German students often struggle to understand when “viel” has an ending and when it doesn’t because they aren't aware of the grammatical difference between adverbs and adjectives. In this post, a German tutor and native speaker with 25 years of teaching experience will explain the difference so that you can make the right choice moving forward.
As I explain in my A-Z of grammar terms, adverbs are words that describe, modify or quantify verbs. Adverbs are, for instance, information of time, manner, reason or location. I discuss adverbs in German in greater detail in another post. By contrast, adjectives are words that are used to describe nouns. While adverbs in German don’t take endings, adjectives do- at least when they are placed before a noun.
Why is this relevant here? "Viel” is an adverb and “viele” is an adjective. Put simply, when you want to say "much" or "a lot", you need to choose the adverb "viel", whereas when you want to say "many" your choice of words should be the adjective "viele", though its exact ending depends on adjective ending rules, which is discuss elsewhere on my blog.
Let's look at some examples.
Er hat letzte Woche viel gearbeitet.
(He worked a lot last week)
Sie hat sich viel Mühe mit ihren Hausaufgaben gegeben.
(She put a lot of effort into her homework)
Wir haben viel Zeit in das Projekt investiert
(We invested a lot of time in the project)
Ihr kennt viele Leute in London.
(You guys know many people in London)
Es gibt viele Kleeblätter im Garten
(There are many cloverleaves in the garden)
Es gefällt vielen Menschen im Sommer mehr Zeit draußen zu verbringen
(Many people like to spend more time outside in the summer)
NB. It reads "vielen" Menschen in the last sentence because it is dative plural. Check my explanation on adjective endings in German for more information. You might also be interested to learn why we say "vielen Dank" but "viel Spaß" and "viel Erfolg"
I hope it is now clear what the difference between viel and viele is about. Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions. Feel free to also post sentences where you are still not sure which word to choose.
On our German language blog, you will find posts on many topics in German grammar that will help you to progress more quickly in German- from German gender rules, prepositions in German (here, we have posts on the two-way prepositions, accusative only prepositions in German, German dative only prepositions, and genitive only prepositions, as well as on im, am, um and the 5 German prepositions for the English "to"), pronouns, separable verbs in German to German syntax. We also teach you helpful German words and phrases for your next trip to Germany, list the ten most useful German verbs to get your German off the ground, give you tips on how to avoid the 5 most common grammatical mistakes in German, tell you how to improve your German with the best German songs, how to translate English word busy into German, review of the language apps Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, and Busuu, explain the difference between language levels A1, A2, B1, B2 etc., list the best online resources to learn German, give you an estimate of how long it takes to learn German, and warn you about false friends in German and English like “Bad” vs. ”bad”. We also compare the most popular online dictionaries Linguee, dict.cc, dict.leo and Collins. So check out our blog and let us know what you think.