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I was taught that mögen with a direct object corresponds to don't like or don't care for in English, and I've used expressions such as Ich mag ihn nicht to mean a general but not especially strong dislike: I don't care much for him.

Recently I was corrected by a German-speaking friend who said the sentence Ich mag ihn nicht is actually very strong, and corresponds better to I really don't like him at all or even I can't stand him.

In German, how would you express mild dislike for something, such as I don't care much for that author or I'm not a big fan of that restaurant?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

nicht mögen

Given the sentence I don't care much for that author you can absolutely use nicht mögen.

Ich mag diesen Autor nicht [so [sehr]].
Shakespeare mag ich nicht [so [sehr]].

Das Restaurant mag ich nicht [so [sehr]].

You can weaken your dislike adding so / so sehr. Anyway, this expresses a dislike rather towards the author's works, except the context indicates something different.

nicht leiden können / nicht leiden mögen / nicht abkönnen

Shakespeare kann ich nicht [so [sehr]] leiden.
Tomaten mag ich nicht [so [sehr]] leiden.
Hochmut kann ich nicht ab.

Also note, that it's always important how you say it.

nicht gefallen

It's similar with nicht gefallen, but you'd use that not when referring to a person, unless you want to say, that a person does not appeal to you (as in his outer appearance).

Mir gefallen die Sachen/Werke/Bücher/Texte dieses Autor nicht [so [sehr]].
Die Sachen/Werke/Bücher/Texte von Shakespeare gefallen mir nicht [so [sehr]].

Das Restaurant gefällt mir nicht [so [sehr]].

nicht gut finden

Another option is e. g. nicht gut finden

Ich finde diesen Autor nicht [so] gut.
Shakespeare finde ich weniger gut. (When talking about some authors)
Das Restaurant finde ich schlecht.

Mind that schlecht is relatively strong (if you say it in a serious way).

eher nicht ...

In any of the upper given cases you can use eher nicht instead of nicht to weaken the negative statement.

Das Restaurant mag ich eher nicht.
Die Sachen/Werke/Bücher/Texte von Shakespeare gefallen mir eher nicht so.
Ich finde diesen Autor eher nicht so gut.

Further expressions

There are other, more specific expressions which depend on what you're talking about. For instance nicht ansprechen, nicht schmecken, nichts finden an, ...

Die Sachen/Werke/Bücher/Texte von Shakespeare sprechen mich nicht [so [sehr]] an.
[Das Essen] In diesem Restaurant schmeckt [mir] nicht [so [sehr]].
Ich finde an Kinogängen nichts [Gutes / Interessantes / Vorteilhaftes / Ansprechendes / ...].


If you use mögen referring to a private person, it will/can e. g. express negative, unpleasant feelings connected with the presence of this person.

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Maybe you want to add "jmdn. (nicht) leiden können" to your list. –  Raphael Jun 8 at 11:40
    
@raphael You'd consider it a mild dislike when somebody says that to you or if somebody says so, referring to an action or object? –  user5513 Jun 8 at 19:22
    
I think it'd come in at about the same as "nicht mögen" and can be weakened in just the same way. –  Raphael Jun 8 at 19:53

Recently I was corrected by a German-speaking friend who said the sentence Ich mag ihn nicht is actually very strong, and corresponds better to I really don't like him at all or even I can't stand him.

I don't think it's very strong, but, yes, it expresses dislike, pretty much the way "I don't like him" does in English.

In German, how would you express mild dislike for something, such as I don't care much for that author or I'm not a big fan of that restaurant?

Try adding another word: Ich mag ihn nicht sehr. Ich mag ihn nicht besonders.

If, on the other hand, you want a stronger expression you can use überhaupt nicht (not at all).

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Here are some more alternatives for expressing a weak dislike:

Gleichgültig sein

This closely matches don't care as it says you have no feelings for somebody. Gleichgültig only indirectly implies negative feelings by negating any interest for somebody. It can not be used for objects.

Peter ist mir gleichgültig.

This can further be weakened by adding fast schon, or made stronger by adding ziemlich, völlig, ....

Nicht mein Fall sein

By stating that something/somebody is nicht mein Fall we just express that we are not very fond of it/him/her. Again a dislike is only indirectly implied, and it is not very strong.

Peter ist nicht mein Fall. Rohes Fleisch ist nicht mein Fall. Der Film gestern war nicht mein Fall.

Express your dislike by being specific, using ist (mir) zu

Especially with people, but is also works with objects we quite often say specifically what we do not like. This will then also be weaker as a general expression of dislike. This however is not specific to German but a matter of style, really.

Peter ist mir zu laut. Das Restaurant war zu voll. Das Essen ist mir zu scharf. Der Film war zu lang.

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Nicht mein Fall is a great expression. I'm tempted to translate it into English as not my cup of tea or not my thing, but those are pretty slangy and colloquial, and they'd be very strange in formal writing. Is nicht mein Fall used in formal writing or in more elevated registers? –  Dan Leifker Jun 17 at 14:25
    
@DanLeifker: you can use it in writing too (but the more formal it is the more you may want to be specific). –  Takkat Jun 17 at 14:41

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