The pronoun es


The pronoun es has certain special functions. It can serve as the subject at the start or in the middle of a clause, and sometimes also as the object.

1. The pronoun es as the formal subject

Es is used:

 with the verbs sein and werden in reference to times of day or the weather:

Es ist schon halb neun. It is already half past eight.
Wenn es Winter wird, wird es richtig kalt. It gets really cold in winter.

 with verbs describing natural phenomena:

Regnet es? Is it raining?
Es hat eben geschneit. It has just snowed.

 in certain phrases expressed only in the third person singular:

Es klingelt an der Tür. The doorbell is ringing.
Es tut mir Leid. I am sorry.
Wo gibt es hier in der Nähe ein gutes Restaurant? Is there a good restaurant anywhere near here?

2. The pronoun es as the formal object

Ich habe es eilig. I am in a hurry.
Mach's (= es) gut! All the best!
Er hat es nicht leicht gehabt. He hasn’t had it easy.
Ich meine es gut mit dir. I mean well.

3. The pronoun es as a placeholder:

When used as a placeholder in the cases listed below, es must go at the start of the sentence. If this is not possible, es is simply omitted:

 when referring forward to a clause containing an infinitive verb or a clause leading off with dass:

Es ist wichtig, die Hausaufgaben zu machen. It is important to do your homework.
But:  Die Hausaufgaben zu machen ist wichtig.

when the sentence does not lead off with the subject (N.B. the verb must agree with the subject proper!)

Es kommen heute viele Studenten zur Vorlesung. A lot of students will be coming to the lecture today.
Es wird in dieser Straße ein neues Haus gebaut. A new house will be built on this street.
But: Viele Studenten kommen heute zur Vorlesung.
In dieser Straße wird ein neues Haus gebaut.

 at the beginning of a passive clause

Es wird heute gefeiert. There’s going to be a party today.
But: Heute wird gefeiert.