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German Personal Pronoun 'Es'

Part II: Differences Between 'Es' and 'It'


The German personal pronoun "es" is the English equivalent of "it" and has similar functions. It is used in daily conversation such as when describing the weather or stating the time. Es however, is used more often in German. And depending on its function and the sentence structure, es can be changed of position, or even eliminated. See the following functions of es, take note of the similarities with English and then practice with this exercise

Specifics To the German Es

  • Is a substitute only for neuter nouns, whether it be a person, animal or object:

    Das Mädchen gähnt. Es ist müde.
    The girl is yawning. She is tired.

  • Common German expressions that contain the pronoun es:

    Wie geht es Ihnen? How are you?
    Es ist mir egal - I don't care.
    Es tut mir leid - I am sorry.
    Es stimmt - That's right.
    Es war einmal - Once upon a time.
    Es ist mir satt - I've had enough.
    Es handelt sich um... - It is about...

  • Es is sometimes translated as the subject "there" in English.

    Es gibt viele Mücken hier - There are a lot of mosquitos here.
    Es sollte hier welche geben - There should be some here.

  • As an expletive with an impersonal passive.

    Es wird jetzt gesungen! We are going to sing now!

  • Placed at the beginning of the sentence to introduce the subject of the sentence.

    Es wurde eine Maus gefunden in diesem Restaurant - A mouse was found in this restaurant.

    If one places the subject of the above sentence first, then es will be eliminated:

    Eine Maus wurde in diesem Restaurant gefunden.

  • Changing the position of es.

    Unlike English, the position of es can be changed around. If es is at the beginning of the sentence and acts as subject, whether as an impersonal pronoun or a substitute for a noun, the other option is to place es after the verb.

    Es war so wunderschön - It was so wonderful.
    Wunderschön war es.
    Es gab heute ein Fest - There was a party today.
    Heute gab es ein Fest. See Similarities between es and 'it'
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