Lesson 9.4

RobS49

RobS49

Regarding Lesson 9.4:
I understand the concept of using masculine pronouns to describe nouns such as "der Koffer". However, the application doesn't seem to be consistent. Early in the conversation, Matthias says, "Ich glaube, ich habe meinen Koffer verloren. Ich warte schon seit einer Stunde am Fließband, aber ER ist nicht da." Sandra replies, "Wie sieht IHR Koffer aus? Können Sie IHN beschreiben?" So far so good. But then, Matthias replies, "ES ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer mit kleinen Rädern." Shouldn't this be "ER ist ein großer Koffer?" I'm not at all clear on why ES is used here. At first I thought it might have to do with case, but then realized that can't be it because he would have said, "aber ES ist nicht da" earlier. Any insight is most appreciated.
sfpugh

sfpugh

Yes I find "es" pretty confusing too. My thick grammar book devotes 5 whole pages to it.

The thing to realise is that "es" isn't just a pronoun referring to a neuter object, it has other uses too.

In your particular case, it is acting a a dummy subject in the first position anticipating the real subject after the verb.

"ES ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer mit kleinen Rädern" - here the real subject is the suitcase.
"IT is a big black suitcase..."
I hope that helps, perhaps the tutor will have a way of explaining the many uses if "es"

"Es gibt" for "There is" appears quite a lot in the course.

 
RobS49

RobS49

Thanks for taking the time to reply. If I take what you say one step further, is it fair to say "Es" could have been substituted for "Er" in the phrase, "Aber er ist nicht da"? If so, it sounds like the substitution is acceptable for the nominative case, but not the dative or accusative. 
sfpugh

sfpugh

No, I don't think that is it.
"Aber er ist nicht da" Er is a pronoun referring back to the suitcase, there is no other subject in this phrase. "er" has to agree with the gender of the suitcase
 "ES ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer mit kleinen Rädern."  Es is a dummy subject looking forward to the real subject in the sentence - the suitcase. In English, we use "it" in both situations.

Like I said it's pretty confusing.
Maybe this will help:
https://yourdailygerman.com/word-of-the-day-es/
 
RobS49

RobS49

That article was interesting. Thank you. In the example that started this conversation, would it have been incorrect to say: "Er ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer" instead of "Es ist en großer schwarzer Koffer"? Please say no. Otherwise, I'll be really confused. 
sfpugh

sfpugh

 "Er ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer" I think this would mean "he is a black suitcase" - not quite what is intended, but perhaps the tutor could comment. 
RobS49

RobS49

That's a good point. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks. I appreciate your interest in this topic. 
Julia-Rocket-German-Tutor

Julia-Rocket-German-Tutor

Hallo RobS49 und sfpugh,

yes, es has quite a few different uses. Sfpugh's explanation is already very good. 
 
"Es ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer mit kleinen Rädern." - "It's a large black suitcase with small wheels." 
Es is the 'dummy' subject of the sentence in this case. It is needed to ensure the proper sentence structure without changing the meaning of the sentence or making the sentence invalid. 
Another example would be "Es schneit." - "It's snowing."  The es is not actually the one who is 'letting it snow' but you need a subject to make the sentence work.

You can also have es being used as a personal pronoun:
"Wir haben ein neues Auto. Es is schwarz." - "We have a new car. It is black." 
However, we only use es here because it is referring to the car which is neuter.
So when talking about the suitcase you could say:
"Ich habe einen neuen Koffer. Er is schwarz." - "I have a new suitcase. It is black."

In regards to your other question, you wouldn't say "Er ist ein großer schwarzer Koffer." One might say it's "doppelt gemoppelt" which means saying the same thing twice over. Instead you could answer "Er ist groß und schwarz." - "It is big and black."

Es can also be used as the object of the sentence, for example:
"Wir haben ein neues Auto. Wir holen es morgen ab." - "We have a new car. We will pick it up tomorrow." (Again, the es here is referring to the car which is neuter.)
You could even have a sentence when one es is the subject and the other one is acting as the object:
"Wir haben ein neues Auto. Es (subject) macht Spaß es (object) zu fahren." - "We have a new car. It is fun to drive."

Hope this helps!

Viele Grüße
Julia
RobS49

RobS49

Julia, many thanks for the thoughtful explanation. The part about the doppelt gemoppelt vs. "Er ist groß und schwarz." is what helped the most. Many thanks to you both. 
Julia-Rocket-German-Tutor

Julia-Rocket-German-Tutor

No worries! Just note that that rule doesn’t apply when talking about people, e.g. 
“Er ist ein großer starker Mann.” - “He is a tall strong man.”
”Sie ist eine kleine zierliche Frau.” - “She is a small petite woman.”

Tschüss!
Julia
RobS49

RobS49

That's an important distinction as well. Thank you.

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket German trial here .