Help with German, v. off-topic

liril at liril at
Thu Dec 21 05:58:47 EST 2000

Philip wrote:

> And she raised the "Wie" versus "Was" question.  This came up at my German
> lesson today.  We had a number of questions of the form "Was kostet ... ?",
> meaning "What does ... cost?"  Our tutor says that this is the most common form,
> but you could use "Wieviel kostet ... ?", "How much does ... cost?"

That's what I would say... "Was" being the common form etc.

> My problem is that when in Germany (well, we were actually in Egerland at the
> time, but we were speaking German) I started to ask "Wieviel ..." and was
> corrected by my companion (Retired teacher, father of my German penfriend) to
> "Wie kostet das?".  I have ever since assumed this to be the normal form, used
> it without problem, etc., but our tutor says she has never observed it.

Neither have I. ;-) I would have said it's wrong,  but I gather the person who told
you was a naitve speaker, too. So I only can assume it's a dialect form, because in
hochdeutsch (standard German) it doesn't exist. And in this case I'm certain. I'm no
linguist, but just to make it clear "Wie kostet das?" is like "How does it cost?"
(which I assume isn't possible, either) whilst "Wie*viel* kostet das?" is "How
*much* does it cost?" But if you said, "how does it cost?", people would understand
you, too.
Just an example for dialect forms not using "dialiect words but normal words
differently: here in Südbaden (south-western part of Germany) people somtimes say
"Hast du mir mal ...?" meaning "Gibst du mir mal ...?" ("Can you have me ...?"
instead of "Can you pass me ...?"

who still hasn't checked the wie/was thing. Maybe I'll ask my mother, she's an
English teacher, but that means she knows her German grammar, too.

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