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A questio on Duolingo was to translate:

The wise man is old.

The answer was given as:

Der Weise ist alt.

Der Weise translates into 'the wise' on Google translate, so by what grammar rule is the 'Man' being the noun implied in the sentence?

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    You have noted the masculine article?
    – guidot
    Jan 25, 2022 at 14:54
  • Does the masculine article imply that it is talking about the man? Jan 25, 2022 at 15:11
  • In case no other context is given, yes. Of course, der weise Mann is equally valid (as would be die weise Frau) and more robust against gender discussion. But as always: a single machine translations is typically a poor justification for a question and requires additional research or thoughts.
    – guidot
    Jan 25, 2022 at 15:18
  • I think the issue in the lack of extra information is that it's not clear what to search so I could add more detail here. Grammer identification, hence that's what was chosen. However I'll keep what you said in mind. Jan 25, 2022 at 17:02
  • This phenomenon also exists in English. Do you know the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?
    – Paul Frost
    Jan 25, 2022 at 17:21

1 Answer 1

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First, I've had some experience with Duo myself, and while it's a good way to get started, some of their translation choices are a bit, let's say, questionable. The last I checked, Duo had their own forums for discussing questions, so you might want to check it if you get the question again.

The dictionary form for Weise (not to be confused with Wiese) is the adjective weise="wise", and Weise is what is called a nominalized adjective. To form a nominalized adjective in German, start with an adjective, decline it as if it was in front of a noun, and capitalize it. I don't know if you've covered adjective declension in Duo yet, if not then it's not really fair of them to include that example; like I said, questionable. The meaning of the noun is an example of a person or thing having the quality in question. For example erwachsen = "to grow up" -> (past participle) erwachsen = "grown up"/"adult" -> der Erwachsene = "the adult (male)". Another example (which I remember vividly from the opening scene of Horizon Zero Dawn): ausstoßen = "to eject" -> (past participle) ausgestoßen = "ejected"/"cast out" -> der Ausgestoßene = "the outcast (male)". There is a similar process in English, as noted in the comments, but the resulting noun usually has a different meaning.

These nominalized adjectives are declined according to gender, case, and strong vs. mixed vs. weak, like their adjective parents. You can also tell gender from the preceding article/determiner if present. When preceded by a definite article, they use the weak declension, so it's not possible to tell the gender from the word itself, but in that case the article itself tells you. So der Erwachsene = male adult, die Erwachsene = female adult. In your case, der Weise = "the wise (male) person" and die Weise = "the wise (female) person". DWDS lists some additional meanings for the related actual noun Weiser, either hand (on a clock) or road sign.

All that said, I think what Duo was trying to say was "wise man" as in "sage" or "magus", not the more generic "man who is wise". Did I mention their translations can be questionable?

PS. Bruce Duncan's grammar site has a good introduction to this material.

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