Would someone care to explain the difference(s) between the verbs gefallen and freuen, and situations where one would be used and not the other?

I'm referring to the meaning given to both of them in the dictionary as "to please sb.".

I realise gefallen is typically used as reflexive dative, and freuen is reflexive accusative.

However, are there more specific instances or scenarios where one is preferred over the other? Or are they generally interchangeable (at least colloquially)?

It seems to me (with very limited German knowledge), that the sense of pleasure that freuen invokes is more temporary or momentary. Gefallen, on the other hand, seems to indicate a deeper character trait (e.g. a stronger appreciation). Am I correct in this thinking?

This would then seem to fit the use of freuen as taking delight in somebody else's immediate presence, or in completing a request that is asked by someone else e.g.

Ich würde mich freuen ...


I would be pleased to ...

In addition, with "auf" it can be used to indicate "anticipated pleasure", which appears to be more temporary in nature, and not a character attribute.

Gefallen, on the other hand, seems to be used in situations invoking a stronger appreciation of a place or activity.

  • 2
    They are hardly similar at all. Since a complete answer here will be very extensive I want to provide a site with some more differentiated translations: linguee.com/english-german/search?source=auto&query=freuen linguee.com/german-english/translation/gefallen.html
    – RoyPJ
    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:25
  • The reflexive use of gefallen is not very common
    – tofro
    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:26
  • 3
    Your assumed ordering is wrong: gefallen may just be a weakly positive term (facebook translates like button to gefällt mir), while freuen is much stronger. The phrase es würde mich freuen is on the other hand used so often as fixed phrase, that in this context the meaning is somewhat diluted.
    – guidot
    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:41

2 Answers 2


The polite Form "Es würde micht freuen ..." is sightly misleading. Please remember that polite language forms are not good examples for common usage and meaning of words as they are often archaic.

In common usage "freuen" means to be pleased. With slightly less emphasis than "happy" which in turn has less emphasis than "glücklich". "Gefallen" means to be pleased by somebody, something or some action. E.g. "Dein neues Kleid gefällt mir." "Danke, das freut mich sehr."

When combined with helper words like "auf" = "Ich freue mich auf..." the meaning of verbs can change subtle or sometimes quite dramatically. Indeed it reflects anticipation and is more commonly translated as "looking forward to"

So we have actually three question here, asking for the meaning of:

  1. "Ich würde mich freuen ..."
  2. "freuen"
  3. "freuen auf"

2 and 3 have been explained. 1) Simple means "please". It's a stereotypical expression.

It should also be noted that the strong differentiation between "freuen" and "gefallen" only holds for modern High German. Including dialectal and historical context, the two words strongly overlap in meaning and are sometimes used interchangeably.


"Es freut mich" means "It makes me happy." This uses the accusative case.

"Es gefällt mir" means "It is pleasing to me." This uses the dative case.

The second is a much milder, less direct version of the first.

Or put another way, the first is the more active and intense of the two.

It's a matter of "degree."

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