from Duden : Die Straßen lagen voll Schnee
from DWDS : Die Straßen lagen voller Schnee

I am wondering whether there is any difference in meaning between the two; is it possible that the example from Duden connotes that the roads were deep in snow, the object Straße being perceived as a 3D object with volume, while the example from DWDS merely expresses the coverage of roads with snow, the object Straße remaining a 2D object with surface ?


4 Answers 4



Everything you wanted to know about voller vs voll and will probably regret asking by the time you've read this whole thing. (I know I did)

The short answer to your question, as opposed to what follows below: The distinction between voll and voller is the result of habit and changes in language use, and its origins keep academics busy writing paper. If you want to offer a definite answer, don’t use SE but write academic papers instead!

If you want a longer answer, a whole analysis even, from actual German professionals in linguistics, have a look at this:

Zur Wortart und Kasusrektion des Wortes voller

That’s right, a linguist actually held a whole presentation on the word voller vs voll and its development! And he quotes other linguists who apparently have discussed this.

The paper discusses a number of issues with the word voller.

It starts with some examples, similar to your original question in showing how voller is used (instead of voll), with special focus on its frequent colloquial use

voller erscheint ziemlich harmlos, alltäglich: [sources removed]

  • außerdem ist die Schere voller Klebstoff
  • dunkle Wälder voller Zombies

Wird früh erworben: (… 6-jähriger)

(Papa kauft die Wiener Straße in Monopoly)

du kriegst da umsonst wiener würstchen [sic!] oder is da alles um nur voller Metzger


voller appears to be harmless and common:

  • The scissors are covered in [full of] glue
  • The woods are full of zombies

It’s acquired young in life [quoting a 6-year old child] (father acquires the Wiener Street in [the German version of] Monopoly

… du you get Wiener/Viennese sausages for free there or is it all full of butchers?

Then tries to determine what kind of word voller is

  • […] Was für einen Kasus hat Klebstoff? Zombies? Metzger?
  • […] Was für eine Phrase kann da sonst stehen?
  • […] Was für eine Wortart hat voller selbst?


  • [In this context] what case do glue, zombies or butchers have?
  • What else are you going to use?
  • Just what type of word if voller itself here?

This goes on for slide after slide, quite mindboggling really.

I’m just going to nitpick, because it’s a quiet Monday at work for a change. I’ll translate without the original German quote to keep this (somewhat) short.

There is one theory of the history of the word and how it developed out of voll:

A common theory derives voller from voll der

This, as a result of sloppy pronunciation and where use of the article seemed misplaced.(Heyse, 1849)

Example: voll der Gnade -> voller Gnade

But that theory seems to be no longer held. Now they call it a

erstarrtes starkes masculines Adjektiv


a crystallised strong masculine adjective

Really! That’s what it says!

Which puts it in the same category as word like selber and halber.

What case is it and what case is it used with?

They don’t know:

It’s not genitive: eine Flasche voller Wein

It’s not dative: eine Stadt voller Kinder

Leaving accusative or nominative. Except sometimes you don’t know.

There’s some quotes from people on German-English forums asking questions (not Stackexchange though ;)), essentially the same as yours:

Q: Is it correct to write Eine Badewanne voller warmen Wassers?

A: Not sure, I’d write Eine Badewanne voll mit warmem Wasser, but without the article I’d write Eine Badewanne voller Wasser.

There’s even suggestions that voller is wrong and should always be avoided in favour of voll. So instead of

Das Fass ist voller Wein.


Das Fass ist voll.

Das Fass ist voll mit Wein.

Das Fass ist voll Weines.

I got to about slide 20-something (and that cherry-picking) out of 40, before I went “you’ve got to be kidding me!”

So, here’s the author’s summary

voller is

a unique

dependent on a network of other constructions

  • @Jan kannst du bitte erklären, wieso du It's mit It's und That's mit That's korrigierst? Und author's mit author's, usw, usw. ist etwas nervig.
    – user21173
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 10:44
  • Siehe Meta. Aber gut, mache ich um deine Posts in Zukunft auch einen Bogen. War nicht böse gemeint.
    – Jan
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 11:09

I like your explanation but it is reversed then:

Die Straßen lagen voller Schnee. — The roads have been full of snow. (more 3D wise, there are hills of snow)

Die Straßen lagen voll Schnee. — The roads are covered all over with snow. (everywhere is snow)


No, there is no semantic difference between the two sentences - It is rather a syntactic one.

voller is (maybe? or maybe evolving to?) a preposition, voll is an adjective. The former has evolved from the latter over time - voll used to be ruling the genitive (e.g. „Himmel und Erde sind seiner Ehre voll.“ in Bach's lyrics), in contemporary language both voll and voller can take both nominative and genitive (Although dictionaries seem to differ in opinion on this, Duden says "can take genitive or dative", while Wiktionary says something different).

  • 1
    The word »voll« in »Die Straßen lagen voll Schnee« is also a preposition it is not an adjective! In your quote from Bach »voll« is an adjective. But in the snow-example it is used in a different way. See de.wiktionary.org/wiki/voll#Pr.C3.A4position.2C_Postposition and de.wiktionary.org/wiki/voller Commented May 5, 2016 at 10:54
  • Duden (that you like to quote in other places as ultimate truth) disagrees with you here. voll is definitively a corner case that doesn't really agree with being categorized.
    – tofro
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 11:04

The word »voller« can be the comparative of the adjective »voll«:

voll - voller - am vollsten
full - fuller - fullest

But this is not how it is used here. Here it is just a variation of the preposition »voll«. Just a synonym with no other meaning.

If you want to know it more in detail, here is a 40 pages long presentation upon the word »voller«: Zur Wortart und Kasusrektion des Wortes voller

  • 1. I do not quite get how mentioning the comparative helps with the answer. 2. Duden does not agree with you that voll is a preposition and 3. the rest of your answer is a link to a non-answer.
    – tofro
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 11:08
  • ad1: It shows that »voll« can be an adjective, in contrast to the usage as preposition in the example. ad 2: »Ich glaube mal wieder, dass der Duden hier falsch liegt.« Hm. Where did I read this quote? More important: Who wrote it? ad 3: The question was about the word »voller«, and I linked to a very elaborate paper about this word. Commented May 5, 2016 at 13:33

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