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Difference between gefällt and gefallen?

When using Facebook in German, instead of clicking 'like', you click 'gefällt mir', meaning 'I like'. Gefällt literally translates as 'like' in google translate.

However 'gefallen', which sounds like it could be another case/conjugation/version of the same word means 'fell' for example it's used in the line 'bist du von Himmel gefallen?', meaning 'did you fall from heaven?'

Although 'like' and 'fell' seem to have completely different meanings, 'gefällt' and 'gefallen' are very similar words - so are they connected somehow in meaning or etymology? or do they just happen to look similar?

November 13, 2017



"gefällt" is a conjugation (3rd person sing.) of the verb "gefallen" (literally: to please).
"gefallen", however, is also the Partizip Perfekt of "fallen" (to fall).

Unfortunately I can't tell you whether these are connected in etymology, but maybe someone else here can.


The way I understand the entry in the Kluge etymological dictionary, "gefallen" ("gifallan") used to mean (a thousand years ago) "to fall/go to sb., to be bestowed sth.", which, when combined with "well" or "a lot / more", made up today's meaning of "to appeal (to sb.)". So, literally, I'm guessing at something like: "it falls to me in a good way" = "it strikes(?) me in a good way / as a good thing(?); I like it". Not sure, though.

(The Kluge also suspects a connection to phrases used in games of dice.)


I like the translation "appeal" for gefallen, which has the added bonus that it shows that the object has to be in the dative case because in English we say that something appeals "to" someone.


Hi George,

a really interessting question. In the first place I thought 'that's easy, I just write a quick answer' but no, the question isn't so easy to reply.

fallen = to fall, to drop, to tumble (you use the auxiliary verb 'sein')

jmdm. gefallen = to appeal to so. (you use the auxiliary verb 'haben')

fallen/gefallen = fallen (of a soldier/of a woman) killed in action

In present time you can understand the difference between the first two words quite well. The third is always only to define in context.

Ich falle hin/Ich falle auf den Boden. Er gefällt ihr. Der Soldat fällt im Einsatz (in mission).

In the other times you have a little problem. But there is help.


ich bin gefallen, du bist gefallen, er/​sie/​es ist gefallen, wir sind gefallen, ihr seid gefallen, sie sind gefallen

jmdm. gefallen

ich habe gefallen, du hast gefallen, er/​sie/​es hat gefallen, wir haben gefallen, ihr habt gefallen, sie haben gefallen

Ich fiel auf den Boden. Er gefiel ihr . Der Soldat fiel im Krieg. Ich bin auf den Boden gefallen. Er hat ihr gefallen. Der Soldat ist im Krieg gefallen.

So you are right. Very similar at first sight but with different meaning. The auxiliary verb makes the difference.

You can look up the whole time table here https://dict.leo.org/englisch-deutsch/fallen and https://dict.leo.org/englisch-deutsch/gefallen. Just click on the book icon in front of the german word.

Puh, ist Deutsch wirklich so kompliziert? Anyway, thank you for your question. I learn here in this forum as much about my mother tongue as about the languages I want to learn.

Did the explanation help a little bit?

Best regards Angel

  • 1388

Angel, I appreciate that you even bother to help us would-be German speakers.


Hi Susan, of course I try to help, why wouldn' I ? Isn't it the great advantage of forums like this over a simple school book? To get answers and help from native speakers. And even my knowledge in german grammar is not the best (I'm not a teacher) at least I can try to help.

best regards Angel


"gefällt" seems like some kind of "passive". So, I think it translates well like "pleases". Then there is plural.

One apple pleaseS me. Two apples please me.

So, I would say

Ein Apfel gefällt mir. Zwei Äpfel gefallen mir.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

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