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Today I came across a sentence in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in which German preposition an is used in the sense of about/approximately:

Allein seit 2007 gab die amerikanische Regierung an die hundert Millionen Dollar für eine nachhaltige Dekontaminierung solcher Hot Spots aus.

Would using an in this sense in a conversation sound weird to a native German speaker? For instance, in a sentence like this:

Ich habe an die hundert Euro.

I know that more common German equivalents of about/approximately are ungefähr, etwa, rund, circa.

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    No, "an die hundert Euro" sounds perfectly valid. But it doesn't mean "approximately", it means "almost", "a bit less than". You may have 98 Euros or something then but not 100 and no more than 100. – PerlDuck Aug 22 '16 at 14:31
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Yes, that is valid usage of the preposition an and it does not sound weird. It is by no means limited to colloquial speech.

However note, as Perl Dog commented, that an die (Betrag) does not mean approximately but rather just under.

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There are some German words to express that a given amount is not that exact amount:

  • fast, beinahe, an die = a bit less than, almost

    Ich habe fast 200 EUR im Lotto gewonnen. -- I won almost 200 EUR (actually I won 198,46).

    (Beware: depending on context this could also mean "I almost won 200 EUR" (because I only had two winning numbers, not three).)

  • ungefähr, etwa, rund, circa = about, approximately

    Ein Liter Milch wiegt ungefähr ein Kilogramm. -- One litre milk approximately weighs one kilogram. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit lesser.

  • gut = a bit more than

    Kartoffeln zu kochen, dauert gut 20 Minuten. -- Cooking potatoes takes approximately (but a bit more than) 20 minutes, say 25.

  • gut und gerne = approximately, but probably and likely more than

    Es dauert gut und gerne zwei Tage, einen neuen Computer einzurichten. -- It takes approximately two days to set up a new computer, but is likely to take three days. It often takes more than two days.

Recently the term "roundabout" is often heard of in German langauge. ("Das Auto kostet roundabout 14.000 EUR.") It is used in the same manner as "ungefähr" ("around") but some people argue that a roundabout has actually (and only!) to do with road traffic and describes a circular road (as opposed to a crossing or junction).

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Literally translated it would mean almost reaching. So an die 100 Euro means almost reaching 100 Euro.

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