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I would like to know why the German speakers say von Leuten and not von den Leuten. Other examples: an Wochentagen, an Wochenenden.

When do you use the article von den X and when you do not use the article von X? Is there any rule for this?

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This refers to definite and indefinite articles.

von den Leuten is used when you are referring to some definite, specific people.

"Von wem hast du die Blumen bekommen?" - "Von den Leuten, die über uns wohnen"

von Leuten is used when you are referring to some arbitrary people or "people" in general.

"Von wem weisst du das?" - "Von (irgendwelchen) Leuten, denen ich auf der Strasse begegnet bin".

Rule of thumb: If you can use "irgendwelche" or "alle" as attribute, you don't use the article.

Same with "Wochentagen"

An den Wochentagen, die mit "M" anfangen, esse ich Fisch

Where we are referring to specific weekdays

vs.

An Wochentagen essen wir keinen Fisch

refers to arbitrary or all weekdays.

  • But you can also say an Wochentagen, die mit "M" anfangen, esse ich Fisch? – Thorsten Dittmar Apr 11 '16 at 11:14
  • You can, but it is saying something different. – tofro Apr 11 '16 at 18:40
  • In that case the meaning is the same: on all weekdays that start with an M you eat fish. The fact they start with an M makes both variants equally specific. – Thorsten Dittmar Apr 11 '16 at 18:43
  • I'm not with you on this. Could be one, could be some, could be all of the Weekdays with "M". an den Wochentagen, die mit "M" anfangen... is always all of them. That is quite a bit more specific. – tofro Apr 11 '16 at 19:42
  • An Wochentagen, die mit "M" anfangen... means On any given weekday that starts with an "M"... while An den Wochentangen, die ... means On all of the weekdays.... This describes two equal sets of weekdays, if you want to use mathematical terms :-) You are correct about the article in your other examples and you are correct about An den Wochentagen, die mit "M" anfangen... being different from An Wochentagen essen wir .... – Thorsten Dittmar Apr 12 '16 at 6:40
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German has, same as English, three kinds of articles:
(all examples in nominative case)

  • definite articles

    • In English:

      Singular: the
      Plural: the

    • In German:

      Singular (male, female, neuter): der, die, das
      Plural: die

  • indefinite articles

    • In English:

      Singular: a, an
      (there is no plural indefinite article)

    • In German:

      Singular (male, female, neuter): ein, eine, ein
      (there is no plural indefinite article)

  • null articles

    • in all Languages:

      »null-article« is the name for an article, that consists of zero letters, like the article before »John« in the sentence:
      »John is eating.«
      (Compare with »The man is eating.« and »A girl is eating.«

The German word »Leute« is a pluraletantum, which means, it exists only as a plural, there is no singular for »Leute«. And since there is no indefinite plural article in German, you can use »Leute« only with a definite article or with the null-article. A different way to think about this (but with the same result) is to say, that the indefinite plural article is the null-article. But this discussion is very academic and in practice makes no difference.

In German we have four cases, and each case has its own definite article (examples in plural here):

  • Nominativ:

    Die Leute schlafen.

  • Genitiv:

    Die Autos der Leute stehen auf der Straße.

  • Dativ:

    Der Lärm kommt von den Leuten.

  • Akkusativ:

    Ich sehe die Leute.

As in Englisch, you use the definite article, if you mean a certain group of people. If you talk about just any people, you can't use the definite article. But since there is no indefinite plural article, you have to use the null-article. Genitive case is an exception. Here you have to use the definite article der even if you don't mean a certain group of people, but just any people:

  • Nominativ:

    Leute schlafen jetzt.

  • Genitiv:

    Die Autos der Leute stehen auf der Straße.

  • Dativ:

    Der Lärm kommt von Leuten.

  • Akkusativ:

    Ich sehe Leute.

Use the same pattern for »Wochenenden« and »Wochentage«. If you mean the next and the following weekend, then use the definite article. If you talk about any weekends, use null-article:

An den vier Wochenenden im Februar nehme ich an einem Seminar teil.
An Wochenenden bin ich meist zu Hause.

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