I read:

Ich warte schon 'ne Ewigkeit.

I suspect it means I have been waiting for whole eternity, or something like this. But I do not understand what 'ne means.

2 Answers 2


" 'ne" is the abbreviation for "eine". The apostrophe omits the syllable "ei-". Note that this is a more colloquial writing and should not be used in a formal context.

As asked in the comments by the OP and answered by Eller, JohnDizzle, guidot and AnoE:

This construction does not work for definite articles.

However, it works with other indefinite articles:

  • 'n = ein
  • 'nen = einen
  • 'ner = einer
  • 'nem = einem

But it does not work for "eines" as " 'nes" is not used.

  • 1
    @Wolfgang it definitly works for ein = 'n eg. "Das ist ´n schönes Auto."
    – JohnDizzle
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 9:45
  • 1
    @Wolfgang It does not work with definite articles.
    – Eller
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 10:10
  • 10
    @JohnDizzle: It works withnen for einen, 'n for ein and 'ner for einer the same way, but I never heard 'nes or other forms.
    – guidot
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 11:18
  • 5
    @guidot, works for 'nem as well; not for 'nes probably because der Dativ ist dem Genetiv sein Feind. :-)
    – AnoE
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 11:45
  • 1
    I would not say it does not work with definite articles at all. das can be 's, and ins, aufs, im, vom etc are even part of the literary language. Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 18:56

In regions where the Bavarian dialects are spoken (Bavaria and Austria), you might more often hear in similar settings:

Ich wart' schon a Ewigkeit.

Both, »a« and »*’ne«* are colloquial abbreviations for *»eine**«*, but »’ne« is more common in middle and northern parts of Germany, while »a« has its home in the south.

(Note that there is also another minor change: The trailing e of warte is omitted in the south.)

Also the word »ein« can be shortened:

Standard German: »Gib mir bitte ein Glas Wasser.« (Please give me a glass of water.)
Colloquial, northern version: »Gib mir bitte ’n Glas Wasser.«
Colloquial, southern version: »Gib mir bitte a Glas Wasser.«


Standard German: »Du hast da einen Fleck.« (You have a stain there.)
Colloquial, northern version: »Du hast da ’nen Fleck.«
Colloquial, southern version: »Du hast da an Fleck.«


Standard German: »Er hat ihn mit einem Seil angebunden.« (He tied it with a rope.)
Colloquial, northern version: »Er hat ihn mit ’nem Seil angebunden.«
Colloquial, southern version: »Er hat ihn mit an Seil angebunden.«

(Note, that »einem« doesn't turn to »am« in the south, but also to »an«. Dative and accusative case often are the same in the southern colloquial speech.)


Standard German: »Iss den Reis mit einer Gabel!« (Eat the rice with a fork!)
Colloquial, northern version: »Iss den Reis mit ’ner Gabel!«
Colloquial, southern version: »Iss den Reis mit ana Gabel!«

This doesn't work with definite articles (der, die, das, des, dem, den), and it also doesn't work with the male and neuter genitive indefinite article eines (»Das Kind eines Lehrers« doesn't turn into »Das Kind ’nes Lehrers« in the north, and in the south the genitive is even displaced with dative very often: »Das Kind vom Lehrer«)

Note that all those abbreviations are not part of standard German. They are part of colloquial speech or even of regional dialects. As long as you are not able to speak German without any foreign accent, nobody expects you to actively use such non-standard forms.

But when you talk with native speakers, you might hear such forms, and then you can remember what it means.

It's rather rare to find one of those colloquial non-standard forms in written texts. If so, you might more likely find the northern versions, because they are closer to the standard.

  • 1
    Wouldn’t “Er hat ihn mit einem Seil angebunden” more likely mean “He tied him [up] with a rope” unless there’s an obvious masculine antecedent? Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 20:05
  • 3
    @JanusBahsJacquet: In German pronouns refer to a grammatical gender, not to a biological gender like in English. When I wrote this example, I thought of »ein Ast« (a branch), which is grammatically masculine in German and therefore needs the pronoun »ihn«. But since a branch is not a person, it has to be »it« in English. »Der Ast drohte ganz abzubrechen. Er hat ihn sicherheitshalber mit einem Seil angebunden.« (The branch was on the verge to break off completely. He tied it with a rope for safety's sake.) Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 2:45
  • eines -> von einem, des -> von dem. Nicht nur im Süden.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 10:07
  • Einem turns to am in south-western Bavaria.
    – Jan
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 5:22

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