In the following sentence:

Die Jeans passt mir nicht, ich brauche eine Größe kleiner.

Why is "klein" not preceding the noun? And why is it not "kleine"?

  • It's not klein but kleiner (the comparative).
    – RHa
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 16:23
  • hah, we have the same clumsy expression in norwegian. A "largeness" smaller. Pretty oxymoronic, literally.
    – Stian
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


The reason why the adjective follows the noun is that the adjective does not modify the noun; rather, the noun phrase eine Größe modifies the the comparative adjective kleiner, specifying by how much something is smaller.

Phrases such as eine Größe are known as accusatives of measurement (Maßakkusativ).

jemanden einen Kopf kürzer machen (redensarten-index.de)

Als ich Abitur gemacht habe, war ich noch einen Zentner leichter.

Ein Blitz schlug einen Kilometer entfernt ein.

The adjective that is modified by the accusative of measurement forms an adjective phrase. In the examples above, this phrase is used adverbially or predicatively and the adjective therefore bears no ending. However, such adjective phrases can also be used attributively, in which case the adjective bears the appropriate ending.

Wie sein einige Jahre älterer Kollege Vladimir Sorokin arbeitet Pelewin am Mythos „Autor“. (taz.de)

Bundeskanzlerin Merkel spricht sich für zehn bis 15 Jahre längere Laufzeiten der Atommeiler aus. (faz.net)


eine Größe kleiner

means the next smaller size.

One could say (same meaning): Ich brauche die nächst kleinere Größe.


eine Größe

is a fix measurement here like one litre or one metre. Kleiner is comparative of klein.

As you can say: Ich brauche einen Liter weniger. (I need one litre less.) you can express the same thing with

Ich brauche [die Hose] eine Größe kleiner.

  • 4
    Maybe it should be noted that you can also say "Ich brauche [die Hose] zwei Größen kleiner." Written like this, it becomes clear that this is something very different from "Ich brauche zwei kleinere Größen." Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 14:10

You might say, "eine Größe kleiner" has an implied comparison ;) It means something like "eine Größe kleiner als die Jeans, die ich gerade anprobiert habe". Because you just referred to those jeans, you don't need to do so again. A "full version" would be

Diese Jeans passt mir nicht. Ich brauche eine Größe kleiner als diese Jeans.

These jeans don't fit. I need one size smaller than these.

Another example of the same principle would be

Dieses Seil ist zu kurz, ich brauche (eines) einen Meter länger.

You assumed that it should have been "eine kleine Größe". This would be grammatically correct, but have a different meaning. "Eine kleine Größe" would just mean "a small size", with no reference to the jeans you're currently trying.

Die Jeans passt mir nicht, ich brauche eine kleine Größe.

These jeans don't fit, I need a small size.

You could also use "eine kleinere Größe", which would have a different meaning again:

Die Jeans passt mir nicht, ich brauche eine kleinere Größe.

These jeans don't fit, I need a smaller size.

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