Today in my German class, we were working on the passive voice. We practiced using it by changing active sentences into passive ones, and vice versa. This was one of our practice sentences:
Die Heizung war nicht abgestellt worden.
In order to put it in active voice, I created this sentence:
Niemand hatte die Heizung abgestellt.
Perhaps I was operating under the influence of English, but my teacher told me that this (although grammatically correct) was not an accurate rewrite of the first sentence. She insisted that we write this:
Man hatte die Heizung nicht abgestellt.
I don’t know if it’s because English doesn’t really have a similar sentence structure for this last sentence, but I don’t see the big difference between the two. Well, I don’t think there is a big difference. But I don’t even see the tiny difference. When you’re talking in the past tense like this, how is man different from jemand/niemand? Can somebody help me out here?
3 thoughts on “German Grammar Question: Man v. Jemand/Niemand”
“Niemand” means “no one” and “man” is still more neutral. More like a passive energy. While “niemand” ist definitely a human someone.
I would translate your phrase to “No one switched of the heating.” While I would translate the teachers version with “The heating wasn’t switched of”.
(I’m not a pro, just a native speaker)
Thanks! I’m sadly not fluent but learned more German after writing this post and I can see the difference the way you describe it now. It’s interesting how our linguistic intuition grows over time!
Absolutely. Since I started looking all TV shows and movies in English I developed much more of what you call linguistic intuition :-). And I understand accents 🙂 (not Scottish or anything complicated :-))