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Consider sentences of the form (correct me if I've got them wrong):

Mir ist langweilig / Es ist mir langweilig.

Dem Mann ist kalt / Es ist dem Mann kalt.

It's important not to use the nominative form (ich) for these pronouns as that would change the meaning of the sentences completely.

But what if the nouns in question are proper nouns / nouns without articles (which don't have any case markers)? How would it look then?

I did find the adjective gelangweilt that presumably could be used with a nominative noun, but I don't want to "cop out" and rephrase.

How would I indicate the dative case of a proper noun in this case without rephrasing (e.g. zu / nach John ist es langweilig)? Also, how does German solve such problems in the general case?

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John ist gelangweilt and John friert [es] are the better, unambiguous alternatives to John ist langweilig and John ist kalt. Some dialects allow articles before some kinds of proper names, as in dem John ist langweilig and dem John ist kalt. Also, es ist mir langweilig and es ist dem Mann kalt are unidiomatic. –  Crissov Jun 29 at 22:15
    
@Crissov: Very interesting; please post that as an answer! –  Ani Jun 30 at 1:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

John ist gelangweilt and John friert (dialectal: John friert es) are better, unambiguous alternatives to John ist langweilig (‘boring’ ./. ‘bored’) and John ist kalt (‘cold’ ./. ‘freezing’).

Some dialects, e.g. Ripuarian, allow articles before certain kinds of proper names, as in dem John ist langweilig and dem John ist kalt. Elsewhere, this sounds very wrong.

Also, the es in es ist mir langweilig and es ist dem Mann kalt is unidiomatic, although you could say Lesen ist mir zu langweilig or das Eis ist dem Mann zu kalt and substitute the pronoun as in ich habe das Buch nicht fertiggelesen, es ist mir zu langweilig and das Eis kommt direkt aus der Gefriertruhe, es ist dem Mann zu kalt.

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But what if the nouns in question are proper nouns / nouns without articles (which don't have any case markers)? How would it look then?

Do you mean something like Peter ist langweilig?

Yes, this is ambiguous, meaning you'll have to decide from context whether Peter is bored or boring.

Also, how does German solve such problems in the general case?

Why, context of course.

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John ist langweilig seems to be used differently. I've never encountered that sentence with the meaning of "He's bored", but only in the sense of "He's boring".
In other German-speaking parts, however, it seems to be valid to mean both; particularly in regions where they also use the word fad, meaning langweilig. So we're talking about Southern Germany and Austria here.

So, to be on the safe side, I'd recommend to change it a bit:

John ist gelangweilt.
John ist's langweilig.

Both are possible. The former certainly is more common, but I wouldn't dismiss the second one.

Regarding kalt, I'd say

John hat kalt.

but this is also restricted to certain regions. That said, I've found some statements on the Internet that this phrasing is even used in Switzerland, so it seems to be quite widespread.

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So from your second example, can I take it that "Es ist John langweilig" is also acceptable and means he is bored? Also, is a construction with zu or nach possible with langweilig to suggest boredom? –  Ani Jun 30 at 8:04
    
"Es ist John langweilig" sounds very odd. Not sure if anyone would say it like that, but I'd go with "John ist es langweilig" only. – Frankly speaking I don't unerstand the "zu"/"nach" question. However, if you'd say "Nach John ist es langweilig" it would mean "According to John, it's boring". –  Em1 Jun 30 at 8:07
    
[I]n theory [John ist langweilig] could mean that he's bored, but that's not the way it is used. Says who? It's definitely used in everyday speech, particularly with the colloquial expression "fad", which otherwise behaves identical to "langweilig". –  Ingmar Jun 30 at 8:30
    
@Ingmar Then this is regional thing. Never heard it with that other meaning. Furthermore, "fad" is a word I hear very rarely. –  Em1 Jun 30 at 11:46
    
It's frequently used down here. Yes, I am from Austria. –  Ingmar Jun 30 at 12:09

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