“Was für ein(e)…?” - What kind of expression is that?!

I was just rewatching episode 6 of “Oh my Italy!” for some cooking inspiration, and while they were talking about how the cooking time might vary, this sentence called my attention:

Ihr kennt das selber, alle je nachdem was für einen Ofen ihr habt, was für ein Fabrikat, was für ein Jahrgang (…)
You know that yourself, it all depends on what kind of oven you have, what make, from what year (…)

If you’ve been watching some of Lingopie’s shows, you’ve probably come across this structure in cases like “Was für ein Tag!” or “Was für ein Auto fahrst du?”.

This “was für ein(e)…” could be translated literally as “what for a…”, which doesn’t make much sense in English :thinking:, but it actually has two meanings.

:point_right:t4: In “Was für ein Tag!”, it’s the equivalent of saying “What a day!”, so it’s used to emphasize the noun that follows, expressing maybe a strong opinion about it.

:point_right:t4: “Was für ein Auto fahrst du?” means “What kind of car do you drive?”, so here it is used to ask about what kind of thing it is being spoken about. This is the meaning it has in the sentence from “Oh my Italy!”.

Fun fact: In Little Red Riding Hood (Rotkäppchen), when she’s asking the wolf-disguised-as-her-granny about the size of their ears, eyes, etc., she asks: “Großmutter, was hast du für große Ohren/Augen/…?“ :wolf:

:bulb: Tip: Although we are taught that the preposition “für” is followed by accusative, that’s not necessarily the case here. Think of it as if the whole “was für ein(e)” was the article, so the case will depend on the verb. For example: “Was ist das für ein Hund?” (Nominative: “What kind of dog is that?”) but “Was hast du für einen Hund?” (Accusative: “What kind of dog do you have?”).

Have you come across this expression? Can you give some more examples? Comment down below! :arrow_down: