The Pronoun “es”

On this page you can find all verbs that use the pronoun „es.“ I've also included examples of how they are used in fixed expressions and when you need to use the verb in the third person singular with „es."

The Pronoun „es“

The pronoun "es" has many different functions in German.  It can be used as a pronoun standing for a single word, for a clause, and for an entire sentence.

Also, there are many specific expressions that use "es."

Examples:

  • „Wie geht es dir? – „Mir geht es gut.“
  • „Das ist mein Fahrrad.“ – „Es ist neu.“

Use of „es“

As a Substitute

As a substitute for a neuter noun:

  • Das Auto ist rot. Es ist ein Ferrari." 

    "Es" is used as a personal pronoun. It is used to avoid the repetition of the noun "das Auto."

As a substitute for an entire sentence:

  • Was macht unsere Tochter?“ – „Ich weiß es nicht.“

    "Es" is a substitute for the whole sentence ("Ich weiß nicht, was unsere Tochter macht"). We use it to avoid repetition as well.

As a substitute for an adjective:

  • „Meine Mutter ist sehr jung. Deine ist es nicht.“

    In this example "es" is a substitute for an adjective. This use is not that common, but it is possible. It has the same purpose as the others: we want to avoid repetition.

As a substitute for a clause ("es" replaces the action):

  • „Maria du solltest doch das Geschirr abwaschen!“ – „Warum hast du es noch nicht gemacht?"

    "Es" is a substitute for the action "das Geschirr abwaschen" (to wash the dishes): "Warum hast du das Geschirr noch nicht abgewaschen?" The purpose stays the same: no repetition and keeping the sentence short.

For Impersonal Verbs:

They can only be used in the third person.  We must use "es."

Verbs of Feeling and Sensing:

  • „Wie geht es dir?“
  • Es schmeckt mir nicht.“
  • Es stinkt hier.“

The question „Wie geht es dir?“ is a fixed expression.

For verbs like schmecken and stinken, if we know what's causing the smell or taste, use the pronoun describing that thing: i.e. du stinkst (You smell). If we don't know what is causing the smell or taste, we use the pronoun „es.“

Verbs that Describe the Weather:

  • Es regnet/schneit … “
  • Es ist sonnig/neblig/windig/warm/kalt…“
  • Es sind 12 Grad.“

There is no subject, but we need one in order to form a grammatically complete sentence. That’s why we put in the "es."

For the Time of Day or Year:

  • Es ist 12 Uhr.“
  • Es ist noch sehr früh.“
  • Es ist Sommer / Winter / Herbst / Frühling.“
  • Es sind Ferien.“
  • Es ist Weihnachten.“.

Just like with verbs that describe the weather, we need a subject. But there isn't anyone or anything actually causing the weather, so we have to use the pronoun „es“ as a replacement.

Verbs that Express Sounds:

  • Es klingelt an der Tür!“
  • Es läuten die Glocken in der Kirche.“

When it is obvious who/what caused the sound, we don‘t have to use "es," but we have to put something in P1.

  • „Die Glocken läuten in der Kirche.“ = „Es läuten die Glocken in der Kirche.“

"Es" isn‘t used if there is something else in P1. There's no difference between these versions.

Usually it's not clear who made the sound, so the subject is not known. But since you always need a subject, we put „es“ as the subject.

In Fixed Expressions:

  • Es gibt nichts Neues.“
  • Es ist schwierig/leicht/einfach/schön,… .“
  • „Wo tut es weh?“

In these cases "es" relates to the overall situation or "something" (like an unknown or non-specific subject).

Every sentence has to have a subject! → If the subject is unknown we use "es."

To Represent Subordinate Clauses

Example:

  • Es tut mir leid, dass ich gestern nicht da war.“

If the main sentence comes before the subordinate clause (most often a clause with "dass," an infinitive clause, or an indirect question), we use "es." If the subordinate clause comes before the main sentence, we don‘t, because the subordinate clause acts as subject.

"Es" is required in these constructions:

„dass“-clauses:

  • Es tut mir leid, dass ich gestern nicht da war.“
  • Dass ich gestern nicht da war, tut mir leid.“

Indirect Questions:

  • Es ist fraglich, ob er kommt.“
  • Ob er kommt, ist fraglich.“

Infinitive Clauses:

  • Es ist leicht, Deutsch zu lernen.“
  • Deutsch zu lernen, ist leicht.“

Summary

"Es" is used as a pronoun for neuter nouns, actions, and whole clauses.
Additionally, there are specific expressions with "es."

The most important fact is that a verb always needs a subject. If there is no acting person/thing (=subject), then we use "es" as the grammatical subject.

Related Topics:

Pronouns often have to be declined based on their case, so it's important to know when to use nominativeaccusativedative and genitive.

Here are the different types of pronouns you need to know: Demonstrative PronounsPersonal PronounsPossessive PronounsRelative PronounsReflexive Pronouns, and Indefinite Pronouns.

Leave a Comment:

Add Your Reply