Er hatte Mütze, Mantel und Stiefel an.

I guess it means 'He had a coat on' for example. Am I correct? Also would it be right to have indefinite articles like 'eine', 'ein' in front of every noun or is it just ok to leave it like that?

Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    "Er hatte einen Stiefel an" would be syntactically valid but semantically funny. – hiergiltdiestfu Sep 5 '15 at 13:12

The sentence would translate to "He had a hat, coat and boots on."

The verb "anhaben" is a separable verb, which translates in English to "to wear" or "to have on". When this is used in a sentence as the first verb (i.e. without a modal verb or similar, which sends it to the end), the "an-" prefix goes to the end of the sentence. So the "an" in the sentence is really part of the verb, not an independent part of the sentence.

Some common separable verbs include "anziehen", "aufstehen", "fernsehen" and "umsteigen". Separable verbs follow the same tense patterns as the verb they originate from.

Unfortunately, I cannot explain why articles aren't used in the sentence, but I am fairly certain that using them would be correct as well.


The issue with the articles is interesting. Let me give a try:

Er hatte die Mütze, den Mantel und die Stiefel an.

The articles clearly indicate that you are talking about very particular pieces of clothing. Not just "some hat" but "that particular hat".

Er hatte einen Mütze, einen Mantel und Stiefel an.

The opposite, all nouns indefinite, and probably very normal.

Er hatte Mütze, Mantel und Stiefel an.

Now I speculate. I think the nouns here are turned into uncountables, like you do with "Zucker" or "Honig". The sentence seems to focus on presentation of the person as a whole, and the items are reduced to their function. A similar sentence is:

Er trug Uniform.

The sentence does not indicate that he wore that particular uniform, and it does not merely indicate that he wore any uniform, but rather the sentence focuses on the social function. Like:

Er trug Uniform. Er kam nicht als Zivilist, sondern als Armeeangehöriger.

I think it is specific to clothing, make-up, and similar things. I do not recognize any general grammatical rule.


Nothing to add to @Lachlan Collins' reply regarding separable verbs.

Regarding the articles: English not being my native language I don't quite know how common it is to say

"he wore hat, coat and boots"

No problem to use articles here, though, neither in German nor in English:

"He wore a hat, a coat and some boots"

would be

"Er hatte eine Mütze, einen Mantel und Stiefel an"

There's more emphasis if articles are used, while the missing articles give it a more general sense where you just don't care for numbers or the kind of objects. This article is giving an explanation; unfortunately the clothes example is missing, but I feel it relates to the "uncountable" section

  • 1
    The website is helpful, but I think it has got some issues. For example, none of the examples in the proverbs sections is specific to proverbs. All the nullarticles can be explained by other effects. – shuhalo Sep 9 '15 at 11:13

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