Semantics question: Denn vs Weil
Is there any difference in meaning between these two sentences:
Ich esse Kartoffeln, weil ich sie mag.
Ich esse Kartoffeln, denn ich mag sie.
I know that they're grammatically different (weil is subordinating, denn isn't), but semantics are less clear to me.
For that matter, does the sentence "Da ich Kartoffeln mag, esse ich sie" encode a different meaning from the others?
The first two sentences have the same meaning. You (only) eat potatoes because you like their taste.
The other sentence puts a bit more emphasis on the fact that you like potatoes and therefore you eat them. This would also happen if you put the subclause of your first sentence in front of the main clause:
Weil ich Kartoffeln mag, esse ich sie.
It is correct that it is said everywhere that “denn” and “weil” are interchangeable. However, if that were true, why do I feel that one or the other sounds “better” or more logical in specific contexts? I spare you the examples I came up with, my reasoning and my conclusion since I found an older DL discussion on this topic where they came to the same conclusion as I did:
Interesting is this example where the difference in meaning is obvious:
- Deine Tiere sind krank, denn sie fressen nichts mehr. ='sie fressen nichts mehr' is an indication for an illness. The reason for the illness is something else.;
- Deine Tiere sind krank, weil sie nichts mehr fressen. = Your animals are ill, because they don't eat anything. Here the reason for the illness is that the animals don't eat.
The summary of the conclusions of that discussion:
- 'weil' is always a direct reason, but 'denn' can be an unrelated reason as well as a related reason. 'denn' will never be a such strong connected reason like 'weil'.
I might have expressed it somewhat differently, but the gist is pretty much the same. And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense because “weil” is a dependent clause, whereas “denn” is an independent clause.
I do not necessarily agree 100% with everything being said there, for instance with the statement that “denn” is only an assumption.