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In English, "I had a question" could mean either

  • "I got a question earlier, and still have it" or
  • "I got a question back then, but it has since been answered"

Could I use the German "ich hatte eine Frage" for both of these meanings? E.g:

  • "Guten tag. Ich hatte eine Frage für dich: [Frage]"
  • "Gestern habe ich den alten Mann besucht. Ich hatte eine Frage für ihn, und bekam eine gute Antwort."

Is there a better phrase?

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Does "I had a question" imply that you asked the question or could it mean, that you carried the problem unspoken with you? –  bernd_k Jun 26 '11 at 13:28
    
@bernd_k: I was thinking of the former, but I suppose you could use it as the latter too if you're feeling poetic. –  Tim N Jun 26 '11 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm only addressing the first part with the question that hasn't been answered yet. (For the second part I would need more context.)

It does not sound good if you say

Guten Tag. Ich hatte eine Frage für dich: ...

You could just say

Ich wollte dich (mal) fragen ...

or (colloquially)

Ich hab' da mal 'ne Frage ...

If you really want to express that you've had the question for some amount of time, you can say

Was ich dich schon lange fragen wollte ...

or

Ich wollte dich schon lange fragen ...

For "lange" you could substitute, e.g., "länger" (which is shorter than "lange"), "immer" or "gestern".

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In the first case and when you had asked the question before

Ich hatte dir/Ihnen eine Frage gestellt und habe noch keine Antwort.

or in case you didn't ask the question before

Ich hätte da eine Frage, die ich dir/Ihnen schon seit längerer Zeit stellen möchte.

In the second case it would be

Ich hatte ihm eine Frage gestellt und bekam eine gute Antwort.

Edit:

For the first case both versions:

Ich habe immer noch diese Frage.

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I was hoping for a phrase about as short as "I had an idea" to convey these ideas. –  Tim N Jun 26 '11 at 14:26

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