Difference between "Ich möchte" and "Ich hätte gern(e)" and "Ich würde gern(e)"

  • I don't like phrase books for their original purpose. I prefer to use them to find out different ways to to say the same thing and learn the differences.

    This brings us to these three...

    1 ."Ich möchte"
    2. "Ich hätte gern(e)"
    3. "Ich würde gern(e)"

    I saw these wordings repeatedly to say "I would like" in a phrasebook awhile back.

    So the questions are...

    What's the difference between the three phrasings listed above?

    Are they used differently?

    Why would I use one over the other?

    Is "würde" merely a shortcut to being lazy with the subjunctive in the example?

    And finally, which is more common in spoken and written german?

    Also, I assume that "Ich hätte gern(e)" can only be use on nouns that follow but I'm unsure. I believe the other two may only be used with verbs.

    Please use example sentences.

  • Jan

    Jan Correct answer

    6 years ago

    Ich hätte gerne

    This expression (usually) requires a noun following it.

    Ich hätte gerne drei Semmeln
    Ich hätte gerne einen Freund


    Ich hätte gerne gezahlt

    This last one is substantially different from the first two. Those first two are the subjunctive II forms of haben followed by the word gern(e) (to make the sentence more polite), and are a polite way of asking for something you can buy (Semmeln) or expressing a wish (der Freund). Gern(e) is mandatory.

    The last one is a subjunctive past form of zahlen, implying that the guest at the restaurant already asked for the bill at least once, and wishes that the waitor gets a move on.

    Ich würde gerne

    This expression requires a verb following it.

    Ich würde gerne zahlen
    Ich würde gerne Ski fahren
    Ich würde gerne Urlaub machen (or: Ich hätte gerne Urlaub; see above)

    Generally, this can be described as the more colloquial form of subjunctive II, and all sentences of this form can be replaced by a subjunctive II construction (Ich zahlte gerne; ich führe gerne Ski, ich machte gerne Urlaub), although it would come across as anything between old-fashioned and plain awkward.

    Here, the gerne is required or the meaning of the sentence changes:

    Ich würde Ski fahren

    does no longer imply that the speaker wants to go skiing. It can mean that s/he prefers skiing, even though the rest of the group will go snowboarding, or it can be the answer to a question like Imagine you had a day off work. What would you do?

    Note also that some dialects hardly use würde, and instead use tun or others as an auxilliary verb for subjunctive II constructions:

    I dad gern Ski fahrn (Bavarian)
    = Ich täte gerne Ski fahren (literally transformed into standard German)

    Ich möchte

    This is originally the subjunctive II of the verb mögen. However, it is also used as a more polite form of saying ich will. Compare it with e.g. English, where I want is considered impolite, but I would like (same meaning but auxilliary construction) is considered polite.

    It can be used both with verbs and with nouns:

    Ich möchte ein Eis
    Ich möchte Schlitten fahren
    Ich möchte Blut spenden
    Ich möchte schreiben
    Ich möchte einen Kaffee

    It is definitely the most flexible of all constructions here, as it can also easily be negated:

    Ich möchte keinen Streit.
    Ich möchte keinen Kaffee.
    Ich möchte nicht kämpfen.

    (The others can be negated, but wouldn't usually be used in a negative form.) If you use möchte, you can add an additional gern(e) to make it sound slightly more polite

    Ich möchte gerne einen Kaffee

    However, I would most likely not use these sentences with gern.

    Note that sometimes this has a 'childish' ring to it: One of the first things parents attempt to teach their children is to say ich möchte ein Eis instead of ich will ein Eis.


    When in a shop or a restaurant, I would order/buy stuff using ich hätte gerne. When expressing wishes that are shorter in verbal form (e.g. pay), I would use würde: Ich würde gerne zahlen. If either my sentence doesn't fit into these two subcases, or if I want to express a negative form, I would use möchte.

    Nothing is "Tl;dr" for me. I appreciate the time you took to be concise and accurate!

    A comment of yours brought up another good question, you can find it here also, I'm on my phone so I can't link, just copy and paste

    If I want to use verb with (hätte), what should I do? e.g. Ich hätte gern ein Pizza [bestellen] oder [bestellt]?

    @Toobatf This is answered in the top section, where I used *zahlen* as an example.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM