When making statements generally about a person (no one specific), the indefinite pronoun “man” is often used. It implies that a statement does not refer to a specific individual but rather to an infinite number of people, a community, or even anyone.
Even though “man” refers to a whole group, it is used singularly. The declension of this indefinite pronoun is identical to that of er/sie/es.
In English, there’s no actual translation for this word. You can use “you,” “one,” or even “they/their,” as in “If one wanted to get better, one would have to learn more” where the word “one” could be replaced with “you” as well (Wenn man besser werden will, muss man mehr lernen).
Germans often use that word to criticize politely, making it general, so it doesn’t seem like pointing fingers. For example, “Wenn man immer nur wartet, bis man Hunger hat, isst man oft Fast-Food. Man sollte besser schon vorher Essen zubereiten” means: “If you wait until you’re hungry you tend to eat fast food. You should better prepare food beforehand.”
Making it a general statement is politer because it gives the “you” in the sentence a feeling of “you’re not the only one doing that, I don’t blame you, just saying.”
Man vs. Mann
There’s a huge difference between the impersonal pronoun man and the noun Mann. The word man has one n and is the indefinite pronoun as described above. “Der Mann,” however, is the translation of the English word “the man.”
Note that the German word “man” (= you, one) is NOT pronounced like the English word “man.” “Man” in German is pronounced like /mun/ (similar to “bun”) in English.
5. Viel – Much, Many, A Lot Of
The word “viel” can serve as an adjective, an adverb, or an indefinite pronoun, depending on how it’s being used. The indefinite pronoun “viel” works as a replacement of an article, other pronouns, or determiners.
“Ich sehe die vielen Menschen dort” – I can see all those many people over there.
“Ich habe viel mehr Geld als du” – I’ve got much more money than you.
“Wer schon viel hat, will oft noch mehr” – Someone who has a lot often ends up wanting more.
How to Determine What Does Viel Mean in a Sentence
The indefinite pronoun: “viel” (much) is also followed by uncountable nouns most of the time, and it is not declined.
The adjective: “viel(e)” (many) is followed by countable nouns, and it’s declined.
Ich habe viel Geld / Zeit.
Viele Menschen leben in Städten.
Vieles interessiert mich nicht.
|much / many / a lot of
Ich has a lot of money/time.
The opposite of the indefinite pronoun “viel” is “nothing” – “nichts,” which is also an indefinite pronoun.
Remember that the indefinite pronouns for the first person singular or second person singular, when the sentence starts with “ich bin,” “ich will,” or “sie hat,” are never conjugated.
“Ich will nichts machen” – “I don’t want to do anything.”
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