Indefinite pronouns – man, alle, viele


Indefinite pronouns refer to persons, things or ideas that are not closely identified. The most commonly used indefinite pronoun is man.

Referring to people in a general sense – man

The pronoun man ‘one’ is used to refer to people/they or you in a general sense. It is mainly used in the nominative, as the subject of a sentence or clause:

Man tut das nicht.
You don’t do that./One does not do that.

Man sagt, dass Paris romantisch ist.
They say that Paris is romantic.

Occasionally, man can also appear as a direct or indirect object. Its accusative and dative forms are einen and einem:

Acc. → Manche Ärzte behandeln einen wie ein Kind.
Some doctors treat you/people like children.

Dat. → Was sie einem alles verkaufen wollen!
The things they try to sell you/people!

Referring to groups of people – alle, viele

The pronouns alle ‘all, everyone’ and viele ‘many’ are normally used to refer to a group of people:.

Nom. → Alle haben gelacht.
Everyone laughed.

Acc. → Sie mochte alle.
She liked all of them

Acc. → Er redete mit vielen.
He talked to many of them.

Note that alle and viele take the same plural endings as the pronoun dieser.

Referring to things and ideas only – alles, etwas and nichts

Some pronouns in English and German refer to things and ideas only. The most important are alles ‘everything’, etwas ‘something’, nichts ‘nothing’:

Alles war zu teuer.
Everything was too expensive.

Mach doch etwas!
Do something!

Sie glaubt an nichts.
She doesn’t believe in anything.