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I am coming across sentences where человек is used instead of мужчина, when does this happen and why?

Example:

That man is not a professor he is a doctor

Этот человек не профессор доктор

тот человек не профессор он доктор

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  • Cheloviek is more like person or human. Mushchina is more specifying that it actually is a man. If it is relevant. Apr 4 '19 at 17:25
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It's just that Russian happens to be more gender-neutral than English, at least in the case of человек which can mean 'man', 'person' or 'human being' depending on context:

  • Она - хороший человек / друг. = She is a good person / friend.
  • Этот человек - твоя мать!
  • Одному человеку стало плохо. = Someone felt sick.
  • Лифт вмещает 5 человек.
  • Этот человек спас тебе жизнь. = This man saved your life.

Use мужчина only when you want to emphasise their masculinity or when gender is important:

  • Он вел себя как мужчина. = He behaved like a man.
  • В этой олимпиаде женщины завоевали больше медалей, чем мужчины. = In these Olympics women won more medals than men.

I think Bolsheviks' idea of everyone's equality has contributed to this effect. Before the revolution of 1917 it was customary to use господин/госпожа (or молодой человек / барышня for younger people) in the context you mentioned:

  • Этот господин - врач. = This man is a doctor.

In those days человек was used to call (and refer to) servants.

Btw, человек has an irregular plural: люди 'people':

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  • Well, Bolsheviks - and other socialists too - prescribed a gender-neutral call comrade/tovarishch. However, it soon started sounding very official and people started to look for other namesakes, so "biological" namesakes became widely used, if feeling vulgar. "Женщина", "девушка", "молодой человек", "мамаша" и т.д.
    – Arioch
    Apr 10 '19 at 13:15
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Человек is a man/human in general. Мужчина is used when you want to highlight that a person is a male as well. For example - A man is strong. Человек силён. But Мужчина по природе своей - воин. A man is a fighter by nature. (here we specify that he is a male) So is you want to say something in general use человек. When you want to add than the person you are talking about is male then use мужчина.

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  • i understand what you are saying , to compare it is just like the function of есть, emphasizing the fact that he is male. but in the sentences i gave as examples,do not work with the rule you just gave me , in those sentences it should be мужчина
    – Almonds812
    Apr 3 '19 at 21:49
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    @Almonds812, no in your examples both are possible. If you mean this person use "человек". If you mean this 'male' use "мужчина"
    – alexsms
    Apr 4 '19 at 8:04

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