"Buying something" is just to put it in a special context so it's easy for you to think back.

I'm new to German so it's quite struggling for me to buy something in terms of specifying the quantity. For example, I would say, as translated from English:

Eine Flasche Wasser bitte.

instead of just

Wasser bitte.

because it sounds kind of awkward when you think in English term, normally we ask for "a bottle of water" rather than just "I wanna buy (some) water". But then, the former way sounds kind of long and I'm not sure if native speakers bother to say that many syllables.

Same thing for buying cigarette in the Supermarket for example, how do you say it naturally? I would normally say

Und ich kaufe gern eine Schachtel Zigaretten

But it sounds kind of long again, I've seen native speakers mumbling something very brief and the Kassiererin still managed to understand lol.

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    "that many syllables" - somehow, when I count syllables in "a bottle of water", I arrive at six (unless I make sure to speak really sloppily, swallowing the end of bottle and water), which is the same as in "eine Flasche Wasser". – O. R. Mapper Dec 13 '16 at 13:00
  • I think what you heard at the supermarket was Und eine/einmal Marlboro/Camel/Gauloises etc., bitte which literally translates into And one Marlboro/Camel/Gauloises please. Of course a package, not a single cigarette nor a carton. – Janka Dec 14 '16 at 6:49
  • German is an extensive language. If you translate anything form most other languages into German, then the German version is almost always longer then the original text. This strongly depends on the other language. But if you compare English and German, you will find, that the German version of the same text is significant longer than the English version. (In average 10-20% longer, but for short texts the German version can even have more than the double length) – Hubert Schölnast Dec 14 '16 at 8:32
  • Its ok to say "ein Wasser bitte" or "eine Flasche Wasser bitte". – Iris Dec 14 '16 at 10:00
  • In your example Wasser bitte you can ommit the quantifier if it is a well known default. For example if a restaurant offers only a glass of water then you can use it when asked for a drink. If several different quantities are sold or purchasing of multiple items is common that you at least specify the quantity but also often the quantifier. – Adwaenyth Dec 15 '16 at 10:54

These are not at all long for a native German. Any of these are fine depending on circumstances. If you want to use the last sentence when buying cigarettes in a shop you would say:

Ich hätte gern eine Schachtel Zigaretten.

, otherwise the way you wrote it, you'd inform somebody that you enjoy buying a package of cigarettes (e.g. after somebody asked you to do so).

Now, what would a native say? In a restaurant if you order just Wasser, you'd get a glass of water. So if you want a bottle of water you have to specify that.

Eine Flasche Wasser bitte.

is perfectly fine, but likely you also want to specify mit/ohne Kohlensäure (stilles).

I don't smoke, but from what I saw/heard, people would usually use the brand name to refer to a package of cigarettes. So you could say:

Eine Schachtel [brand name] bitte.


German is more formal than English, so you use quantifiers in the language more than you would in English. Basically, if there is any available quantifier, use it.

You're on the right track with expressions such as "Eine Flasche Wasser bitte," and " eine Schachtel Zigaretten." Just realize that it is normal German, even though using the equivalents in English might sound "heavy." What would sound strange to German ears if you don't use the quantifiers. Then your German would sound "light" to a native speaker.


The quantifier allows to differentiate between specific and non-specific amounts. If the amount is important, e.g. when shopping, use a quantifier:

Ich kaufe eine Flasche Wasser

I buy one bottle of water (not more, not less)

If you want to make a general statement, that is not related to a specific amount, you do not quantify:

Ich mag Zigaretten

I like cigarettes (in general)

Any further additions (like bitte or gerne in your example) are part of constructions to convey politeness, but not required for the sentence per se.


You would use the quantifier of whatever the product is packed in. For drinks that is typically bottles (unless you’re buying Capri-Sonne or similar, in which case it’s bag), for products sold apiece it’s just a number followed by the word, for those sold by weight it’s their weight (note that in Austria food is weighed in Deka, short for dekagram, rather than in grams), for others it’ll depend on whether they are packed in Packungen, Schachteln, Tüten, Säcken, Sackerln, Körben, Töpfen … Some even have more exotic-seeming quantifiers, e.g. certain brands of margarine for baking are quantified in Stangen.

Eine Flasche Wasser bitte.

This example of your’s is not only perfectly correct but also perfectly idiomatic. Basically, any noun that can describe a package quantity can also be used as a quantifier. Here are a few examples:

Eine Packung Kaugummi

Eine Tüte Chips (that’s crisps in English) (Germany exclusive; Austria uses Packung)

Ein Sackerl Kartoffeln (Austria and Bavaria primarily)

Ein Korb Erdbeeren

Ein Topf Geranien

100 Gramm Fleischwurst (In Austria: 10 Deka)

Zwei Weißwürste

  • 1
    Attention! This depends on the region where you live. In Austria you never use the word »Tüte« (except you are a tourist or immigrant from Germany)! So in Austria it is »eine Packung Chips«, and in Austria you don't buy sliced sausages in »Gramm« but in »Deka« (short for »Dekagramm«; 10 g = 1 dag). So there you don't buy »100 Gramm Wurst« but »Zehn Deka Wurst«. – Hubert Schölnast Dec 14 '16 at 8:42
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    @HubertSchölnast In einer Wiener Trafik wurde ich (Dt.) einmal „Wolln's a Sackerl?“ gefragt. Als ich nicht schnell genug antwortete, schob der Herr ostentativ und auf Hochdeutsch ein „Ob Sie eine Tüte möchten?“ hinterher. Und wir haben beide herzlich gelacht. – PerlDuck Dec 14 '16 at 13:07
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    @PerlDuck: Die meisten Österreicher beherrschen mindestens drei Sprachen. Alle sprechen den jeweiligen lokalen Dialekt, das ist in den meisten Fällen die eigentliche Muttersprache eines Österreichers. Fast alle beherrschen auch österreichisches Hochdeutsch (das sich vielerorts in Grammatik und Vokabular aber erheblich vom Dialekt unterscheidet, diesen Unterschied sollte man nicht unterschätzen). Ein ebenfalls sehr großer Teil kann sich in Notfällen sogar in der Sprache unserer Lieblingsnachbarn (also in deutschem Deutsch) verständlich machen. – Hubert Schölnast Dec 14 '16 at 14:14
  • @HubertSchölnast Fleischwurst (bzw was ich darunter verstehe) wird idR nicht in Scheiben verkauft. Allerdings auch eher nicht in Gramm sondern in Stück. Wird Käse in Österreich auch in Deka verkauft? Ich wollte diese Antwort übrigens nicht regional spezifisch sehen sondern lediglich Begriffe auflisten; dass sie alle in Deutschland aber ggf nicht alle in FL/A/CH/L/BE/Südtirol verwendet werden ist meiner Herkunft geschuldet … – Jan Dec 15 '16 at 1:08
  • @Jan: Den Begriff »Fleischwurst« kenne ich so nicht. (Woraus, wenn nicht aus Fleisch, sollte man denn sonst Würste machen?) In Ö teilt man Würste in zwei Kategorien: A) Frankfurter, Debreziner, Klobasse, Krainer usw.: Das sind kleine Würste (»Würstel«), die man vor dem Verzehr in heißem Wasser ziehen lässt (nicht kochen, sonst platzen die Würstel auf!). Man isst ein Stück oder ein Paar wenn es noch heiß ist, indem man es mit der Hand nimmt und ein Stück davon abbeißt. Dazu Senf und eine Semmel. So ein Würstel hat einen so kleinen Durchmesser, dass es bequem in den Mund eines Kindes passt. – Hubert Schölnast Dec 15 '16 at 12:37

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