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  5. Ah! you have an Archaic tong…


Ah! you have an Archaic tongue. And the rest of you doesn't look too good either!

"Ich will ein Bier"

I am a little confused about what is currently formal speech in modern Germany. A friend, who is a native German speaker from North Germany says that the above sentence is very poor grammar because it is incomplete without the use of "haben".

He insists that this is lazy speech used by teenagers, but is now so widespread as to be the becoming the norm. Is it?????Is it just informal? is it just bad grammar? He is a man in his seventies so will have had a very different post war education to many, if not most Duolingo students.

That said, is it really acceptable to dispense with the verb and remain Grammatically correct? I am a native English speaker. I don't speak American English. Sometimes I hear people in the UK use expressions that are complete corruptions of the English language. I am saddened that people say things that they have heard their favourite American Actors say, so think it sounds cool to emulate really poor English grammar. Those same youthful persons would say "Can I get a beer?" That to my ear is not the correct way to say "Can I have a beer?" Am I just a an old fogey struggling to evolve in a 21st century I don't particularly like? Are the parameters of acceptable grammar in speech forever changing? Regardless of the country you live in.

May 25, 2018


  • 1057

I don't have any grammatical problems with "Ich will ein Bier". As mentioned, though, it is rather impolite. But I can imagine it as acceptable answer to the question: "Was möchtest/willst du trinken?"- "Ich will ein Bier." (Depends on the tone.) It is definitely spoken, not written language.

There are similar construction with other modals: "Wir sollen am Sonntag ins Theater." Or with "wollen": "Wir wollen am Sonntag ins Theater." "Ich will nach Hause." With "können": "Versuch's mal. Du kannst es!" With "dürfen": "Darf ich ins Kino?" "With "müssen": "Ich muss in die Uni." "Steh auf, du musst in die Schule!"

These examples are perfectly normal spoken language, not rude or lazy. On the contrary! The last sentence, for example "Steh auf, du musst in die Schule gehen!" does not sound very idiomatic, even though it is grammatically perfect.

Most of these expressions are constructed as modal + location, i.e. the verb that implies the mode of transportation, so to speak, is left out; the main meaning is conveyed by the modal verb. How they get to the theater or home is not important. Compare that with: "Ich soll um 10 Uhr zu Hause sein." Leaving out "sein" would not work, because this sentence stresses that the speaker has to be at home at a certain time.

"Wollen" + food/beverage/etc. = Here as well, "essen", "trinken" etc. are not really necessary to convey the meaning. "Heute will ich ein Steak zum Mittagessen." Perfectly normal and acceptable.


i don't know how old your friend is and if there was a time there they really insisted on the haben in this sententence. to me "ich will ein Bier" is impolite already (if you use it to order a beer at a restaurant.) but i would say that if you add haben as for " ich will ein Bier haben" it would be more demanding and even less polite. in fact as a southern german i would find it quite rude to say "ich will ein Bier haben" without bitte or anything. it sounds almost like an order from a spoiled young master to a low ranked servant. that is my personal opinion. if you want to be polite you would say ich "hätte gerne ein Bier, bitte" or something along that line.


"ich will ein Bier" is perfectly fine from a grammatical point of view. The modal verb "wollen" works fine without the addition of the word "haben" (although you're welcome to add it). As people mentioned before me, however, it is a very rude way of asking for something. Even if you're asked "Was willst du haben" you would do much better replying "Ich moechte..." or "Ich haette gerne..." Now what your friend is referring to is a habit that kids have to use other modal verbs without the word "haben", e.g. "Kann ich eine Cola?" "Darf ich ein Snickers?" This is where parents usually - and I sure hope they still do it these days ;-) - intervene and correct "Kann ich eine Cola HABEN".
It must be so confusing, why it is fine to use some modal verbs without "haben" ("muessen" is another one that works without, just like "wollen") and for others it's considered grammatically incorrect. I hope you're having some fun with the language anyway ;-)


Thank you Meike.Perfectly explained.

I revisited the conversation I had with my friend, but we discussed it in English. I had indeed misunderstood him.

It was as you said "Kann ich eine Cola".... ."Can I a Cola" Would never be uttered by any English child..............However............."Can I a beer?" might be said by an adult who had already had several too many beers.


Haha, one of the many things that are said when you had one or several beers too many ;-)

  • 1057

Although I personally find “Kann ich eine Cola” horrible, too, maybe this is just the next logical step in language economy* by leaving out words that are not really necessary to convey the meaning.

  • Maybe texting is to blame for a tendency to use as few words as possible to get your meaning across?


You have a point there. Although "Kann ich eine Cola" was already around way before texting. Boy, I feel old now ;-) But yes, give it a few more years and it really might just be completely acceptable German.


Texting!!! Thas wots dun it. LOL. It is probably the most effective communication tool devised thus far. It seems, though, to be exempt from the constraints of grammar, spelling or even politeness.


Interesting question. When I read "Ich will ein Bier" I didn't stumble about the grammar (maybe I'm too young being somewhere between teenager and post-war-education), but found the sentence rather impolite. "Ich möchte ein Bier, bitte." would be much better, or "Ich hätte gern ein Bier."

The more I think about it, the more I think your friend is right. It's not clear, what the beer is wanted for ("Ich will ein Bier haben / trinken / sein?)

But then, language is about communication and even grammar changes over time. Those 4 words communicate the desire for a beer and the uncompromising attitude of the speaker. My reaction to it would be "Dann hol dir eines!"


You're spot on AHA it is impolite without the "bitte". added. However as a simple statement, perhaps even muttered to yourself, (I've said it to myself many times) it is very correct. In fact while talking to oneself, often is symptomatic of mental illness. In this case, it probably proves complete lucid sanity.


"to dispense with the verb" This part I'm not understanding. 'will' means want, so you're saying 'I want a beer'. That's a complete sentence, with verb.

  • 1057

You’re approaching this from the English point of view. “Want” is not an auxiliary, “wollen”, however, is and as such normally requires a main verb for completeness. And the “proper” translation of “I want a beer” is “Ich will ein Bier haben.” This “haben”, ie. the main verb, is being dispensed of. To express other types of “want”, you need an infinitve clause: “I want to drive to Italy.” German instead combines auxiliary with main verb: “Ich will mit dem Auto nach Italien fahren.” In this example, you could also leave out the main verb since “mit dem Auto” implies the verb “fahren”: “Ich will mit dem Auto nach Italien.”

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