Lezioni Tedesco


The indefinite pronoun manch

An indefinite pronoun describes an indefinite number of things or people. Words such as "few," "some," "many," and "most" are indefinite pronouns. The German indefinite pronoun manch can be a bit difficult to translate when used as an adjective paired to noun.


The pronoun manch suggests "some" or "a few" things or persons—enough to be significant—but not "many" things or people, which inherently may suggest "most." The indefinite pronoun manch is usually translated as "some" when used in a plural sense:


Manche Menschen sind immer hungrig und werden nie satt.

Some people are always hungry and never get full.

Caption 33, Deutsch mit Eylin: Adjektive und ihre Gegenteile

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Manche Länder bilden auf der Rückseite ihre Königin oder ihren König ab.

Some countries depict their queen or their king on the reverse side.

Caption 7, Sparefroh-TV: Warum sehen die Euromünzen in jedem Land anders aus?

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You run into a problem, however, when you encounter manch used in a singular sense, because the indefinite pronoun "some" can only be used in the plural form in English. If you say "some man," you mean one single man, which is different than "some men." Even if you say, for example, "some person or another," which might at first seem singular because "person" is singular, by adding "or another" you are still referring in plural to two or more people.


If you try to translate the singular version of manch on Google Translate, it translates "some" correctly, but renders the noun and verb less literally as plural. Whereas if you translate the singular version of manch on DeepL, it keeps the noun and verb singular, but instead of using "some," it translates manch as "Many a..." This is problematic, because as we also discussed, manch implies the smaller proportion ("some") of those mentioned, not the larger proportion ("many").


Original German phrase using:
Mancher Finanzminister ist...


Google translation:
Some finance ministers are...


Deepl translation:
Many a finance minister is...


DeepL retains the singular of the noun and verb, but translates manch as "many," suggesting falsely "most" of the finance ministers, rather than "some" or "few," as the original German suggested. Because of the erroneous translation of manch as many, the less literal Google translation is the better compromise. There is actually no way to translate manch in German and retain this literal accuracy with the singular of the noun and verb, since in English, all indefinite pronouns such as "some" (or "a few of..." etc.) require a plural noun and verb.


Notice, in this next example, that Pflanze is singular and uses the singular verb form ist. In both examples, the singular noun and verb in German have had to be translated into the plural in order to get the correct meaning of manch:


Manche Pflanze, wie das flammende Indische Springkraut, ist grad erst bei uns eingewandert.

Some plants, such as the flaming Himalayan balsam, have migrated to our area only recently.

Caption 31, Die letzten Paradiese: Die Schönheit der Alpen

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Mancher Finanzminister der Länder ist der Meinung...

Some state finance ministers are of the opinion...

Caption 15, Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat

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It's a subtle difference, but when somebody with a large audience is making a statement that needs to be precise, such as (soon to be former) German Chancellor Angel Merkel, it can be an important distinction.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and look for videos using manch as an adjective before a noun. Then make up some German sentences using manch with a singular noun and verb, and practice translating them using "some" and changing the noun and verb to plural. Have your teacher or a fellow pupil or student check your work.

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