"Es fehlen keine Eier."

Translation:There are no eggs missing.

January 28, 2013

This discussion is locked.


Are there historical/colloquial reasons for the usage of Es in a sentence such as this?


The word ‘Es’ here is an extraposed dummy copy of the subject, ‘keine Eier’. ‘Es-Extraposition’ is a way of moving heavy subjects to the end of the sentence to make them easier to parse; lexically heavy subjects typically present new information, which belongs at the end of the sentence. In English, this is known as “It-extraposition”, as in “It's a relief that there are no missing eggs today.”, which is less awkward than “That there are no missing eggs today is a relief.”


I understood that "fehlen" is a dative verb. Shouldn't "Es" then be in the dative form "ihm?" How does this sentence differ from "Mir fehlt mein Beim?" Am I overthinking this?


Es is (a copy of) the subject, so it's in the nominative case.

fehlen can take a dative object to indicate who is missing those objects.

But you don't have to include it.

So Es fehlen keine Eier is fine.

You could have said, for example, Uns fehlen keine Eier with dative uns, to indicate that we are not missing any eggs.

Mir fehlt ein Bein: the leg is missing, and you are the one who notices this lack -- you are missing the leg.


So both "es" and "keine eier" are in the nominative case?



Btw, it's *Eier—all nouns are capitalised in German.


so, grammatically, can "keine Eier" be switched with "es."

if yes, does that actually happen in spoken german


I wouldn't say switched.

You can place "keine Eier" at the beginning of this sentence, but then "es" would disappear:

Keine Eier fehlen.

^That type of clause is generally avoided, where a non-pronoun subject (e.g. "keine Eier" instead of just "sie") is followed by a conjugated verb with nothing after the verb. The "'es'-extraposition" is also often used to get around starting a clause with a long/wordy subject; and I feel it gives a sentence a more impersonal feel — distancing the speaker from what s/he is saying somewhat.

So, if that was at all unclear: yes, it does actually happen in spoken German.


Thank you for your explanation


Another translation given was "It is not lacking eggs," but "It lacks no eggs" (my attempt) was marked wrong. Why was I mistaken, please?

Also, why is it "fehlen" and not "fehlt," please? Thanks in advance.


It's ‘fehlen’ because ‘Eier’, the underlying subject, is plural, and the verb agrees with the underlying subject, not with the singular dummy subject ‘Es’. Similarly, the verb in the [British] English sentence is “are”, not “is”, because the underlying subject, “eggs”, is plural. [In colloquial American English, however, the verb agrees with the singular dummy subject “There”: “There's no missing eggs.”]


But in a sentence such as "Es gibt keine Eier," it's "gibt" and not "geben." Doesn't this follow the same principle?


Excellent question. Although ‘Es fehlen keine Eier.’ and ‘Es gibt keine Eier’ look superficially similar and have very similar but opposite meanings, they're actually very different constructs.

The sentence ‘Es fehlen keine Eier.’ has a real subject, ‘keine Eier’, commands verb agreement, while the word ‘Es’ is just an extraposed dummy pronoun permitting the subject to appear at the end of the sentence. English also has “it”-extraposition, but only for clauses, not for noun phrases.

In contrast, ‘Es gibt keine Eier’ has only a dummy-pronoun subject, ‘Es’, while ‘keine Eier’ is the object of the verb ‘gibt’. English has a similar construct using the dummy-pronoun subject “There” with the verb “are”: “There are no eggs.”


So in this exercise's case, the more correct translation would then be "It is missing no eggs" while a translation for "es gibt keine Eier" would be "there are no eggs." That makes sense, thanks.


English really doesn't have a comparable construction to ‘Es fehlen keine Eier.’, in which a subject that's a simple noun is extraposed as “It”.

In the sentence “It is missing no eggs.”, “eggs” is actually the object, while “It” is not a dummy subject, but a real subject pronoun referring to an actual thing that is missing no eggs, which you can test by asking what “It” is: “What is missing no eggs?”, which is a sensible question.

In contrast, substituting “What” for an extraposed subject makes no sense and is even ungrammatical, as in ‘Was fehlen keine Eier?’, or (using the example from the answer to blargblargblarg) in “What's a relief that there are no missing eggs today?”

[deactivated user]

    "It is missing no eggs" is a more literal translation, not a more correct one.


    So does that mean "Es" is there for no other reason than to allow the verb to come 2nd in the sentence? So you cannot say "Keine Eier fehlen." because in German you never use Kein in front of the subject? Is that why? Can you say "Die Eier fehlen!"? The eggs are missing!"?


    Once again I thank you for your clear and in depth explanation. I've only one qualm. As an EFL teacher raised in the US but teaching abroad I would object to the use of the singular used with 'eggs'. It may of course be colloquial in some regions but it's still not correct.

    Based on all your posts it's crystal clear that your knowledge of grammar is far advanced so I'll have to say I have learned something new and I am grateful. (But I don't think I'd ever be able to use it, anymore than I could use "y'all'' when I lived in the South or 'yous' when in Brooklyn.)

    I always look forward to your posts.


    Thank you AndreasWitnstein for the excellent and patient explanation of this grammatical structure. (Thanks also for teaching us how to say it in Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and French further down! It's interesting to be reminded that "egg" is one of the words that English adopted from the Vikings.) One minor quibble: It's not exactly colloquial American English to say "there's no missing eggs." Rather, it's a slip of the tongue that all English speakers are liable to make (regardless of country, I suspect) because we don't usually have to make our verbs agree with a subject that comes after. I don't think you'll see that mistake in good writing.


    Thanks for the “reminder” that “egg” is from the Vikings. I wasn't aware of that.

    “There's” + plural isn't a slip of the tongue, it's a logical reanalysis of “There” as the singular (dummy) subject of the sentence, just like the dummy subject “It” in “It's many miles away.” You won't see it much in formal writing except in quotes, but it's now used in the everyday speech of Americans from all social strata and all regions.


    There`s may be correct in some sentences but not that one. It should be there are no missing eggs because eggs is plural. There is no house here = theres because the noun following is singular. Your comparison with its is not accurate. It is = it`s but it is a singular pronoun. You never say It are.


    eta sorry about the highlighting. keyboard glitching


    Note: 'there's' is frequently used in colloquial English to refer even to plural subjects. It may not be standard, but it is used.

    As AndreasWitnstein pointed out above, that is.


    Well yeah. That's why it's colloquial. It's technically ungrammatical, but everyone uses it anyway. You're really just helping to prove his point in your attempt to disprove it. lol


    No American I know would misuse "is" in this way (born in Wisconsin, lived in many regions of the country for 50 years)


    Well, now this is going completely against what AndreasWitnstein said, because I'm a Brit who has found the incorrect use of "there's" in place of "there are" to be ubiquitous in the UK.

    However, I'm going to have to contradict you as well, Kenneth. In my experience of speaking and listening to Americans, the misuse of "there's" in the States if anything seems to be even more common than in the UK; so I'm not sure if you were specifically referencing the sentence "There's no missing eggs."*, or if our experience speaking to other English speakers has just been that vastly different.

    To close I'll just bring in a number to give a rough idea of how widespread this misuse has become. When I enter "there's all kinds of" into Google, I get over 2.5 million results. That means over 2.5 million separate web pages include the grammatically incorrect phrase "there's all kinds of", which is only one of the countless ways "there's" can be used incorrectly. So, it seems you move in very linguistically apt circles, Kenneth.

    *For whatever reason I find that more grating than most cases of misplaced "there's", so maybe more people would correctly choose "there are" in that case.


    “It lacks no eggs” uses the habitual tense, indicating a general non-lack of eggs; whereas “It is not lacking eggs” uses the present progressive, indicating a current non-lack of eggs. German does not make this distinction, so if one is accepted, the other should be too.


    Why is it 'fehlen' and not 'fehlt'?


    Eggs are plural, that's why.


    I wonder if the fact that you're heavily downvoted means that you're incorrect. What you say makes sense to me.


    I looked it up before I posted it and based on how I understand the sentence (AndreasWitnstein explains in more detail above) the object in the sentence are the eggs, that's why fehlen is required. These downvotes may be coming from early learners who want German to work exactly like English and can't accept that it doesn't. Thus they downvote the bad news.


    And instantly, another downvote. Come at me bros.


    I urge you not to get too worked up over the downvotes on the previous two posts... what matters is that your original answer was correct. I don't see any fault with it myself other than that it was extremely concise, but that isn't even a fault.


    Why : "There are no missing eggs." When it is written with "es" ?


    It is missing no eggs.

    Why would that not be accepted? It translates directly and means the same thing. I think?


    Given that “It is not lacking eggs.” is accepted, “It is missing no eggs.” should be too, which is closer to the German. However there is a subtle difference in meaning between these sentences and the German “Es fehlen keine Eier.”.

    In “It is missing no eggs.” and similar English sentences, the “It” is a real pronoun referring to a specific implied subject that isn't missing any eggs, such as “the dough”: “The dough is missing no eggs.”. The pronoun here agrees in gender and number with the implied subject, so for example if it's a goose that isn't missing any eggs, the pronoun would be “She”: “She is missing no eggs.”.

    The ‘Es’ in ‘Es fehlen keine Eier.’, in contrast, is a dummy pronoun which does not stand for any specific implied subject. More germanely, as shown in a moment, it doesn't stand for any specific implied indirect object. The reason that this sentence causes so much confusion for those who aren't native German speakers is its exceptional case-marking: Both ‘Es’ and ‘keine Eier’ are marked as subjects in the nominative case. The same meaning can be conveyed without the dummy pronoun by the straightforward sentence ‘Keine Eier fehlen.’, meaning “No eggs are missing.”. To specify what or who isn't missing any eggs, the dative case is used, so the real pronoun representing for a goose (‘Gans’) would be ‘ihr’: ‘Keine Eier fehlen ihr’, so even if the sentence is inverted to ‘Ihr fehlen keine Eier’, there is no confusion. But ‘Es’-extraposition can still be (and usually is) applied when the indirect object is present: ‘Es fehlen ihr keine Eier’, or ‘Es fehlen der Gans keine Eier’.

    So “It is missing no eggs.”, for neuter “it”, translates most accurately as ‘Es fehlen ihm keine Eier’, not simply as ‘Es fehlen keine Eier.’.


    After reading through this entire thread, it is quite evident that this man just plain deserves all of our lingots.


    can you, Andreas, or someone else translate the German example sentences? i can't quite understand them. (e.g. Keine Eier fehlen ihr = it is missing no eggs(?), ‘Es fehlen ihr keine Eier' = there are no eggs it is missing(?)... is this correct?)

    also, is Fehlen a dative verb? (does that make sense?)

    thanks a bunch, this is very interesting.


    What is the difference between "fehlen" and "verpassen"?


    I put "It is missing no eggs," which to my knowledge should be correct... is this wrong?


    Can you say: Keine Eier fehlen?


    Can we say "Keine Eier fehlen" ?


    Actually you could. I copy-paste from post above...

    Somewhere in this long conversation, one of the native German speakers explains that "Keine Eier fehlen" is possible, but that the more natural thing to say is "Es fehlen keine Eier," as in the example. That's why DuoLingo is presenting it. We just need to get used to it. I know that you can also put in a dative pronoun to indicate who is missing the subject: "Es fehlen mir meine Schuhe" is "I am missing my shoes."


    I'm not a german speaker, but trying to get some logical solution to that, maybe the subject of the phrase is "Eier" (eggs). So: Keine Eier fehlen es ("No eggs miss it", in a possible literal translation). Furthermore, "Das Fehlen" is also a name, meaning the absence, the lack. Although it is not the particular case of this statement, it can be used to express a situation in which some particular object, singular or plural, is missing. I think some native speaker could endorse or correct these thoughts of mine.


    'Keine Eier fehlen' (without the 'es') would be better??. And have the same meaning as 'Es fehlen keine Eier'


    Somewhere in this long conversation, one of the native German speakers explains that "Keine Eier fehlen" is possible, but that the more natural thing to say is "Es fehlen keine Eier," as in the example. That's why DuoLingo is presenting it. We just need to get used to it. I know that you can also put in a dative pronoun to indicate who is missing the subject: "Es fehlen mir meine Schuhe" is "I am missing my shoes."


    This was complicated! Does anyone know if "fehlen" works in the same way as "manquer" in French or "felas" in Scandinavian languages?


    Yup, it works like "manquer"


    Can you give an example of a sentence in those languages?


    Norwegian: “Det mangler ingen egg.”

    Danish: “Det mangler ingen æg.”

    Swedish: “Det saknas inga ägg.” (Not quite the same, because ‘saknas’ is passive.) [btw: “felas” means “miss” only in the sense of “misdone”.]

    French: “Il ne manque pas d'œufs.” (Not quite the same, because French doesn't have a distinct word for ‘kein’, and uses the partitive “d'œufs” here.)


    GER: "Es fehlen keine Eier." FR: "Il ne manque pas d'oeufs"


    How are beginners supposed to figure out AndreasWitnstein's response; I am not blaming him, of course, but can't the authors of this program use a little common sense in building lessons?


    Why does "eggs" require the definite article "the"? Why can't it have no article or an indefinite article instead, given that the modifier keine replaces an indefinite article? :o

    [I wrote Eggs are not missing and it said I needed to place "the" in front of "eggs".]


    In English, a sentence with a common-noun subject without a determiner is understood to make a statement about that subject in general. For example, “Eggs are not square.” asserts that, in general, eggs are not square. Similarly, *“Eggs are not missing.” would assert that not-being-missing is a general property of eggs.


    OH YEAHHHH. I totally forgot about that. Thanks!


    Of course no eggs are missing! The recipe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENcpXhWxrwY is really rather clear about this. It specifies the correct number of Eier three times, after all...


    Fehlen because Eier is the Object?


      Subject. See Andreas' previous comment to user 'slug_a_bed'. This was answered two years ago!


      Could you say: "Es fehlen keine Eier, aber das Huhn ist weg!"


      What is wrong with "It does not miss eggs?"


        "To miss" uses a different verb - vermissen, I think.


        "There're no eggs missing" is not accepted!!


        Please report it using the ‘Report a Problem’ button.


        How about: "Es ist keine Eier fehlen." ?


        Why is "No eggs missing" is wrong?


        It isn't coherent English - It should be 'No eggs are missing'. You need the verb for it to make sense.


        Anyway I have written No eggs are missing and it says it is wrong.


        'No eggs are missing' sounds alright to me. I would report that if it comes up again and doesn't accept it.


        What do you do with the "es" when a prepositional phrase is added? "Vor dem Besuch des Fuch es fehlen keine Eier" oder "Vor dem Besuch des Fuch es keine Eier fehlen."?


        In short, it disappears.

        Please see AndreasWitnstein's comment/s which explain it to varying degrees of length.

        The examples you gave need a bit of fixing (for reasons beyond the "es" issue), because your prepositional phrase (which should be „Vor dem Besuch des Fuchses“ I believe) represents that we are talking about the past (due to the preposition "vor"), whilst the verb "fehlen" remains in the present tense.

        So, keeping your prepositional phrase and remaining consistent with tenses, I would correct your sentence to something like:

        „Vor dem Besuch des Fuchses haben keine Eier gefehlt.“ or „Vor dem Besuch des Fuchses fehlten keine Eier.“


        The audio is wrong in this one. In the sentence itself, the guy sounds correct, like he's saying "Eier", but when selecting the words from the list of words to write what he's saying, he says something closer to "Ear" instead of "Eier"


        Why es fehlen not es fehlt?


        This sentence tricked me with the double negative


        I've ready everything in this thread as of April 2020. I'm still struggling to understand some of it. If 'es' is a dummy copy of the nominative plural subject (Eier), why is it singular? Why not 'sie'? I've tried to find articles on Es-Extraposition and It-Extraposition and most seem to have been written for university students at the PhD level in linguistics. Please, can someone help me understand and give example sentences so I can at least recognize a pattern of usage? (or refer me to a source online which explains it more clearly?) THANK YOU in advance!


        If 'es' is a dummy copy of the nominative plural subject (Eier), why is it singular? Why not 'sie'?

        I can't answer the why, but seeing "es" before a plural conjugated verb is an easy way for me to spot an es-extraposition.

        Please, can someone help me understand and give example sentences so I can at least recognize a pattern of usage?

        So, the idea behind the es- (and it-) extraposition is to move lexically dense (i.e. long-winded) sentence elements towards the end of the sentence, to make them easier to parse.

        I love the example AndreasWitnstein gives to illustrate this in English:

        “It's a relief that there are no missing eggs today.”, [...] is less awkward than “That there are no missing eggs today is a relief.”

        Hopefully that illustrates why es-extraposition is used in the first place. And if I give a few examples, hopefully it will make even more sense:

        • Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.
        • Es finden keine Veranstaltungen mehr statt.
        • Es bleiben nur noch die Männer übrig.
        • Es hat mir noch kein einziger Mensch was gesagt!
        • Es werden keine Klaviere mehr per Hand gebaut.


        Here's another situation where we use "it" in English as a place-holding sentence starter, or what Adam and previous commentators call "it-extraposition":

        • "It has been six years since I posted a comment on Duolingo" (true fact) or, as we often informally contract it in speech "It's been six years since I posted a comment..."

        What does "it" refer to here? Not actually the six years counted one by one, but rather the entire rest of the sentence, i.e. the span of time since I last posted a comment. "It" in this case acts as a placeholder at the beginning of the sentence, without actually referring to any individual thing at all. I could have written "Six years have passed since I posted a comment on Duolingo" conveying exactly the same meaning, but the form "it has been six years since..." is also perfectly correct and widely used English. Notice that the pronoun and verb are always "it has been," regardless of the number of years or months or days that we are talking about. We would never say "They have been six years since ..."

        The "es" in "Es fehlen keine Eier" fills a similar placeholder function as the "it" in my sentence, but German -- in this kind of sentence, at least -- requires that the following verb agree with the real subject that comes after the verb, "keine Eier."


        Thank you both, and AndreasWitnstein for all of these explanations. The English usage parallels are really helpful in understanding the German concept, and I'll try to keep in mind the verb agreeing with the real subject rather than the Es/It. Still confusing, but at least I've got a frame of reference. Much appreciated!


        You mean missen?


        Unfortunately you haven't replied to a comment, but started an entirely new thread, so it's unclear who you mean by "you".

        Next time, try clicking the reply button underneath the comment you're referring to:

        Antworten bzw. Reply


        So here we are, an impersonal verb. There are many more of them in German than there are in English. Grammatically this is dead important, doubtlessly all the more reason to dump it on us with not even a skerrick of an explanation or tip. Bravo Duo! Let's make it so your Schüler have to rely on pompous impenetrable explanations from randoms to learn this. One day somebody will wake up to the limitations of this kind of online learning


        I dont understand the difference between using es gibt and es fehlen?


        Es gibt: there are
        Es fehlen: there are… missing.
        They look pretty much opposite to me?

        Did you mean "Es gibt keine Eier"? In which case it would be "There are no eggs".
        This sentence implies there are none, but says nothing about the fact that you may have expected some.
        "Es gibt Eier": "There are eggs." No guaranty there are the right number of them, hence that none are missing.
        "Es fehlen Eier": "(Some) eggs are missing", an indefinite number of them.
        "Es fehlen die Eier": "The eggs are missing", all of them.
        "Es fehlen keine Eier": None of them are missing.

        sfuspvwf npj

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