Expressing whether you like or dislike something can be one of the most important things to learn in a language – especially when you try new foods, encounter art or experience a weather phenomenon for the first time. While the English language has the verb “to like”, the German language has a few more ways to express feelings toward things or people. How to say you like (or how much you like) something in German, for example, can depend on whether you are talking about a person, an object or a dish. Sounds complicated? Don’t worry! In this article, you’ll learn all the different ways to like something in German.
Mögen is the closest to a direct translation of the English verb “to like” in the German language. The verb is used to express that you like a person or object:
Wir mögen Kaffee.
We like coffee.
Ich mag Tee.
I like tea.
The word can also be used to express that you like a person. Note that, because mögen is a verb, you have to conjugate it according to the subject.
When expressing dislike with mögen, you can negate the verb using nicht or negate the object using kein:
Wir mögen Kaffee nicht.
Wir mögen keinen Kaffee.
We don’t like coffee.
A synonym for mögen is the verb gefallen. In this case, however, it is the grammatical subject that is being liked, meaning that the verb is always combined with a dative case pronoun:
Das Haus gefällt uns.
We like the house.
(Literally translated: The house is being liked by us.)
Die Schuhe gefallen mir.
I like the shoes.
In addition to the grammatical difference between mögen and gefallen, gefallen often refers to more aesthetic or superficial liking, whereas mögen has a slightly stronger, personal connotation.
Just like when using mögen, you can negate the verb gefallen with nicht:
Das Haus gefällt uns nicht.
We don’t like the house.
While you can also express that you like a flavor with mögen, the verb schmecken is slightly more appropriate to use. If you want to use schmecken as a substitute for mögen, note that it is always the food that is being liked, meaning the verb is combined with a dative case pronoun like in gefallen:
Das Brot schmeckt mir.
I like the bread.
(Literally translated: The bread is being liked by me.)
Süßigkeiten schmecken ihm.
He likes candy.
Again, you can negate your sentence with nicht:
Das Brot schmeckt mir nicht.
I don’t like the bread.
4. Gut finden
Yet another way to express liking something or someone is to use the combination of the verb finden (to find) with the adjective gut (good). In the sentence structure, the object that is being liked is placed in between the verb and adjective:
Wir finden das Haus gut.
We like the house.
(Literally translated: We find the house to be good.)
Ich finde Musik gut.
I like music.
Of course, finden can be combined with many other adjectives instead of gut – positive and negative. You can also negate liking something by using nicht gut:
Wir finden das Haus nicht gut.
We don’t like the house.
5. Gern haben
The German adverb gern can be loosely translated to “gladly”. For example, if someone thanks you for something you can say: “Gern!” (“gladly” or “you’re welcome”). When combined with the verb haben, it is another way to express that you like something. Gern haben is most commonly used when you like a person rather than an object. Just like in gut finden, the object is placed between the verb and adverb in the sentence:
Ich habe sie gern.
I like her.
Ihr habt euch gern.
You like each other.
As in gut finden, you can use nicht to express your dislike:
Ich habe sie nicht gern.
I don’t like her.
A likable language
Although there is prejudice that Germans are rather straightforward and don’t show much emotion, we can clearly see that they have many ways to express their appreciation for things and people: in fact, there are five ways of saying “to like”. Whether it is the food, an item or a person that you like, with the different German words you can express your feelings with great detail – and as you continue learning the German language, you will surely encounter even more ways!
Anne is a German freelance writer and communication consultant. In addition to her job, she is the founder and coach of the Dutch not-for-profit organization CLUB Coaching. Due to her work, she resides in both Germany and the Netherlands. Whenever her time is not occupied with communication in all its forms, she spends time with her six pets, gardening or being creative with fashion and design. You can follow her on LinkedIn.