When studying German, many students stumble over the proper use of the four verbs “schmecken”, “gehören”, “passen” and “gefallen”. In this article, I will explain their meanings and how you can integrate them right into your sentence structure.
The issue with these verbs
The reason why so many German students struggle to use these verbs the right way is that they are all followed by an indirect object, also called Dative. Especially when we start studying a new language, we often tend to put ourselves in the role of the subject (the one that does something in a sentence).
Precisely this is the problem with “schmecken”, “gehören”, “passen” and “gefallen” as we will discuss in the following for each of the verbs.
We can translate the German verb “schmecken” with the English “to taste” as in the sense of the ability to taste something or that something tastes good or bad. Though we barely use the first version, I would like to provide you with an example for a better understanding.
“Ich schmecke die Schokolade.” – “I taste the chocolate.”
Now, it becomes problematic if we would like to express that something tastes good or bad to us. This is because the subject of such a sentence will not be us in 99% of the cases but rather a particular food or beverage. For example:
“Die Schokolade schmeckt mir gut.” – “The chocolate tastes good to me.”
As the chocolate is tasting good to us, the chocolate is the subject (Nominative) of the sentence since it is doing something, it tastes. We have to use the Dative case after “schmecken”, because we are kind of the place that gets the taste but we do nothing ourselves and also nothing is done to us.
However, many students often make the mistake and mix this up. As a consequence, they would say sentences like “Ich schmecke der Schokolade.” which is quite funny because it means that I am tasty to the chocolate. But in most cases, it is not the food that eats us and thinks that we are tasty but the other way around.
The verb “gehören” means “belong to” or “to be owned”. Also, a Dative object follows this verb. We can use it without or with the preposition “zu” (to) that comes before a Dative object as well.
With the same logic that applies to “schmecken”, we are also the indirect object in a sentence with “gehören”. This is since nobody owns people and therefore we often simply would like to express that we or something owns something as we are kind of “the place of the ownership”. As you might already understand now, it can be hilarious if you mix up with “gehören” because suddenly you can be owned by your car instead of owning it.
Proper examples for “gehören” are:
“Das Auto gehört mir.” – “The car is mine.”
“Das Haus in der Kornstraße gehört Familie Schneider.” -“The house on Kornstrasse belongs to the Schneider family.”
The next verb in our list is “passen” which means “to fit”, “to match” or “to suit”. Since we already reached the third case of this article’s list, you might already guess that the same object-subject-problem applies to “passen” as well. Also, we can add “zu” to passen (followed by Dative).
We can use “passen” in the following sense:
“Die Hose passt mir nicht, weil sie mir zu klein ist.” – “The pants don’t fit me because they’re too small for me.”
“Das Auto passt zu dir.” – “The car suits you.”
“Das Meeting am Montagmorgen passt mir gar nicht.” – “The Monday morning meeting does not suit me at all.”
As you can easily see, it is the trouser that suits me and not I that suit them and so on.
Now, in sporadic cases, also a person cannot fit in the sense that one does not like somebody or that it does not match. For instance:
“Der Mitarbeiter passt nicht zum Team.” – “The employee doesn’t fit the team.”
Last but not least, there is the verb “gefallen”. We can translate it with “to be liked”, “to appeal,” or “to please”. Most of the time it is things that “are liked by us,” and therefore, we are the Dative object in the majority of the cases here as well. This is important because we like the dress rather than the dress would like us ;).
However, it is also possible to say that somebody is pleasing or appealing and so it does make sense that the subject of a sentence with “gefallen” can also be a person.
“Das Kleid gefällt mir sehr gut.” – “I like the dress very much.”
“Der gebackene Kuchen gefiel den Eltern.” – “The parents liked the baked cake.”
“Der Mann gefällt der jungen Frau sehr gut.” – “The young woman likes the man very much.”
Sentences with schmecken, gehören, passen and gefallen
I hope that this article made clear that it is essential to think thoroughly about what you want to say. However, if you are unsure, you can always ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I tasty to an object, or is it tasty to me?
- Is it me that belongs to an object, or does it belong to me?
- Do I suit an object, or does it suit me?
- Do I like an object, or does it like me?
Also, the issue with these four verbs shows that it is crucial to understand the role of phrases in German to form a sentence correctly. To deepen your knowledge about Dative, you can check out my article “The Ultimate Guide to understand the German Dative! “.
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