Dort waren drei Männer.

English Translation

There were three men.

If `dort’ is location specific, should the English equivalent be “There were three men there”?

English Translation

There were three men.

That’s interesting… I kinda feel the same way. My guess is that “Dort” here may be a bit like “Da” and I think the sentence “Da waren drei Männer.”, would could also be translated as “There were 3 men.” (Say, you open a door and you find 3 men standing in room or something). – I’m not a native speaker though, so it really is just a guess :slight_smile:

Edit: could vs. would


“There” has two use cases:

  • In sentences where the verb comes before the subject, you need a dummy (or expletive) pronoun to introduce the subject. “There” serves as that dummy pronoun. It’s called existential “there”. (The other dummy pronoun is “it”, as in “It is under that tree where we first kissed.”)
  • As adverb to describe a location.

You are mixing up the two uses cases.

An example for the first use case, and what you are trying to do:

  • There are three men in my room.

When “there” is used as an adverb, you can change the word order to emphasize different parts.

  • My brother is there.
  • There is my brother.

You are trying to replace the location “in my room” (from the dummy pronoun use case) with “there” (an adverb describing a place), thereby throwing both use cases in the same pot. But once you use “there” as an adverb, you are in the different use case and no longer use or need a dummy pronoun.

This is similar to German, and shows that “da” and “dort” are not always interchangeable.

First use case (dummy pronoun):

  • Es/Da sind drei Männer in meinem Raum.

Second use case (adverb):

  • Dort/Da sind drei Männer.
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Hi David,

I understand the difference between “existential there” and “adverbial there”.

Maybe my example was not the best then… :slight_smile: - What I had in mind actually was very similar to your “There is my brother” example, i.e you open a door and there he is!

Did you want to point out and insist on the fact that in the English translation that is given, “There” is to be understood as an “adverbial there” ?

If so, we agree, but I too thought about adding an extra there “There were three men there”, just because without context “There (adverbial) were three men” is ambiguous.

Wouldn’t you add a there here (or there :))?

Sorry, I should have been clear as to whom I’m replying. I was replying to Judith the entire time. I edited my previous post to make that obvious.


No, I myself wouldn’t.

But I’m neither an English teacher nor a native speaker.

I’d say “There were three men.”

As in “There were three men. And there were three women. And over there were three children. And here was I.” As though you recounted to a police officer how some accident or crime happened.

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It’s annoying that there is no link (as far as I can see) from the discussion back to the original sentence.

I want to compare what DavidCulley is saying with the original AI text (I’m assuming David is correct, but I can’t figure out how to find the original sentence!)

I looked it up for you (I’m afraid there is no convenient way to do this):

“Dort waren drei Männer.” is a German sentence that translates to “There were three men there.” in English. When explaining the sentence to someone learning German, we could break it down as follows:

  1. “Dort” means “there” and refers to a specific location or place.
  2. “waren” is a past tense form of the verb “sein” (to be) and can be translated as “were” in this context. It is conjugated to match the plural noun “Männer” (men).
  3. “drei” is the number “three.” It is an adjective that modifies the noun “Männer.”
  4. “Männer” is the plural form of the noun “Mann” (man) and it means “men.”

So, putting it all together, “Dort waren drei Männer” literally translates to “There were three men.” The sentence structure is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), which is the same as in English for this sentence.

In summary, the sentence tells us that there were three men at a specific location.

Emphasis is mine.

Before you ask, Artificial Intelligence has absolutely zero understanding of what it is saying. You always have to verify what it’s saying. You can’t take it at face value. It’s often very wrong.

I think it all comes down to how common it is to start a sentence with a “locative there” (or any locative adverb for that matter).

I don’t have any data, but I don’t think it’s very common in English, especially not when “there” is immediately followed by the verb “to be”.

Maybe it’s more common in German and If so, I can see why “there” would just sound redundant in “There were three men there”.

Could be, I don’t know, maybe it really is my German thinking shining through :blush:

I’m not an expert on grammar, just a regular guy learning languages for fun who googles what he doesn’t know and occasionally is wrong.

Feel free to have an opinion different from mine :slightly_smiling_face:

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It would be very interesting to hear what people who were actually raised bilingual think about it. I’d be curious to have their take on it anyway…

I’m not either :slight_smile:

Same here. When I read Judith’s comment, I just thought “Good to see I’m not the only one…” - but to be clear, I’m not saying that one translation is right and the other is wrong.

I think languages shape the way we think, the way we see the world really, so I’m always interested in hearing/reading other people’s opinions, even ChatGPT’s :slight_smile:

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You’re not alone :slight_smile: Check out Do you think the language you speak determines the way you think?

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