I was watching the 10th episode of "Extra" and on minute 2:41 they say the phrase "Tiere sind auch nur Menschen"


I translated the phrase on Google Translate and the meaning was

"Animals are people too".....

Then I removed the nur on the phrase and it still meant

"Animals are people too".....

So...what does that nur brings to the table on this phrase??....


The word nur has the same sense as only, in fact auch nur ein Mensch has the same meaning as only human. As in that 80s song by the Human League.

In both languages it denotes that you're subject to foibles and fallibility.

Just like that famous Latin saying, supposedly by Seneca

errare humanum est

meaning, of course

To err is human.

Someone may say

Ich bin auch nur ein Mensch!

which, under pressure on a job and asked to work faster and better may mean I'm only one person, but also I'm not super-human.

When found out to have cheated, for an unfair advantage or in a relationship (as in the above-mentioned song), it may mean I succumbed to temptation.

But in this specific usage, it's a bit of a two-way street: on one hand the meaning as outlined above. Animals are fallible and make mistakes - so you may see that phrase used in some funny animal video.

But it's also a slight jab against humans that they too are just animals and not the supposed crown of creation (Krone der Schöpfung). Or at least I've always taken it to have that hidden connotation.

That's why there are also phrases like (courtesy @Crissov)

Tiere sind die besseren Menschen

which means

Animals are the better humans/people


Frauen sind die besseren Männer


Women are the better men

The point being the somewhat ironic phrasing to link two disjunctive groups.

  • 1
    Irren ist menschlich and Ich bin auch nur ein Mensch are certainly phrases that are related, but I’ve also heard Tiere sind die besseren Menschen, which is similar to Frauen sind die besseren Männer where you compare two groups that are usually considered disjunct. – Crissov May 22 '16 at 11:05
  • @Crissov Indeed, I'd add that, because it's your first example that I had in the back of my mind - but I can't come up whether there is formal name for this form of construct. "Disjunctive constructs"? – user21173 May 22 '16 at 11:51
  • Hmm, I'm using the word ironic wrong, aren't I? I'm worse than Alannis Morisette and her stupid song. :P – user21173 May 22 '16 at 23:25

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