I want to express the phrases below in German. Note, one is in English and the other in Spanish.

What would you like to eat?

Qué te gustaría comer?

Now, I know that I can say: Was möchtest du essen?

However, I want the German phrase to match as closely as possible to the above. Like for example word for word. That means I want to use the Konjunktiv II with the helper verb. So I thought of this.

Was würde dir essen gefallen?

Also.. my questions are. First, is this correct syntactically? And is the meaning equivalent with the more typical Was möchtest du essen?

Vielen Dank

1 Answer 1


You could phrase it as

Was würde dir zu essen gefallen?

But no. Don't do that. This is completely unidiomatic and it means a slightly different thing: "What to eat" would you like?

In German, you can reorder it as

Was zu essen würde dir gefallen?

and it becomes more aligned to its actual meaning. Still uncommon.

This is because gefallen is a tricky verb that has the subject as its complement. Not an object. This is very different to English to like and more similar to Spanish gustar. German mögen is the equivalent of English to like as it has the accusative object as its complement. Möchtest is actually a Konjunktiv II form of mögen.

  • 1
    The literal meaning of "gefallen" is "to be pleasing to", but it's translated with "to like" with a subject-object switch. Apparently "gustar" works the same way. The English "like" combines the functions of "gefallen" and "mögen", so it depends on circumstances which would be a better translation in German.
    – RDBury
    Aug 27, 2023 at 14:39

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