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It seems common to drop the end-schwa of first-person verbs. I've both heard it and seen it written.

Ich hab' eine Frage.

Ich geh' zur Uni.

I'm wondering:

  • Does writing or talking like this seem juvenile?
  • Would it be OK in a professional meeting or letter?
  • Is it ever too formal to write or say „ich habe“?
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4 Answers

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Writing

"Ich habe" is the accepted correct written form. It is always OK to use it.

It is never OK to use "ich hab" in professional or official written communication.

"Ich hab" is fine in informal conversations like forums, chat rooms or personal E-Mails.

However, even if the spoken form would be thick with colloquialisms, it is perfectly normal for informal written communication to obey the rules of correct German.

Real world example: When I speak with my father, we use very heavy swabian. In all written communication however, we use perfect high german.

Speaking

In speaking, "Ich habe" is never wrong. However, in most everyday informal conversations in most areas of the country, the trailing e is swallowed.

To someone learning German as a second language, I'd say if in doubt, use "ich habe". Continued exposure to everyday interactions with Germans will show you quickly when and where it is usually dropped.

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The Swiss always seem to chop the ends off words so I'm not entirely convinced about the 'professional' part of this in that particular context –  adolf garlic May 31 '11 at 9:04
    
@adolf I am referring to High German as spoken in Germany only. Swiss is indeed a different story –  Pekka 웃 May 31 '11 at 11:41
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Ich hab is perfectly ok in professional communication: "Ich hab keine Äpfel mehr" sagte dei Marktfrau. "Ich hab den auch in Rot", sagte der Autohändler. "Ich hab selbst ein Glasauge" sagte der Optiker. "Ich hab das Bailout für Griechenland fertig" sagte der Minister zur Kanzlerin. Ich seh da kein Problem. Even the apostroph is dropped, so common is the usage. –  user unknown Jun 6 '11 at 16:25
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@user: Erm, what's the problem with "dafür soll sich das Land ..."? (And why did you put a '?) Am I blind? –  Hendrik Vogt Jun 6 '11 at 21:25
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@user: Why do you want to say "er solle dies tun"? This is just something different than "er soll dies tun", isn't it? –  Hendrik Vogt Jun 7 '11 at 13:48
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In writing, you will always see "Ich habe", unless you want to convey spoken language as a literary device for whatever reason.

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Both in spoken as in informal written communication, it is common to drop the ending -e in phrases like

Ich hab mir das schon oft vorgestellt.

Ich frag mich, ob das immer schon so war.

(BTW, I don't think that the apostrophe is required when dropping the "e". )

In formal written communication, it is better to use the full verb form, though.

If I see "Ich habe" or "Ich frage" etc in informal written comms, like an email, it does not strike me as overly formal. It's simply correct :) . But dropping the "e" in formal comms would be considered incorrect, I think.

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Übrigens: außerhalb des Internet kennt ein Deutscher BTW (by the way nicht) –  bernd_k May 29 '11 at 10:09
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AFAIC, both the question and the answer were written in English. I don't see any issues with using common abbreviations for things like "by the way" or "as far as I'm concerned". Had my answer been provided in German, these abbreviations would have been out of place. But it was not, so they were not. What's the problem? –  teylyn May 29 '11 at 10:26
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Does writing or talking like this seem juvenile?

No, it doesn't sound juvenlie. It's very common in spoken language.

Would it be OK in a professional meeting or letter?

It's probably OK in most meetings. I'd avoid it in formal texts and letters though.

Is it ever too formal to write or say „ich habe“?

No.


By the way, there is an orthography rule for the apostrophe:

Kein Apostroph bei Auslassung

Der Apostroph wird nicht verwendet, wenn eine verkürzte Wortform allgemein üblich und/oder unmissverständlich ist:

Man schreibt im Allgemeinen keinen Apostroph für das weggefallene Endungs-e bei Verbformen der ersten Person Singular und des Imperativs:

  • Ich steh im Regen.
  • Ich hör dich nicht mehr.
  • Das lass ich mir von niemandem bieten!>

and

  • Schließ das Fenster!
  • Komm bitte hierher! -Geh mir aus den Augen!
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Der Gebrauch in professionellen Meetings dürfte von den Berufsgruppen abhängen. Im Computerumfeld sehen wir das etwas legerer. –  bernd_k May 29 '11 at 10:04
    
Bei Apostroph nach Imperativ bluten mir immer die Augen. :-( –  Konrad Rudolph May 29 '11 at 11:48
    
I would upvote this for the apostrophy comment, but I don't quite agree on the -e issue. Pekka's answer is better here, in my opinion. –  fzwo May 30 '11 at 9:03
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@fzwo no problem. I also upvoted Pekka's answer. :) –  splattne May 30 '11 at 9:05
    
If you would just add that writing without the e seems a bit juvenile/informal/lyrical, I think the answer would be perfect. –  fzwo May 30 '11 at 9:08
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