7

My question is about много людей. Why is there a -ей at the end?

I assume it should be the plural of the masculine человек in genetive case.

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Человек is a suppletive word: its different forms are formed from different roots.

There are several pairs like that in Russian:

  • человек / люди
  • ребёнок / дети
  • идти / шёл
  • лежать / класть

etc.

Compare to English:

  • go / went
  • bad / worse

In the modern language the proper singular for люди (люд) is only used synecdochally (meaning a group of people):

Пока в Риме правила династия Антонинов, простой люд не жаждал большего порядка в общественных делах. [Сергей Смирнов. Конец серебряного века. Anno Domini 180 // «Знание -- сила», 2003]

The proper plural for человек (человеки) may be only used ironically, exergastically (все мы люди, все мы человеки) or to imitate old speech.

Евангелисты придумали, евангелисты, смертные, как все человеки. [Юрий Давыдов. Синие тюльпаны (1988-1989)]

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  • What about the change of ending from -И to -ей? – Lawrence DeSouza Jul 21 '12 at 16:20
  • apropos ребёнок/дети - could you explain how ребята fits here? – Vitaly Mijiritsky Jul 21 '12 at 16:32
  • @Vitaly: ребята is a vernacular word for elder children (above 6 or so), mostly used as an addressing. You won't see it in, say, an official document. Дитя is a high style word, not normally used in speech too. – Quassnoi Jul 21 '12 at 16:46
  • 1
    @LawrenceDeSouza: what about it? Много requires an object in pl. gen., exactly what we see here. -ей is the ending for pl. gen. of nouns with this declension paradigm, compare чертей, соседей, обручей. – Quassnoi Jul 21 '12 at 16:48

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