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The Impersonal “es”


I. Theory

Generally, es is a pronoun that corresponds to “it” in German and represents singular neuter subjects. However, es is also used as a placeholder for a subject in sentences where no specific subject is found. We see this at times in English in examples such as “It is raining” or “It’s quiet in the library”.

While es is used with weather expressions, as it is in English, the impersonal es is found in additional instances which are not found in English.

Es zieht.
There is a draft.

Es klopft.
Someone is knocking (at the door).

Es tut mir leid.
I’m sorry.

Es fehlt nur noch Katrin.
We’re only missing Katrin.

As you can see from the examples above, the impersonal es is often translated in English as “there is/are” or, “something/someone” may be used as the subject.

II. Es with Werden

The impersonal es is often found in conjunction with werden in the passive voice.

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