In the following, is "viel" a pronoun or adverb?

Viel zu publizieren ist der Schlüssel zur Hochschulkarriere.

3 Answers 3


With viel you have, just like manch and wenig, hit a class of words that somewhat escapes a clear classification.

Simplyfying your example to a plain

Er publiziert viel.

Makes classification a bit easier, but not in any way clearer:

It could be an adjective - arguments for that may be that it has a comparative (mehr) and a superlative (am meisten). It can also be flexed like an adjective, can, however, not be used in a predicative way ("er ist viel") like you can with typical adjectives .

Er publiziert mehr [als Hans]

It could be an indefinite pronoun or numeral - compare to

Er publiziert nichts

Or it could be (understood in a temporary sense) an adverb in its original (not the "catch-all") sense, comparing to

Er publiziert oft

You could even assume classification as a Gradpartikel such as

Er publiziert wenig

Each of the above classifications has some validity and some good arguments for, but unfortunately, none of them fit 100%. In the typical "that seems to be complicated, so it must be an adverb" way of evading endless discussions, most grammars and dictionaries would assume "viel" in your example as an adverb, really good ones would mention the controversy.

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    I don’t see how it could be construed as an adjective in your example sentence. When could “er publiziert [adj]” ever work? The very structure of the sentence implies an adverb or object, not a plain adjective. Most adjectives can be used adverbially, which makes the difference hard to emphasise, but if you take one of the few that can’t, the sentence rather breaks down: “Er publiziert sonstig”? I’d say it can only be a pronoun or an adverb (or an intensifier [Gradpartikel] if you consider those a separate word class). Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 14:53
  • @JanusBahsJacquet The hint is in the ability of "viel" to have both a comparative and a superlative - This is a trait that otherwise only adjectives in adverbial use have and "pure adverbs" don't. I agree it's a bit far-fetched, though. You can, however, use "viel" like in "Viele grüne Bohnen", where it's clearly an adjective.
    – tofro
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 16:27
  • True adverbs can also have comparatives and superlatives (cf. oft). It is true that it can be used adjectivally in other contexts (‘viele Bohnen’, ‘die Gründe sind viele’), but I don’t think it’s a possible choice here. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 17:05

"Viel" (much) is always an Adverb. It specifies a property of a Verb to which it is correlated:

publizieren - viel publizieren
laufen - viel laufen


What might be a problem understanding the sentence is the non-neutral word order used. German sentences have a "neutral" word-order where nothing in particular is emphasized. Deviate from this order and you put emphasis on a certain part (usually the one moved to the beginning or the end).

Here the neutral order would be:

Der Schlüssel zur Hochschulkarriere ist, viel zu publizieren.

"Der Schlüssel" is the Subjekt (subject) here, "zur Hochschulkarriere" is a specification of the properties of this specific key. The key to what? The key to a unversity career.

The Prädikat (predicate) of the sentence is "ist". German isn't a SPO-, but a V2-language. Still, the "neutral" order is SPO. Here, "viel zu publizieren" is moved up front to put emphasis onto it. You can do something similar in English, but it is a bit more complicated:

Publicize a lot, this is the key to a successful university career.

Nota bene, there is a vast difference between "viel" (much) and "vieles" (a lot [of ...]). This in fact can act as a pronoun (i.e. "Vieles wurde gesagt." but in contrast: "Es wurde viel gesagt.") This is how words like "nichts", "manches", "alles", etc. work: they can be interpreted as (for lack of a better word) words-made-pronoun.

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    In sentences such as viel steht da nicht, viel acts as the subject and can be substituted by pronouns such as das, vieles, was etc. but not adverbs such as oft. Therefore, the first sentence of the answer cannot be true.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 9:44
  • Sentences like viel steht da nicht are non-neutral ordering too. Neutral word order would be "Es steht da (nicht) viel." and now the connection between the Verb (stehen) and the Adverb (viel) becomes clear. See the last paragraph about "viel" and "vieles".
    – bakunin
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 10:27
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    Es is not a subject in your examples: both da steht es nicht viel and dass es da nicht viel steht are ungrammatical (in the intended reading, for instance in response to steht da was über die Regeln?); it's an instance of expletive or Platzhalter-es. Da steht nicht is ungrammatical because a subject, i.e. viel, is missing.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 10:37

Viel zu publizieren ist der ...

It is a Freudian Slip is what it is.

Viel publizieren ist ...

a Determiner Phrase that predicates the argument. As the subject, Publizieren has to be a noun.

"Common kinds of determiners include definite and indefinite articles (the, a), demonstratives (this, that), possessive determiners (my, their), cardinal numerals (one, two), quantifiers (many, both), distributive determiners (each, every), and interrogative determiners (which, what).


Whether participles are verbs or adjectives is controversial.

" In linguistics, a participle (from Latin participium 'a sharing, partaking'; abbr. ptcp) is a nonfinite verb form that has some of the characteristics and functions of both verbs and adjectives


The zu-Partizip is therefore not a noun.

Therefore, viel-zu has to be a noun. This is in line with the derivational morphology of other nouns such as Blitz, Holz, Kraftprotz, Putz. Indeed, blitze-blank, putz-munter and maybe ratze-puse-leer for example are typical adverb+adjective compounds. The u-vowel is best attributed to the w-verbs, accounting for the verbal haed of the subordinate verbal phrase. Incidently, this accounts for Germanic innovative u-stems.

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