gern and gerne
What rule decides whether "gern" is written with or without an "-e"?
You can use whichever you like. There's absolutely no difference in meaning or style.
Thank you christian. I am quite amazed. It must be the only word in the German language that is not subject to a rule. I will relish the freedom to decide each time I use it. Ned.
You're right, christian. But some older speakers might disagree. When I was still in primary school my German teacher used to mark me "gern" as an error. For her "gerne" was the only correct one. (And that's only about 15 years ago. Wow. When I write it like that I feel really old.)
According to Zwiebelfisch (http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/zwiebelfisch/zwiebelfisch-abc-gerne-gern-a-323744.html) "gerne" is the older version, but nowadays both are used without any difference in meaning or style.
I'm going to move this to the German discussion where it'll be more appreciated :)
So is that similar to the difference between gut and gute? And lang and lange (eg Sie hat lang Haare vs. how long/Vie lange haben wir fahren?)
No, this is something completely different. 'lang Haare' is ungrammatical. 'lang' is an adjective. 'gern/gerne' is an adverb. Adjectives are declined according to case, gender, number and preceding article. Adverbs don't change. Usually, there is only one form of an adverb. 'Gern/gerne' is an exception in this regard.
On a similar vein, What is the difference in using "Es ist ganz nah" versus "sehr Nähe?
"Es ist sehr Nähe" is ungrammatical. You yould say "Es ist sehr nah" which would mean pretty much the same as 'Es ist ganz nah'.
Adding to Wataya: es ist in der unmittelbaren Nähe = it is in the closest neighbourhood. I know that is not good English but the German shows you that " Nähe" is a noun which cannot be used as an adverb.