronouns! English tends to license parasitic gaps and so our ‘it’ is inferred, however German does not do p-gap constructions, so they always have these ‘it’ forms to constantly refer back to the topic.


  23. Thanks for a great posting. Can you please tell me where ‘gern geschehen’ originated?

    What does it actually mean?

    ‘I am glad it happened’ perhaps?



  24. Hi, yet another great post =)
    But I just wondered, if you can say “IT pleases ME” or “IT is pleasing to ME” (ES gefällt MIR, BERLIN gefällt mir, usw), why can you not say “DU gefällst mir”, “Diese Städte gafallen mir”, (you please me, these towns please me), usw (with the verb declining accordingly) because surely it is the ES, DU and Städte doing the pleasing, and being pleasing to me, no?
    Is it grammatically correct, but just not ´the done thing´ or are these just plain wrong?
    Many thanks if you can help! =)


    • No, these perfectly fine :). You can use “gefallen” with any entity you want. So “du” and plural are totally possible.
      With people it’s very much about looks.

      – Du gefällst mir.

      That would be something like “You’re my type.”.
      You can even use “ich” with the verb

      – Ich gefalle mir in den Kleid.
      – I like how I look in this dress.

      Hope that helps :)


  25. Excellent post! Thank you. I came to this site, because it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve spoken German (having lived in Bayern as a teen), but now find myself acquainted with a German family in the US, who is quite happy to speak German with me. When I have them over for dinner, I would have asked, “Moechten Sie ein Bier?” But perhaps there’s a better way? Now I’m thinking that will sound too formal….


    • Well it is indeed kind of formal :). Are you “per du” or “per Sie”.. meaning do they say “du” or “Sie”. If you guys are “per du” then you could go with one of the following:

      – Willst du ein Bier? (for one)
      – Wollt ihr ein Bier? (for both)
      – Will jemand ein Bier (general question for the room while heading to the kitchen)
      Other options:

      – Kann ich dir ein Bier anbieten. (a bit more formal but not as stiff as “möchten Sie”)
      – Auch eins? (if you already have a beer in your hand)

      I think I’d even use “wollen” with the “Sie” but then again I’m from Berlin, and we “duzen” much more around here than in other parts. Also, we’re known to be a bit rough so maybe my advice is not the best when it comes to manners and politeness :)


      • A more punctual reply, I could not have asked for! We are still using “Sie” with each other. (I’m waiting for them to “du” first….and we’ve only gotten together a handful of times.) So, I will most likely say:

        -Kann ich Ihnen ein Bier anbieten? (for one)
        -Kann ich Euch ein Bier anbieten? (correct for both?)

        One follow-up question for this particular conversation. If you already have a post about the “Was fuer….?” topic, please direct me to it. Could I then say, “Was fuer Bier trinken Sie gern?” or should I say, “Was fuer Bier moegen Sie?” (I usually keep a variety of different styles of beer on hand and would like to give them a choice.) Or am I not even using the “Was fuer Bier” correctly, and the whole gern versus moegen is a moot point after that? ;)

        Danke sehr!


        • Yeah, “Kann ich Euch” is fine for both and it kind of starts taking down the wall that is the formal you without taking it down :). As for “was für… “, I indeed do have an app for that… I mean post


          Would I use it in that context? Hard to say. It actually does sound a tad bit too colloquial to be combined with the formal you… at least to me it does, anyway. As far as the message goes that is perfectly fine but I think I’d go for

          – Welche Art/Sorte von Bier trinken Sie gern/mögen Sie?

          or if you want to make it a bit more hearty and you have confidence in your selection you could go for “… am liebsten” instead of “gern”. Oh by the way… do you mean brands of beer or types of beer? “Art/Sorte” would be type… like Weißbier or Pils or Helles or Lager or Schwarzbier or Kölsch.


  26. I wrote too soon! Just found your blog post that answered my latest question:

    What a comprehensive site you have :)

    Also realized my own mistake in the “Kann ich Euch ein Bier anbieten?” That would be for more than one, with whom I am already “duz’ing.” The first “Kann ich Ihnen ein Bier anbieten?” should work for both, with whom I am “per Sie.” Ja?


    • Nah, I think I’d go with “Euch”. Well, unless the couple is kind of old… like 60 plus or something. Hard to tell from afar, it’s really something you have to “feel out” :)


  27. I read “ich möchte gern…” Quite often on german forums. Why would these be combined? Is it just for emphasis or what? To ky English brain it seems just möchte would suffice on its own.


    • The “gern” makes it sound more colloquial, I think. “Ich möchte X” often sounds a bit stiff… like … you’re being formal just to be formal, but what you really feel is “Ich will”. And holding that back makes it sound stiff. The “gern” makes it sound more relaxed and upbeat.


  28. thnk u

    “how do u say : ” Translate to german.
    Thank you for loving me the way you do. ” :) im really curious. please.


    • Not sure actually. I don’t really know how to say the whole “way”-part. I mean I do on a technical level

      – Danke, dass du mich so liebst, wie du mich liebst.

      But nobody would say that because it just doesn’t sound very romantic. I think I’d need more context to give you a good option.


  29. This was a very very impressive post, thank you!


  30. This is something that I’ve been pondering for some weeks. Gern has been giving me a Kopfschmerzen as it pops up in strange places. Your post was a treat to read. Thankyou.


  31. Man, I don’t know how to thank you. Your explanations are awesome. I can understand them easily (even being Brazilian).
    I started teaching German recently, so some differences are just very easy for a fluent speaker, but for students they might seem vey odd, so you do help me a lot with some explanations!
    I always recommend this Blog to my English speaking students.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I love your blog! I can’t thank you enough for what an amazing resource you’ve created. Anyways, with the sentence “Katzen werden nur ungern nass.” Why is ‘werden’ and ‘nur’ being used? This is probably a stupid question, sorry! Thanks!


    • Not a stupid question at all… the “nur” is really odd once you think about it :)
      So… the “werden” means “become/get”

      – Katzen werden nicht gern/ungern nass.
      – Cats don’t like to get wet.

      “Nur” means “only” and tells us that some quantity is not very high.

      – Ich habe nur 2 Äpfel.

      In the sentence with the cats it kind of measures “gern”. And “ungern” is not very “much” gern so that’s what the “nur” expresses. You can’t translate it to English and the sentence wouldn’t have a different meaning without it. To me it kind of underlines the cat’s reluctance towards getting wet :). “Nur ungern” are often used in this combination but technically the “nur” really doesn’t make a difference.
      Hope that helps.


  33. Hallo Emanuel, dein Blog ist toll and hilf uns alle, unsere Deutsch zu verbessern. Ich bin Grieche, und ich bin mir fast sicher dass das Wort Charisma aus dem griechisen Wort ”Chariso” stammt. Chariso auf Griechisch bedeutet schenken, also Charisma bedeutet das Geschenk beziehungsweise das Talent. Was ist deine Meinung dazu? Again, love your blog and i hope i havent made many mistakes!Viele Grüße!


    • Ich kann überhaupt kein Griechisch (ausser “Malaka”) aber ich habe gerade mal nachgeguckt und du hast recht. Das ist eine Familie. Hat das eigentlich was it “eharisto” (my own probably awful spelling) zu tun? Das ist doch “danke” oder? Würde ja zu der Idee von Geschenk passen.
      Dein Deutsch ist sehr gut. Du hast nur 3 kleine kleine Fehler:

      -… ist toll und (not and) hilfT (with T) uns alleN (with N), unser (no “e”)

      Viele Grüße nach Griechenland.
      (hier noch ein Link für die Etymologie von “charisma”)



  34. Es bedeutet danken ja. Aber das griechische Wort Charisma stammt aus dem Wort ”hariso(schenken)”, und nicht aus dem Wort ”efharisto(danken)”, owholl beide zu einer Familie gehören. Aber Englisch und Griechisch nutzen das Wort in unterschiedlicher Weise. Auf Englisch Charisma hat jemand, der eine attraktive Personalität hat. Aber auf Griechisch hat man Charisma wenn er irgendwas gut tun kann, zb wenn man gut kochen kann, dann hat er Charisma zum Kochen!Du würdest Griechisch lieben!Vielen Dank again!


  35. That was very details but was a little bit misleading & confusing at the beginning. I wish you could tone down the rambling a little bit. It would help beginners (like me)understand better. Hope you don’t mind me voicing my opinion ( and yes, my english is as suck as my german!)


    • You’re completely right. I ramble less nowadays :). I hope to review all old articles and make them a better text but I don’t have enough time just now. Oh, if your German is like your English then you’re somewhere between B1 and B2 I’d say ;)


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