mögen vs. möchten
Is "möchten" a form of the verb "mögen"? I've seen both verbs offered to express preference or desire (e.g. for "I like" or "I would like"), but can't seem to discern whether "möchten" is a conditional form, a different verb, or something else. Any help appreciated... Vielen Dank!
Yes... möchten is the subjunctive form of mögen, but is often taught as a regular verb because of its usefulness and politeness. The subjunctive is kind of like adding "would" to any word, so, like you said, instead of "I like it," you get "I would like it," which is a polite way to ask for things (e.g., "Ich möchte ein Bier, bitte").
kittyo9’s comment is spot-on. Usually when we ask for things politely in English, we ask in subjunctive, e.g. “I’d like a sandwich, please”. In German, you would use “ich möchte” instead of “ich mag” because it’s indirect and more polite.
I also haven’t really heard German speakers use “mögen” as “like” in constructions like “I like cheese”. Generally I hear the impersonal construction “gefallen” – “to please”, something like Spanish “gustar”:
- ich mag Käse (sounds strange to em)
- Käse gefällt mir (sounds better to me)
(though native speakers should correct me here if I’m wrong).