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I was using a language app and the example sentence was like:

"Liebst du mich auch, oder magst du mich nur?"

So when your friend says "Ich mag dich," is it NOT equivalent to "I have feelings for you"? Is it just "I like you as a person" and that is it?

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    I can't stress enough how much context, intonation and gesturing changes the meaning of "Ich mag dich". In this context, it clearly used as a contrast to mean there are no romantic (= love) feelings, but in another context, it can easily mean much more and can *almost be equivalent to "Ich liebe dich."
    – Polygnome
    Dec 1 '20 at 13:58
  • @Polygnome I upvoted your comment. But now I think, it would better be an answer. Would you like to make it an answer? (I would upvote it) Dec 2 '20 at 23:06
  • @jonathan.scholbach Done.
    – Polygnome
    Dec 2 '20 at 23:51
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You're right. In the first place, it is comparable to "I like green olives better than black ones".

However, it would be possible to emphasise "ich mag dich" in such a way that it means "I have feelings for you", "I love you", etc.

When speaking directly to a person, it would probably be better to stress why you like the person, or what exactly you like:

Ich mag dich, weil du ein guter Zuhörer bist.

Just telling someone "ich mag dich" would perhaps imply that more romantic feelings are meant. However, this depends very much on the person themselves and the extent to which they are able to talk about their own (romantic) feelings in a clear-cut way.


You may find this Q&A helpful as well: What are the differences in meaning among "mögen", "stehen auf", "liebhaben", and "lieben"?

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    I say "ich mag dich" to my girlfriend. More often I say "ich hab dich lieb" or similar, but "Ich mag dich" can also express the same sentiment. This is VERY VERY VERY context dependent (and especially body language). In OPs example sentence it is also very clear: by contrasting it with "liebst du mich" the 'weaker' "magst du mich NUR" directly implies the "friendzone" (I hate that word but its applicable here)
    – Hobbamok
    Dec 2 '20 at 11:13
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For your specific example the "Ich mag dich" is the equivalent of a "friendzone".

In most use-cases of the phrase "Ich mag dich", it is pretty much the same as the english "I like you". The question to ask in situations like this, is if "I love you" would rather apply than "I like you", and I think the sentence "Do you love me too, or do you just like me?" is pretty clear about that.

To answer your question : So when your friend says "Ich mag dich," is it NOT equivalent to "I have feelings for you" ?

Yes, it's not equivalent.

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    Just to clarify for OP tho: If it's said WITHOUT the "do you love me OR..:" first, a "magst du mich" on its own (with the right context/body language etc. can VERY WELL mean "do you have feelings for me", just asked in a somewhat unsure way. This is very messy and real-life-context dependent. But for your specific example monamona is absolutely right, just wanted to make sure that if you stumble across it in the real world you know the nuances. Welcome to German, it's a weapon after all :)
    – Hobbamok
    Dec 2 '20 at 11:16
  • South Germany begs to differ.
    – pmf
    Dec 2 '20 at 12:21
  • Is funny how a supposedly strict language like German can be soooo indirect sometimes! It provides a lot of flexibility to be ambiguous and dodge unwanted responsibilities. I believe that's the main single reason why German politics is so successful around the world 🤣 Dec 2 '20 at 16:03
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I can't stress enough how much context, intonation and gesturing changes the meaning of "Ich mag dich". In this context, it is clearly used as a contrast to mean there are no romantic (= love) feelings, but in another context, it can easily mean much more and can almost be equivalent to "Ich liebe dich."

One can easily imagine a situation in which someone doesn't quite want to say "Ich liebe dich", but still wants to convey romantic interest. In the right situation, with the right intonation, "Ich mag dich" can easily convey that.

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    I would add that especially in the juvenile and teenager years, romantic love may well be expressed as a coy "Ich mag Dich" or asked about with "Magst Du mich". A common phrase is also "Magst Du ihn/sie 'so'", which corresponds to "do you like him/her 'like that'".
    – Torque
    Dec 3 '20 at 8:22
  • When my mom was asked why she divorced her second husband, who had previously been my fathers best friend and who had royally pampered her through an additional twenty years of marriage, she answered:"Ich mag ihm nicht." That somehow changed the way I have come to understand the meaning of: "Ich mag Dich." Which makes me wonder if that isn't just the same for everyone.
    – Berend
    May 17 at 20:53
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    @Berend Correct would be "Ich mag ihn nicht". I'm not entirely sure which point you are trying to make, though. Lieben usually entails mögen, but we also have a word for loving and hating someone or something: Hassliebe, which captures that ambivalence.
    – Polygnome
    May 18 at 11:59
  • @Polygnome Sorry about the "m". Big fingers, big hands., small keys, many letters in one go. What I'm trying to say is, even in German the meaning depends largely on the context. There's an infinite number of possible meanings ranging from expressions of deep hate to expressions of intense love. The other way around it can not be translated as anything other than "I like you" if left without any context.
    – Berend
    May 18 at 14:05
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    @Berend Yeah, I absolute agree, that is why my answer literally starts with "I can't stress enough how much context, intonation and gesturing changes the meaning [...]".
    – Polygnome
    May 18 at 14:14

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