I'm really new to learning Deutsch. I'm trying to understand the grammatical logic so to speak behind the "construct"

Willst du was trinken?

  1. Aren't only closed questions supposed to have the verb in the beginning? Why is willst in the beginning here?
  2. What is the reason behind was here?
  3. Is it correct to say or perhaps what is the difference between that and Welche Getränke möchten Sie?
  • 2
    Sorry, I don't see what can be unclear here... In a question the verb is is usually in the first position... Willst = 2. person singular. Why? Because of "du" that is the subject... And the question IS closed as it asks for IF the other person wants to drink something, not WHAT they want to drink. The correct answer would be: "Ja bitte" or "Nein Danke". And "...möchten Sie" is the more formal approach... that would be: "Wollen Sie (et)was trinken?" in the first way of asking...
    – Tode
    Sep 10, 2020 at 16:55
  • 5
    Torst Link, you miss the entire point of the question. Sep 10, 2020 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


Willst du was trinken?
Do you want something to drink?

The sentence you gave is in fact a yes-no question (I assume that is what you mean by closed question). That is the reason why the verb is in first position.

In the given case, was is not a question word (interrogative pronoun) but an indefinite pronoun with the same meaning as etwas. Note that wer, usually an interrogative pronoun, has a similar indefinite use, at least in spoken German:

Hat wer (=jemand) für mich angerufen?
Did someone try to call me?

As opposed to the given sentence,

Welche Getränke möchten Sie?
Which drinks would you like?

is of course a wh-question with the verb in second position and a wh-word in first position.

  • 1
    To reduce confusion for a language learner, I'd suggest writing "Hat wer ( = irgendwer)" instead of "=jemand"
    – Arsak
    Sep 10, 2020 at 17:16
  • 3
    I did miss the meaning of the question "Do you want something to drink" not "What do you want to drink". But I had no idea about the 'was' job in that sentence. That indeed made the whole sentence clear for me. Thank you very much.
    – Rickless
    Sep 10, 2020 at 17:45
  • 3
    @Arsak To me, irgend- introduces extra emphasis. Therefore, jemand is a better paraphrase for wer than irgendwer. The latter would go with irgendjemand. (Historically, wer belongs to etwer just as was belongs to etwas.)
    – David Vogt
    Sep 10, 2020 at 17:50
  • 2
    @BruceWayne Was is not considered to be derived from etwas. Using an interrogative pronoun as an indefinite pronoun is nothing unusual. In fact, indefinite was has its own dictionary entry; for others, the indefinite use is listed under the entry of the interrogative, e.g. wo. (Actually, DWDS lists the indefinite use of was under the entry for the interrogative pronoun as well: was.)
    – David Vogt
    Sep 11, 2020 at 20:09
  • 1
    Despite being a yes-no-question, a typical answer will often supply a proposal as in Ja, ein Mineralwasser wäre nett.
    – guidot
    Sep 15, 2020 at 9:18

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