Gefällt vs. mag
Is there a slight difference in the 'tone' of these two words? I always think of 'gefällt' as 'pleases' and 'mag' as 'like.' But since I think of those words like that, I hardly use 'gefällt' because saying 'that pleases him' instead of 'he likes that' seems a little weird. In German, is there a difference in tone between saying "er mag es" and "es gefällt ihm"?
I would say" "Ich mag Pasta", but I wouldn't say "Mir gefaellt Pasta", unless I am referring to its physical appearance.
Really, the only difference I can think of is that gefallen is more for how things look like, sound like. Mir gefaellt klassische Musik, although you can say ich mag klassische Musik. I think you can use moegen in all situations, whereas gefallen might be slightly limited.
However, otherwise they are completely interchangeable, they do not convey a different level of liking.
These are the very finest details of language, which nobody really expects from a foreigner.
I agree with person243. I often heard "gefallen" in the context of someone asking if something is nice. "Ja, es gefällt mir." would be like saying "yeah, it's nice". There's one more way to indicate liking that I'm aware of, "Ich habe ___ gern." I'd like to know how that's differentiated.
"gernhaben" is mostly used for persons and is quite close to "love". It would be used for relatives for example that are quite close but which you would normally not refer to as "loved" in German. Such as siblings or cousins or aunts. Or pets. It would also be adequate for growing relationships before you are able to say the "l"-word. You cannot really "gernhaben" things (besides perhaps kids and their plush toys).
But you can use it for actions which you have grown to love. Like "Ich habe es gern, wenn du mich massierst." = "I love/really like it when you massage me."
You can also express wishes in this way: "Ich hätte gern, dass du mir nicht länger auf die Nerven gehst." = "I would really like for you to no longer get on my nerves."
Firstly that is a question of perspective. If you say what you "magst", then you are talking about your preferences. But if something "gefällt", it is good in your eyes (or other senses). So if you have simple things like a new dress you would not yet have a personal relation to this dress but the dress could still be good in your eyes, so you would more naturally use "gefallen". But if there is something that you have known for longer or that occures very often so that you already have developed a relationship to it you would more naturally use "mögen" (or "gern" if it is an action). Like ice cream. It might be different for each ice cream but in general you like(magst) it.
But these things are very subjective. Often you can use both versions for the same thing.
I hope I could be of help.
While both can often be used in the same situation, "gefallen" is often used if you find something/someone attractive. "Mögen" doesn't have that visual connotation.
- Du gefällst mir: I definitely like what I see (and maybe also what you do)...
- Ich mag dich: I really like you (the way you are, what you do, ...)