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I have just heard on Deutschlandfunk:

es gibt eben Menschen, die ...

Does this mean:

  • There are even people, who ...
  • There are just people, who ...
  • There are also people, who ...

Being english, there are subtle differences in meaning between those three alternatives! Can a German please tell me which one it most appropriates to. Danke!

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13

In this context, the appropriate translation of eben is just.

However, there might be a nuance which does not really translate into English: In assertive statements, eben is emphasizing the assertion. It expresses the idea, that the statement is thought to be self-evident, and that the speaker is not expecting it to be called into question. (In some sense, it expresses that the assertion is considered a dogma by the speaker.) I am not sure, how strong this idea is with the English just. I feel, that just is weaker in English, because I think, just is often used as a mere filling-word without any strong significance. But this is a question about English then...

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  • Thanks Jonathan. On your last point, it would depend on the intonation. I could say, there are just people who always will vote for Trump, whatever the consequences - (with emphasis on the just - and this would have the strong significance (as you say emphasizing the assertion - it would not be a mere filling word). As far as I know, just is not a filler word in English. :) Nov 12 '20 at 10:50
  • In English we would do express this nuance with a rising tone: "there's Just PEOPLE".
    – Lee Mosher
    Nov 13 '20 at 21:42
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In this context I think the right translation would be simply.

There are simply people who... Is the closest to

es gibt eben Menschen, die ...

I can think of. It's more like saying that there are people who are x without an explicit explantation to why people are x. Another way to say this in german would be:

es gibt einfach Menschen, die ...

Both can be used in this case

6

Maybe it is my lack of english skills but i am not sure if either of them is the correct translation.

  • There are even people, who ...

Es gibt sogar Leute, die ...

I believe he would have said

Es gibt eben sogar Leute, die ...

if that was what he meant.

  • There are also people, who ...

Es gibt auch Leute, die ...

I believe he would have said

Es gibt eben auch Leute, die ...

if that was what he meant.

  • There are just people, who ...

Es gibt nur Leute, die ...

I think I am not familiar with "just" in this context and it is this alternative.

Es gibt eben Leute, die ...

meant like

Es gibt Leute, die (...). Das ist eben so.

There are people who (...). That's just how it is.

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  • hi choXer, thank you. I think it was meant in the context of the last example you said. Es gibt Leute, die. Das ist eben so. Nov 12 '20 at 10:53
  • 1
    But indeed “just” can be used in this context. “There are just people...” can mean “it's just a fact that there are people...” though this usage is pretty informal and only works if emphasis is on ‘people’. If the emphasis is on ‘just’, then this corresponds indeed to “es gibt nur Leute...”. Nov 14 '20 at 22:41
6

To tell you which of the three alternatives fits best I would have to understand the differences between them, and as you say they may be subtle, so I will not try that.

Just from the small snippet, I expect the meaning to be along the lines of: There are people, who ... This is a fact, ignoring it will not make it otherwise, one has to take this into account and deal with it.

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  • Thank you Carsten S. Nov 12 '20 at 10:54
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It's key to understand that eben is a , and as such, adds context-dependent nuance.

A combination of simply and just, as used in the following quote, is quite close to the intended meaning in your example:

[But] there are simply just people who have legitimate questions and need to have those questions answered [...]

(said Oct 15, 2020 by an Alabama health official about COVID-19 vaccine critics)

Here, it adds that the statement is to be understood as established, common knowledge which the speaker assumes everyone accepts as an obvious reality.

That is, the speaker doesn't assume they tell you something new, or try to convince you that there are people who X, they just restate/remind you of that fact - for the purpose of the actual argument they are about to make.

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    Thank you Arminius. Nov 14 '20 at 14:46
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    @GrahamLucas Just as you, I believe, this is a quite good answer. Hence I gave it a +1. In addition, I would like to make you aware of this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/126180/… I pretty much agree with the accepted answer there. Nov 14 '20 at 17:35
  • I'm not sure if simply just is an accurate translation. Eben expresses that what is being said is a fact, as halt does, but less colloquially. Nonetheless, it's useful anwer as it mentions that eben here is a modal particle.
    – RHa
    Nov 14 '20 at 19:30
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I think the word eben in phrases like this doesn't have much semantic content – it's rather akin to phonetic emphasis. An idiomatic English translation for

Es gibt eben Menschen, die ...

might be

  • There actually are people who ...
  • Well, there are people who ...
  • Unfortunately, there are people who ...
  • There are indeed people who ...
  • But there are people who ...

Which of these most faithfully conveys the intended meaning and connotations depends on context. Since you heard this on the radio – prosody is probably a stronger indicator of intent here than mere words. Maybe you can find a link to the program on deutschlandfunk.de and we can have a listen... :-)

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  • Thank you - you have reinforced my understanding :) Much appreciated. Nov 13 '20 at 11:51
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    I disagree with "no semantic content" - the meaning is very subtle, but words like "eben" (modal particles) do add a specific mood or flavour to the sentence. For instance, I'd say that "But there are people who ..." is not a correct translation, because the "shrug that's just how it is" mood conveyed by "eben" rules out the information being new or surprising. For that, you'd want "doch".
    – Astrid
    Nov 13 '20 at 14:30
  • I didn't say "no semantic content". I agree that words like "eben" can add a specific mood or flavour to the sentence, but I'd say that's more pragmatics than semantics. Nov 14 '20 at 14:35
  • I think the "But ..." version might be an appropriate translation in some cases. Depends on context. The "shrug that's just how it is" mood is not the only one that can be conveyed by "eben". Imagine a discussion where someone argues that something may affect few people, but there are some it does affect. In that case, "es gibt eben Menschen" would have a stress on "gibt": "es gibt eben Menschen", and it would mean something similar to "but there are people who...". Nov 14 '20 at 14:43
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As always in translation, there are two tasks at hand: understanding the source expression and figuring out how to express it in the target language. Being a native speaker of German I can try to help you with the first but not so well with the second. In line with what Astrid said: what "eben" tells me in the above context is

  • "as everybody knows", and
  • "it cannot be helped".

Let native speakers of English figure out how best to convey these meanings without being wordy.

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