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How would you say

I had a haircut yesterday.

Would it be

(a) Ich hatte gestern ein Haarschnitt.


(b) Ich habe mir gestern die Haare schneiden lassen.

Which one sounds more natural?

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It's (b). Get (a) out of your mind. Even adding the correct Akkusativ case won't fix it, it's broken. Stick with (b). Another common way of putting it is: »Gestern war ich beim Friseur." (Which implies you've had your hair cut.) – Lumi Jun 4 '14 at 20:00
a) suggests that something weird happened during the night which left you without any hair (style). – Raphael Jun 4 '14 at 23:32
In English, haircut is the process of cutting one’s hair and the result thereof, but in German, Haarschnitt (usually) means only the latter. – Crissov Jun 24 '14 at 8:26
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There are different ways of saying this as you have already anticipated. Your example (a) you would have to modify to:

(a) Ich bekam gestern einen neuen Haarschnitt

(b) on the other hand is correct and it is much more commonly used.

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Version b) sounds more natural. The first one is weird and could imply that you don't have a haircut today... maybe a bad hair day or something. Anyway, the most idiomatic sentence in my opinion is this:

Ich war gestern beim Frisör.

It is also used to notice a new hairdo:

Warst du beim Frisör?

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I've never heard a) used, and I understood "Haarschnitt" to mean something more akin to "hairstyle, haircut" rather than the action of your hair being cut. Just from "feeling" I want to say a) is just plain wrong, but I'm not a native speaker, so I'm perhaps not the best authority.

b) is grammatically correct and you can definitely use it.

As others have mentioned (Lumi, Emanuel), your third option (and the one I've most often heard used) is

Ich war gestern beim Friseur.

which translated means "I was at the barber's/hairdresser's yesterday." It implies you had your hair cut and that's what most people understand the sentence to mean.

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It's (b). (a) sounds like you were in possession of a haircut yesterday, not getting one.

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(a) is fine, too. Although it should be "einen Haarschnitt", actually. – Em1 Jun 4 '14 at 19:18
@Em1, I disagree, (a) is anything but fine, even with the correct Akkusativ case. Blaze is right. – Lumi Jun 4 '14 at 19:57
I also strongly disagree. You cannot use (a) and get the wanted reactions ;) – user5694 Jun 4 '14 at 21:14

Both (a) and (b) are correct but I would not use (a) because it sounds more like you had a haircut but now you do not have it. It is like:

I had my keys yesterday (but now they are gone.)
Ich hatte gestern meine Schlüssel(, aber heute sind sie weg.)

But if you say that you had your hairs cut yesterday it is clear that you have them still cut.

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Even though (a) is grammatically correct, it actually does not mean the action of cutting hair. With a key, however, it works fine. – user5694 Jun 4 '14 at 19:17
correct upto a gender or declension mistake. – c.p. Jun 4 '14 at 20:09

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