ein Saal voll Menschen

Which of the following does the sentence exactly denote?

  1. a hall which is full of people
  2. a full hall of people, i.e. a crowd of people as many as fill a hall

Apart from the one that is truely denoted by ein Saal voll Menschen, I am wondering how to render the other, which is not denoted by ein Saal voll Menschen, into German?

Remark on suspected duplication:
This post concerns the interpretation of a noun phrase with a postmodifier; the post: Which is grammatically correct: „Der Saal war voll Menschen“ or „Der Saal war voll von Menschen“? concerns the case-government of an adjective as part of a predicate; though being instantiated with similar examples, the two belong to very different topics, one being pragmatic meaning and the other syntax.

  • I have problems to understand the down votes. This is a really good question. Also native speakers don't have the 100% answer. I would clearly prefer i/1, but can imagine some cases where I would use it as ii/2.
    – Clijsters
    May 6, 2016 at 21:07

3 Answers 3


I hope I got your question right, your point is not exactly clear.

Assuming that:

Your cases are indistinguishable without further context.

"Ein Glas voll Milch" can either target at the glass (as a measure for milk) or the milk (as the content measured).

In English, you would distinguish the cases by talking either of a

Roomful of people

or a

room, full of people

In German, there are only some of such measures acknowledged as "real" words like in

Eine Handvoll Dollars

For a room, you'd need to evade for example into a relative clause, or use a comma and "voller", like in the second English example, to get at least closer to distinction.

Ein Raum, voller Leute


I also strongly vote for correspondence to (i).

The second question as many people, as would fill a hall is in my opinion very difficult, no matter, in which language, since a hall is no standard size, and a hall in a school is several orders of magnitude smaller than a hall in a convention center. I would always resort to numbers instead, like

mehrere Hundert/Tausend Leute


Ein Saal voll Menschen is a hall which is full of people.

If you want to denote the number of people that fit into a hall that would be

ein Saalvoll Menschen

That is not exactly standard but will probably be understood. Otherwise, you always have the possibility of adding a subordinate clause:

So viele Menschen, dass ein Saal davon voll werden könnte.

So viele Menschen, wie in einen Saal passen.


  • Thanks for your answer; so, by the same token, ,,ein Korb frischer Eier'' means 'a basket which is full of fresh eggs' instead of 'as many eggs as fill a basket', right?
    – Lynnyo
    May 6, 2016 at 0:40
  • the following example from Duden seems to disagree with Your way of interpretation in this case: ,,einen Teller voll (Suppe) essen'', where ,,Suppe'' may be optionally omitted; considering the context, ,,einen Teller voll Suppe'' should denote 'a plateful of soup' instead of 'a plate which is full of soup'; Is it as what tofro maintains that the interpretation is grounded upon a general consensus as to what notions (Glas, Handvoll, etc.) are eligible for quantifying interpretation while others should still be interpreted strictly in the literal sense (such as ,,ein Saal von Menschen'') ?
    – Lynnyo
    May 6, 2016 at 2:25
  • @Lynnyo I was thinking about this on the bus trip home. I came to the conclusion that my previous comment was wrong. The plate full of soup and the hall full of people essentially work identically. English thinks differently and thus uses a different structure. And you can omit the Menschen in ein Saal voll Menschen, too, if it is clear from context. Ein Tellervoll Suppe would be the plateful, but that is not used as often.
    – Jan
    May 7, 2016 at 0:14
  • Thanks for your reply; I re-considered my question : since ''a plate of soup'' corresponds to ,,ein Teller Suppe'', could ''a full plate of soup'' ( = a plateful of soup ) be rendered as ,, ein voller Teller Suppe'', where ,,voll'' modifies ,,Teller'' as an ordinary attributive adjective? (I'm not sure whether this translation conforms to German idiom)
    – Lynnyo
    May 13, 2016 at 10:58
  • @Lynnyo Yes, that would work that way. It would be uncommon but not necessarily strange.
    – Jan
    May 13, 2016 at 10:59

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