I have encountered the following phrase in a book and I would like to know its precise meaning (here gönnen).

Für diese richtige Antwort auf die Frage gönnt Ihnen Ihr Lehrer ein kurzes Nicken. Sie nehmen die Auszeichnung bescheiden entgegen und die nächste Aufgabe in Angriff. Nicht schlecht für den Anfang.

Here I interpreted gönnen like: so the teacher was quite unhappy of his correct answer because she begrudged for his smartness and nodded unwillingly (the teacher did not want to nod but he or she had to because it was correct!)

Can someone interpret gönnen here thank you very much for your help.


2 Answers 2


Not quite. "Gönnen" signifies the opposite of "begrudge". My imperfect attempt at a translation is

"For this correct answer to the question the teacher grants you a short nod".

For all my searching I have been unable to find a single English equivalent. We shall thus explore the different meanings with examples. Perhaps you can then provide a more nuanced translation.

Ich gönne mir eine Pause. ~ I allow myself to take a break.

Nach einem anstrengenden Tag gönne ich mir einen Schluck Wein. ~ After an exhausting day I treat my self to some wine.

Er gönnt mir diesen Erfolg nicht. ~ He begrudges me this success.

I believe the "active opposite of begrudge" comes close. I add active to stress I do not mean the mere absence of begrudging. When we say

Ich gönne es ihm

we may often also feel he deserves the thing in question. Though, if we are magnanimous, we may feel that way (gönnen) without him deserving it.

  • 1
    "Begrudge" usually works in the negative sense, but "indulge" is often a passable substitute when the sense is positive: "I indulged myself with a small break". Except I think "gönnen" is a little more generous in that it doesn't carry the nuance of "indulge" that one is getting away with something. May 31, 2015 at 21:28
  • @ I, too, feel it does not carry these guilty nuances. The more I think of it, the more I believe "the active opposite of begrudge" comes close.
    – Ludi
    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:33
  • Exactly. That's the way I see it used in Yiddish, anyhow. Oddly, the verb form in Yiddish is "vergienen" (pp. "hat vergunen"). (I say "oddly" because its an irregular vowel shift...normaly the o-umlaurt shifts simply to a long e.) Jun 1, 2015 at 15:10
  • @MartyGreen That is verz interesting, as there is also a German verb "vergönnen"!
    – Ludi
    Jun 1, 2015 at 17:01
  • Well that's what I was wondering because Yiddish only has the prefixed form. Does the prefixed verb have a different nuance in German? Jun 1, 2015 at 17:55

Gönnen means here that the teacher acknowledges the answer as correct; i e it a signal of approval.

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