Site Logo
man / Mann / Mensch / Leute / du


Man is one of the most frequently used pronouns in German, yet English speakers use it rarely. Instead, they often use words like Menschen, Leute, du, etc., to express ideas that really are best expressed with man. MAN is only a NOMINATIVE pronoun: for accusative use einen and einem. The possessive form is sein.
Man sollte darüber nachdenken.
Man muss um sein Aussehen kümmern.
(One must take care of one's appearance)
Plötzlich wird einem ein bisschen Geld gegeben. (Suddenly one is given the money.)

Here are some examples of BAD translations from an English sentence: (Incorrect translations are marked with **)

**Du weißt nie, wen du dort sehen wirst. ("You never know who you'll see there." )
Correct: Man weiß nie, wen man dort sehen. ("One never knows who one will see there.")
(Germans don't use DU or SIE to describe what "people" do)

**Die Leute sollen nicht pessimistisch sein! ("People shouldn't be pessimistic.")
Correct: Man sollte nicht pessimistisch sein! ("One shouldn't be pessimistic.")

**Die Menschen sind mehr als wilde Tiere. ("People are more than wild animals.")
Correct: Der Mensch ist mehr als ein wildes Tier.  ("Man is more than a wild animal.")
When you DO use LEUTE and MENSCHEN, you almost ALWAYS use some type of article or adjective in front of the term:
Wir haben viele Leute auf der Straße gesehen.
Die Leute, die wir kennen gelernt haben, sind reich.
A nice rule of thumb is that if you translating the general term "People" (vs. "the people" or "some people"), you will NOT use either Leute or Menschen, but rather man or der Mensch.

Another reason that the words Leute and Menschen are not used as much in German as their "equivalent" words in English, is that German tends to prefer "adjectival noun" constructions:
**Die armen Leute können sich keinen Privatarzt leisten.
Better: Die Armen können sich keinen Privatarzt leisten.

Der Mann refers ONLY to "the man" (as opposed to the woman or the kid). It never means Mankind in general, although it can refer to MEN in general (as opposed to women or kids).
Der Mann hat mir das Geld genommen. ("The man took my money")
Die Autorin meint, die Frau ist im Allgemeinen kreativer als der Mann.
("The author believes that women are more creative than men." or "The author believes that the woman is more creative than the man"--if she is talking about a specific worman and a specific man).

Copyright © 2017 Will Lehman. All artwork copyright © 2017 Milo Schuman.