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Is it 'Ich möchte ein Kaffee' or 'Ich möchte einen Kaffee'?

I've only ever heard people say "Ich möchte ein Kaffee, bitte", but then again, Kaffee is the object, not the subject, so...

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In standard German, "ich möchte..." requires an accusative object:

Ich möchte einen Kaffee.

However, the "-en" of "einen" is not always pronounced with a proper vowel. Sometimes you just hear a long n [aɪ̯n:] or a normal n followed by a syllabic n [aɪ̯nn̩]

If an order is placed without "ich möchte..." you cannot determine the required case. So both orders are correct:

Einen Kaffee, bitte. (As in Ich hätte gerne einen Kaffee.)

Ein Kaffee, bitte. (As in Ein Kaffee wäre jetzt das Richtige für mich. Or: Was darf's für Sie sein? - Ein Kaffee [darf's sein], bitte.)

However in this verb-less case, according to my experience, the accusative is used more often than the nominative.

  • Right, that must be it. I'm not yet used to the native Germans' quick speech. – Mihai Sep 13 '14 at 14:37
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I would never say "Ein Kaffee bitte", but always "(Ich möchte) Einen Kaffee bitte". But in spoken language that may sound as "ein'n Kaffee" and learners haven't yet got the ear to hear the slurred ending -en. Chris called it a "long n"- good expression - I would call it a syllabic n, just as l in "to settle" is pronounced as a syllable and spoken a bit longer.

  • Yes, a syllabic n could be possible, too. I have added this to my answer as well (but I'm struggling with the IPA diacritic). – Chris Sep 13 '14 at 14:38

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