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I've gathered so far that "ich sehne mich nach etwas" can definitely have a romantic connotation.

Ich sehne mich nach dir
Ich sehne mich nach Liebe

But other than that, is it acceptable to use it for food for instance? Like for example in English one can say "I have a craving for chocolate". Is "ich sehne mich nach Schokolade" correct to say? If not, what is the appropriate verb for that meaning?

3 Answers 3

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It is correct. No doubt about it.

Ich sehne mich nach einer heißen Badewanne/meinem Bett/Schokolade/etwas Ruhe.

It is true that there should be some genuine hearty feelings involved. I personally would find it odd to say

Ich sehne mich nach einem sparsameren Auto/einem Spülmittel, das richtig sauber wäscht,/der nächsten Günther-Jauch-Sendung.

It might be tricky to understand what the difference is between chocolate and a properly cleaning detergent but oh well :)

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    Schokolade, Bett und Badewanne können dir einen wahren Genuss geben. Genau so, wie es Liebe kann. Aber ein Auto, ein Spülmittel und die nächste Günther-Jauch-Sendung können dir vielleicht Freude bereiten, aber keinen Genuss.
    – Em1
    Dec 8, 2013 at 22:17
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    Hah... das sieht die Werbung natürlich ganz anders... "Genießen Sie den Komfort des xy Nasenhaarzupfers!" ;)
    – Emanuel
    Dec 8, 2013 at 22:26
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Perhaps it makes more sense in this context not to try and identify all the objects this verb can go with, but rather focus on the sense you want to convey. As I see it, "sich sehnen nach" always tends to carry more emotion or even pathos than e.g. "Lust haben auf".

So regardless whether it's a person, object or concept you're talking about, if you say "ich sehne mich nach" you're implying that you really long for it. If the image of you sitting at the window, staring into the distance and sighing clashes noticably with the feeling you want to express, don't use "sehnen".

This works with a love interest, chocolate in certain situations and definitely with Takkat's need for a holiday.

If you just "feel like something", i.e. you don't have a deeply felt emotional of physical need for something, you should go for Ingmar's "mir ist nach" or "ich habe Lust auf".

Obviously, you can make exceptions for comic effect, but you should only do this if you're extremely confident in your command of German usage.

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That's a good question. Personally I wouldn't say Ich sehne mich nach Schokolade. The English equivalent would be to long for: You can be longing for love, peace & quiet, or world peace, but probably not chocolate, can you? Then again, perhaps you can: a quick Google search turns up many thousand hits. In German I'd say ein Verlangen haben nach + Dativ or Lust haben auf + Akkusativ or (rather informal) Mir ist nach + Dativ

Ich habe Lust auf (ein Stück) Schokolade. Mir ist nach Abwechslung.

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    Ich sehne mich nach Urlaub!
    – Takkat
    Dec 8, 2013 at 20:16
  • Good point. Perhaps it works with concepts, as opposed to physical things?
    – Ingmar
    Dec 8, 2013 at 20:19
  • It depends on the person I'd say. With chocolate it appears to be quite possible that people crave for it in the sense of "sehnen" - possibly because of pheromones in chocolate ;)
    – Takkat
    Dec 8, 2013 at 20:23
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    We have "benken nach" in Yiddish, which I'm not sure is used German, although I think "bang" is a word. The Yiddish expression seems to work for either a romantic longing or, for example, a longing for home. Dec 8, 2013 at 21:01
  • German does have "bang(e)", but it's more like being tense or anxious or fearful. Never quite felt that for chocolate, though maybe it would work for romance, lol.
    – Kevin
    Dec 8, 2013 at 21:06

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