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I am currently studying German and we had to write a little about what we would like to get someone for their birthday and what not.

While I was doing this I wanted to say something like I would like to give her ….

I know that I would like is Ich würde gerne but if I wanted to say the full thing would I say, Ich würde gerne ihr … schenken or Ich würde ihr gerne … schenken? Or do they both mean the same thing?

  • Your english example would translate to "Ich würde ihr gerne ... schenken. Always put the subject first. – πάντα ῥεῖ Mar 2 '18 at 17:14
  • So would that be the correct way to put it, or do they both have the same meaning? – user32206 Mar 2 '18 at 17:18
  • "Ich würde gerne ihr ... schenken" is simply wrong. So asking if it has the "same meaning" is futile. – πάντα ῥεῖ Mar 2 '18 at 17:19
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    @πάνταῥεῖ Sorry, that's nonsense. "Ich würde gerne ihr einen Blumenstrauss schenken (und ihm eine Flasche Wein)" is a perfect German sentence, even without the latter half. – tofro Mar 3 '18 at 13:29
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    @πάνταῥεῖ No. Grammatical correctness does not depend on context. – tofro Mar 3 '18 at 13:45
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Standard situation

Your standard use-case is

Ich würde ihr gerne xxxxxxxx schenken.

As in

Ich würde ihr gerne einen Blumenstrauß schenken.

Ich würde ihr gerne mehr Aufmerksamkeit schenken.

Ich würde ihr gerne reinen Wein einschenken.

The other word order you suggest ("ich würde gerne ihr...") is wrong in this standard situation, "wrong" meaning: the sentence is still comprehensible in its original meaning, but native speakers feel that something is wrong in the word order. You may say it is not a well-formed sentence.

Altered word order for emphasis

However, as several commenters correctly mentioned, there is one particular situation when Ich würde gerne ihr einen Blumenstrauß schenken is a well-formed sentence anyway. That's when the intention of the speaker is to put strong emphasis on ihr (as opposed to somebody else):

A: "Willst du den Blumenstrauß ihr schenken oder ihm?" B: "Ich würde gerne ihr den Blumenstrauß schenken. Und ihm vielleicht eine Flasche Wein."

This does of course only work when there is the appropriate context. In isolated sentences, this word order simply sounds wrong.

Playing with words

Just for the joy of it you can try and find some other situations where your second word order is applicable too:

Ich würde gerne ihr Piano meinem Nachbarn schenken.

This is of course rather a joke because here, ihr is used as possessive pronoun (so we alter the inner structure of the sentence), and in terms of meaning: it is not accepted behaviour to give away things that you do not own. To make this sentence realistic you have to come up with a very specific scenario. Say, your aunt has died and you have to break up her household, and your idea is to leave the piano to your neighbour, then something like this is possible: Meine Tante ist gestorben. Ich möchte gerne ihr Piano meinem Nachbarn schenken.)

Based on this, commenter Panta rei suggested simpler examples for gerne ihr word order.

Ich würde gerne ihr Haar schneiden.

Ich würde gerne ihr Hemd bügeln.

Ich würde gerne ihr Ohr abnuckeln.

However, these do not conclude with schenken which was, somehow, the presupposed structure to play with.

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  • Why not something simpler for the possessive pronoun: "Ich würde gerne ihr Haar schneiden." for example. – πάντα ῥεῖ Mar 2 '18 at 17:40
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    You could mention how word order shifts the focus: "Ich würde gerne ihr (und nicht ihm) einen Blumestrauß schenken." – Robert Mar 2 '18 at 18:32
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    Ich glaube "Ich würde Ihnen gerne das Piano/die Tuba meines Nachbarn schenken." ist wahrscheinlicher. <vbg> – Rudy Velthuis Mar 2 '18 at 22:36
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    Or another valid example: ich würde (aber) gerne IHR die Blumen schenken (und nicht dem anderen Mädchen)... if you want to emphasize the pronoun in comparison to another possibility. – Torsten Link Mar 3 '18 at 1:24
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I want to add one thing to the very good answer of Christian:

In deed the default construct would be:

Ich würde ihr gerne die Rose schenken

But if you want to emphasize that it is exactly her to give the rose to and no other girl (think of TV show Bachelor) then you could say:

Ich würde gerne ihr die Rose schenken (und nicht der anderen)

This is also totally valid (if emphasised correctly) but has a slightly different meaning.

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