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This super German episode begins with Cari asking Janusz

"Wie viel Kaffee trinkst du am Tag?"

I am confused with the use of "am" here. Why not "pro" tag?

3 Answers 3

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Both versions mean about the same, but the subtext is a bit different. "Pro Tag" implies more of a formality, a quota or schedule, an aim than "am Tag". If you say

Ich nehme mir vor, zehntausend Schritte pro Tag zu laufen.

and in the evening you see you only did 9,800 steps so far, you kind of "have to" go on a walk to reach your quota. But if you say

Ich nehme mir vor, zehntausend Schritte am Tag zu laufen.

and you're only at 9,800 steps in the evening, it's okay. You're a little below today, maybe you'll be a little above the target number tomorrow. There's less implied obligation, less exactness.

With regard to coffee, if you said

Ich trinke vier Tassen Kaffee pro Tag.

this would mean that after only three cups you would need to speed up you caffeine intake to reach the level you somehow need ;) But with

Ich trinke (normalerweise) vier Tassen Kaffee am Tag.

the subtext implies more of a habit, an average amount. Maybe you drink a bit less one day, a bit more another day, but on a normal day it's about four cups.

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  • I couldn't stop laughing about having to increase up the caffeine in take thing. Idk what was so funny about Sep 6, 2022 at 12:55
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    Wieder ein Fall des gewollten Hineinfühlens eines Bedeutungsunterschiedes, der in der Realität einfach nicht da ist. Sowohl bei "am Tag" wie auch bei "pro Tag" kann ein mittlerer Wert gemeint sein, als auch ein exakter. Sep 6, 2022 at 14:01
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    Yes, there is just no reason to start speaking Latin to express such a simple thing.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 6, 2022 at 14:09
  • This seems parallel with English, you could ask "How much coffee do you drink in a day?" or "How much coffee do you drink per day?" Both mean about the same thing but the second one seems more like a quota than a preference.
    – RDBury
    Sep 6, 2022 at 15:19
  • @TrystwithFreedom I would highly disagree with this answer, in my opinion in this context there is no difference in saying "pro" or "am". Sep 10, 2022 at 18:08
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There is nothing wrong with "pro Tag", but "am Tag" is also fine. The word "pro" originates in Latin and refers to division in this context, but most people would not think of their coffee consumption as an average (number of cups divided by number of days).

I disagree with the other answer that suggests that "pro Tag" would refer to an intention, it can also refer to data from the past, which obviously can't be changed.

If you want to construct a difference in meaning, "am Tag" would imply that the number of cups is similar most days. If you drink 28 cups on Sunday, but none on the other days of the week, you have 4 cups per day (pro Tag), but you would not call that "am Tag". Of course nobody expects such a pattern for coffee consumption. In fact, if you ask the question with that in mind, "am Tag" is even more appropriate. The answer may be 6 cups on work days, but fewer or none on weekends. If you ask for coffee "pro Tag" and the person is math geek going for the literal meaning, you could get an average instead.

But for practical purposes in everyday usage I would consider both can be used with the same meaning.

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'Pro tag' means 'per day' or you can use "täglich" which is the same meaning.

Sie sollen pro Tag mindestens zwei Stück Obst essen.
Ich trinke pro Tag mindestens zwei Tassen Kaffee.
Kosten: 7 Euro pro Tag.

'Am tag' means roughly 'during the day, everyday or on the day'.

Ich muss am Tag der Abschlussklausur arbeiten.
Denn schließlich beginnt unser Service am Tag der Auslieferung.
Ich musste 10 Stunden am Tag arbeiten.

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