I'm in conversation with a woman colleague. She is lot stressed about work and she is taking a vacation next week. I try to comment in German which I hope should convey this idea:

Very good, one needs a break!

What came out was:

Man braucht eine Pause.

Is this inappropriate?
Is "Frau braucht eine Pause" an acceptable usage? Or does "Eine Pause ist nötig." work here?

  • 1
    not sure if it conveys the idea (probably not entirely) but you can surely use it to refer to women as well. Don't forget your declination though; Man braucht (doch\ja\wohl) eine Pause
    – Ma0
    Aug 17 '17 at 11:35
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    The fact that "man" in German sounds and looks the same as "man" in English shouldn't bother you here. No gender implied.
    – tofro
    Aug 17 '17 at 11:40
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    @Ev.Kounis None of these fillers is required, but we indeed use them a lot. "Man braucht ja (schließlich) auch mal eine Pause." is what I would most likely say as a mostly neutral statement. "Wohl" would shift it towards probability (I assume a break is necessary), "doch" would shift it towards certainty (I'm sure that a break is necessary). ("ja" actually also carries the certainty implication, but slightly less than "doch" to my mind.)
    – Em1
    Aug 17 '17 at 12:04
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    @tofro: In English, man does not always refer to male persons either. Aug 17 '17 at 12:39
  • 6
    Der Mann (the man) and man ('one', indefinite pronoun) are different words.
    – Karlo
    Aug 17 '17 at 13:22

The use of "man" is perfectly fine here. What I would complain is that your sentence sounds somewhat bare or naked. I would definitely insert something like "manchmal":

Man braucht manchmal eine Pause.

This way, you're saying that people sometimes need a break. Without "manchmal", the sentence sounds a bit like "Everyone needs a break right now" to me.

In spoken German, you can abbreviate "manchmal" by "mal":

Man braucht mal eine Pause.

Back to the "man": Your suggestion "Frau brauche eine Pause" is ungrammatical and not acceptable in spoken German. In written German, however, some people would use e.g.

Frau braucht auch mal eine Pause.

Even women need a break sometimes.

(The "auch" corresponds to "Even") If it doesn't occur at the start of a sentence, these people write it lowercase:

..., aber frau braucht auch mal eine Pause.

However, this is not standard German, even though the Duden lists it, saying

"besonders in feministischem Sprachgebrauch, sonst oft scherzhaft für »man«, besonders wenn [ausschließlich] Frauen gemeint sind" (source)

I'd be careful in using "frau". Since it highlights that you are referring to women, it may suggest that what you're saying does not hold for men. So "Frau braucht mal eine Pause" may to some people suggest that man don't, which may be experienced as an offense.

  • 'Man brauche' and 'Frau brauche' were spelling mistakes when I typed the question. I corrected them in the question. I was more concerned about the gender aspect of the whole situation. I see your point about usage of 'Frau' here. I'm still struggling with my habit of translating usages from English. Worse, English is not my first language either. Aug 17 '17 at 13:05

You ask a simple question, but actually step into a somewhat complex area of the German language: feminist linguistics.

Ev Kounis is of course correct with his comment. As in 'Man braucht eine Pause', the word 'man' is gender neutral and has been used since Old High German in the 8th century to mean 'one person' or 'any person'. Still, some feminist linguists and guidelines on language genderism suggest to avoid using the word 'man' due to its similarity and common ethymology with 'Mann', which btw in earlier ages also was a gender neutral term for a human. Some even suggest to use the new creation 'frau' (lowercase f) as a replacement for 'man', when talking about women.

In your case, I would anyway stylistically find 'man braucht eine Pause' too impersonal, since you are addressing a specific person. Replacing your English sentence with 'Very good, you need a break!' would avoid using 'man' and give you 'Sehr gut, du brauchst eine Pause!' (informal) or 'Sehr gut, Sie brauchen eine Pause!' (formal), but then you would have to know wether it is appropriate to address the person informally or formally :)

  • "One needs a brek" carries the same, impersonal tone, doesn't it? Aug 17 '17 at 12:42
  • @userunknown Yes, of course.
    – jarnbjo
    Aug 17 '17 at 12:46
  • @jarnbjo: Thanks for the answer... 'du' is perfectly fine here. It never occurred to me to use the more personal construct 'du brauchst eine Pause!'. . Aug 17 '17 at 12:58
  • 4
    "since you are addressing a specific person" - is that really the case? To me, the impersonal version appears stronger, as it highlights, so-to-speak, a "general right" to take a break, not just a (possibly unjustified) allowance specifically for the colleague. Aug 17 '17 at 20:19

The aspects about using "man" were already addresses in the previous answers.

I want to add some different issue here. While "man" would be perfetly OK for women as well, I would not use it in this situation. Neither for a woman, nor for a man.

I would use this version:

Jeder braucht (irgendwann/zwischendurch/...) einmal eine Pause.

  • 3
    You could tell why you would not use "man" and why you prefer your version.
    – Robert
    Aug 17 '17 at 16:33
  • 2
    I guess that the same people who object against using "man" for a woman would also object against using "jeder" for a woman.
    – Uwe
    Aug 17 '17 at 18:24
  • @Uwe: Obviously, jedermann is the pronoun of choice then ;) Aug 17 '17 at 20:20
  • OK. Then it must be "jeder und jederin" oder "jedermann und jedermännin". ;)
    – Gerhardh
    Aug 17 '17 at 20:26

"Man" and "(Der) Mann" are two entirely different words.

"Man" means "one" in English, in the now-somewhat-antiquated sense of "If one were to drop an object from the top of the Eiffel Tower, how fast would it be travelling at the bottom?" Generally today we would say "you" instead, but remembering the older meaning of "one" prevents confusion with "you" as "the person I am talking to". (As an aside, it should be clear from this that English has regressed here, because an important distinction has now been lost from the English language which makes the language less clear in communicating meaning.) In German it can also somewhat be used instead of "we" when you're speaking on behalf of multiple people, which is the way you're using it there.

"(Der) Mann" means "human male" in English.

Your first alternative is clearly inappropriate, because it is neither required nor grammatically correct, and could even be construed as sexist. (Consider how "Woman needs a break?" would sound in English!) The second alternative is grammatically correct and would be understood, but is a bit clunky.

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