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I’ve seen these examples:

Was kostet eine Fahrkarte nach …?

Wie viel kostet es bis zum/zur/nach …?

Wieviel kostet ein Einzelzimmer/Doppelzimmer?

In all cases the interrogative translates to how much. What is the difference (if any) between their meanings in each phrase, or are there any other differences?

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First of all: Since the German orthography reform of 1996 "wieviel" is out of the question. You will find it in older texts, but since then you have to write it as "wie viel".

So it's was kostet versus wie viel kostet.

Fortunately, when asking for a price, there is nearly no difference and you can use both interchangeably 99 % of the time, but in everyday language it is more common to say "was kostet".

What are the differences?

Wie viel kostet – required amount

Was kostet – type of consideration


"Wie viel" always asks for a specific amount, e.g.,

Wie viel kostet die Fahrkarte? – 3,50 €

Wie viel kostet uns die Umweltverschmutzung? – xxx Milliarden Euro pro Jahr.

Wie viel kostet uns die Umweltverschmutzung? – xxx Tote pro Jahr.


"Was kostet" may ask for everything and can be used for more abstract questions, e.g.,

Was kostet die Fahrkarte? – 3,50 €.

Was kostet ein Pakt mit dem Teufel? – Deine Seele.

Was kostet uns die Umweltverschmutzung? – xxx Milliarden Euro pro Jahr.

Was kostet uns die Umweltverschmutzung? – Unsere Gesundheit.

  • I would say: if "wie viel" is asked, the unit seems to be clear, so "wie viel kostet die Fahrkarte" could be answered "3,50" instead of "3,50 €". As you point out "was kostet" is everyday common language, the "3,50" is used here and for everyday do fit much better here - language loves its inconsistencies^^ – Shegit Brahm Mar 18 at 15:20
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The semantic difference between "Was kostet ..." and "Wieviel kostet ..." is, although probably unreflected by the persons that use it, that the first one could be answered by e.g. "Sie kostet Geld" while the latter aims towards a more quantitative reply.

  • Welcome to German SE. Insulting someone that is posting a question is out of scope of this site. Please consider editing your answer to keep only the part that is relevant for the question. – Shegit Brahm Mar 17 at 21:01
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    @ShegitBrahm: I fail to see how this insults the asker (or anybody else). “unreflected by those posting these questions” is referring to those using “wie viel”, “was kostet”, etc. – Wrzlprmft Mar 18 at 9:20
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    @Wrzlprmft it says clearly posting not using or asking these questions. I flagged this answer as rude but the flag was declined. – Olafant Mar 18 at 10:34
  • @Wrzlprmft: my understanding of the here posted answer does not refer to "the people of the context that want to know the price" - because these people are unmentioned/ no context is given. So if I would cut anything I find insulting, the result: "...difference between ... is, that the first one could be answered by e.g...." – Shegit Brahm Mar 18 at 12:39
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    @Iris your edit is just fine as it takes out much of the heat that this misunderstanding unfortunately created. Thank you for this. They can be gender neutral but this would not lead to a plural for "question". – Takkat Mar 19 at 19:53

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