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What does laufen mean in the following context:

Also, mit ein Meter sechsundsiebzig ist es nicht so einfach. Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.

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There are other meanings as well: “Was läuft im Fersehen?” – “What's on TV?” I'm to tired to examine the usage of “laufen”. But one can always consult the dictionary. The way it's used in the sentence of your concern can be literally translated to “There are many such little men walking around.” without losing meaning. It actually suggests that they are indeed walking. –  k.stm Oct 12 '12 at 22:48
    
Sorry, it should be: “There are so many little men walking around.” – or maybe “small men”, my English isn't that good. It's also covered by this entry. I'll make that into an answer as well. –  k.stm Oct 12 '12 at 22:56
    
Wie kommst Du auf die Idee "laufen" müsse da etwas anderes als "walking and running" bedeuten? –  user unknown Oct 13 '12 at 2:24
    
Related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/3723/… –  StrixVaria Oct 16 '12 at 18:08
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In that particular context,

Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.

means something like:

There are a lot of small men here.

Couldn't find any reference to support this though. So you will have to trust a German ;)

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Actually, rumlaufen is referring to to run or to walk, so the very first definition of laufen that comes to one's mind. They're not standing, sitting, jumping. They're running and moving in an indefinite and random direction. However, you're right that the nuance in the sentence is to indicate the existence of those men. –  Em1 Oct 12 '12 at 14:59
    
@Em1 Indeed, thanks for the addition. –  Baz Oct 12 '12 at 15:01
    
I couldn't find any useful explanation online, so I decided to trust Germans by asking the question here! =) Thank you for your answer. –  Gigili Oct 12 '12 at 15:01
    
You fine sir get a trust point from me. To improve your trustiness you know. May it help all trusting questioners. –  musiKk Oct 12 '12 at 23:11
    
Bitte lies meinen Kommentar zu Xand, den ich hier nicht wiederholen mag. –  user unknown Oct 13 '12 at 2:22
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(Repeating my comment.) I'm not a refined speaker of English, so maybe people might disagree:

In my opinion, it can indeed be translated very literally by “There are so many little men walking around.” – The sentence “Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.” says that there are men nearby, probably in one's field of vision, and also suggests that they are walking. This meaning is also covered here. (Keeping in mind that “rumlaufen” is short and colloquial for “herumlaufen”.)

The following is very overinterpreting, but should give some feeling about the usage of this word in your sentence:

I feel this particular sentence uses the word “herumlaufen” to describe that there is something going on, people are moving, maybe preparing themselves for something. Possibly there's some kind of event lying ahead like a talent show, a concert or some sort of tournament for which those men have to prepare themselves which is why they walk around: to gather their stuff. More generally it describes a situation at some place: you see little men at place who walk around. I hope this gives you some feeling of how the word is used in that sentence.

Since you asked for alternative meanings of “laufen” other than “walk” and “run” – there are many. For example it's common to say “Es läuft.” to express “It's working.” or “Was läuft im Fernsehen?” for “What's on TV?”. In the sentence you have given, it's very close to its original meaning “walking” as explained above.

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An addendum: If one wants to capture the abstract motion expressed by the verb “laufen” which underlies and explains all of its meanings, I'd say it would be to fluently follow a (maybe predetermined) path step-by-step as in “Die Zeit läuft.” – almost flowing. This is a very subjective impression, though. I wonder who agrees. –  k.stm Oct 13 '12 at 8:10
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As the original question is What does “laufen” mean other than walking and running? Even though the question's description provides a more precise context, I'd like to add some other (more colloquial) meanings:

Was läuft denn hier?
What's going on here?

Was läuft heute abend im Fernsehen?
What's on TV tonight?

Meine Prüfung ist nicht gut gelaufen...
My test didn't go well...

Das Rennen ist so gut wie gelaufen.
The race is almost over.

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Also, mit ein Meter sechsundsiebzig ist es nicht so einfach. Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.

The translation would be:

"Well, its not that easy with a body height of 1m 76 cm . Here are so many small men.

The word "laufen .... rum" means existing in that context or like Baz said "There are a lot of small men here"

Greetings from Germany ;)

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In einem Altersheim in dem die Leute nicht nur meist sitzen, sondern auch im Rollstuhl sitzen, würde man sicher nicht "laufen rum" sagen, um die Existenz zu beschreiben. –  user unknown Oct 13 '12 at 2:19
    
@userunknown Schon richtig. Aber in einem Altersheim würde man gar nicht "laufen herum" sagen. Die Aussage beider Antworten war: Wenn "laufen herum" benutzt wird, dann soll es i.A. die Existenz bestätigen, nicht anders herum... Deshalb denke ich sind die beiden Downvotes doch recht unberechtigt. –  Baz Oct 13 '12 at 6:06
    
@user_unknown bitte beachte den Kontext in dem diese Phrase benutzt wurde –  Xand Oct 13 '12 at 7:01
    
@Baz: Was meinst Du mit "nicht anders herum"? Meine Aussage ist, dass "laufen herum" eine Bewegung zwingend vorraussetzt. Dass diese die Existenz impliziert versteht sich wohl von selbst. "Sitzen herum" bestätigt auch die Existenz, aber bedeutet eben etwas anderes. "Here are so many mushrooms" kann nicht mit "Hier laufen viele Pilze herum" übersetzt werden. Die Antwort ist schlicht falsch. –  user unknown Oct 13 '12 at 14:42
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@userunknown ""Here are so many mushrooms" kann nicht mit "Hier laufen viele Pilze herum" übersetzt werden". Natürlich nicht, das hat ja auch niemand behauptet. Die Aussage war, dass man "Hier laufen viele Leute rum" mit "There are many people here" übersetzen kann (was nicht automatisch die Gegenrichtung impliziert). Du würdest dies ja wohl nicht mit "There are many people running around" übersetzen, oder? –  Baz Oct 13 '12 at 17:13
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Laufen can refer to walking or running, but in a broader sense, it can be translated to "go" or to "move."

"Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum." Here GO so many small men. (They're in the way.)

"Was läuft im Fernsehen?" What's "going" (showing) on TV?

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