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Looking on Commercial Press' 现代汉语词典 we have the following definitions:

别人 - 人称代词。指自己或某人以外的人:~都同意,就你一人反对

人家 - 人称代词。指自己或某人以外的人;别人:~都不怕,就你怕

So, they are pretty much the same. Are there any subtleties between them?

Thanks in advance!

5

别人 means others, 人家 can mean others or "I/me".

别人 always means other people, that is to be used to refer to people that's not part of the current context.

人家 could mean the same thing. The difference is that 人家 could be used to denote a specific group of other people, i.e. "THE others" or simply "They/He/She", or even "it", which 别人 is mostly used to denote unspecific general others.

And, in some settings 人家 could be used to denote "I/me". This is more commonly used by females or children, often to increase the level of feminine or cuteness when trying to make a requests or complaints. And in some regions the latter usage could be quite common.

人家 could also be used sarcastically to refer to people who you think are pretentious by implying they think they are so cute and nice that they would call themselves 人家 but they are not actually that nice or cute.

In the two sample sentences, "人家" and "别人" could be used interchangeably.

人家都同意,就你一人反对 It could mean "They all agrees, you are the only one doesn't" in the context that a group of people negotiating something and "you" are the only one that has a problem.

It could also mean "Everyone WOULD agree, you are the only one doesn't" in this context 人家 means people other than you, but not necessarily real people who are involved.

And you can use 别人 to archive same effect.

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In brief,

A. 人家 is a old school word than 別人.

B. 人家 has many meanings, including the meaning of 別人.

別人 means all people except you.

人家 has many different meaning.

  1. the same as 別人

e.q.:你穿這樣 人家會覺得你很奇怪

  1. Girl or woman can use this word represent herself.

e.q.:人家想要吃蘋果 你卻買香蕉給我

  1. Point a specific people.

e.q.:人家王先生早就畢業了 你卻還在唸大學

In Taiwan, I seldom hear people say 人家.

2

Here is a dedicated comparison between this two words in Chinese.

Both "人家" and "别人" have follow meanings.

  • Refer all other people except self or someone.
  • Refer all other people except people in talk.

But "人家" has more meanings.

  • Refer to Me. (the speaker)

从前陪人家看月亮时,叫人家小甜甜,现在新人换旧人了,叫人家牛夫人 [Formerly, when you kept me company watching the moon, you called me sweetie. Now new love has replaced the old; you call me Madam Niu] (Me)

他们一家人吃饭,没有人家 (without me)

他们一家人吃饭,没有别人 (without others)

  • Refer to specific person.

现在他忙着追求鲍小姐,当然分不出工夫来。人家终身大事,比赌钱要紧得多呢. (specific to refer he)

Since "人家" has more meanings, so sometimes to make it more clear to use "别人".

这件衣裳也只配他穿,别人穿了,实在不配。 (if here change to "人家", then it's harder to know whether it refer to "Me" or "others". )

Also, "别人" is more formal when used for same meaning as "人家". And notice only use "人家" to refer "me" only you are close to person you are speaking to (usually used by girl).

By the way, "人家" sometimes can also mean "living house".

这个地方很偏僻,没有人家。 (without people lives here. ^___^)

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I think of 别人 as "other people", and 人家 as "everyone else". Only one thing I can think of:

这事情你别弄了,让别人把做完了吧。(Translation: Forget about doing this job/chore/whatever, let someone else do it.)

Here, you can see that 别人 means "someone else", and cannot be replaced by 人家.

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Are there any subtleties between them? Yes, even if the two words are the same or similar in many ways, let us concentrate on the differences.

(1) 别人 is used in formal context, but 人家 is informal. 别 has a definition of "the other part". The 人 in 别人 could be anything 任何实体, not just people. For example, the Chinese government always say that, 台湾问题是我们的内政,不关别人的事。Here 别人 implies other country.

(2) 人家 could be I (myself), in this case, 别人 is not a choice and not exchangeable.

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