The Concept of "Er"
So, what exactly is the point of "er"? I've read the tips below the lesson and I've tried to make sense of when to use it, WHY to use it, and the such. The word, and its partners (ermee, etc.) are odd, and I was wondering if anyone could give me a slight overview or tips and tricks on how to use it and how it affects the sentence structure? It would be much appreciated.
Tot ziens, en dank u!
'Er' is notoriously tough to understand for non-dutch speakers.
I am afraid that you'll just have to get used to it, based on seeing lots of examples.
Wat doe je ermee = what do you do with it? > so in this case 'er translates to 'it'.'
Hij is er nog niet = He is not here yet OR he is not there yet. > The context tells you what 'er' means. It refers to a known location that need not be specified in the sentence, precisely because it is known.
Ik loop er naartoe = I am walking towards it > again, in English it would be 'it'.
Er komt iemand aan = someone is coming > no literal translation for 'er' and yet, without 'er' the sentence does NOT work in Dutch.
Komt er iemand aan? = Is someone coming? > 'er' has moved, and the sentence becomes a question.
Er zijn er tien = there are ten of them. > again, the context will make it clear what both these 'er's refer to.
Er is gelopen =~ walking has been done > Er + ge~ makes the sentence passive. The English translation sounds very weird, but in Dutch it's not that strange (though the example is forced in Dutch as well, because I wanted to use a simple verb).
Er wordt niets gezegd = nothing is being said > again: er+ge~ makes the sentence passive.
If your Dutch is good enough, you may want to try this page as well (some of my examples come from there): http://educatie-en-school.infonu.nl/taal/27737-het-gebruik-van-het-woord-er-in-het-nederlands.html
All I can add is, "good luck!" This was one of the toughest lessons for me to "get" and memorize all the partner words. It's just something you have to brute force memorize. It helps if you learn the meaning of the prepostion and then think of "er" as it (and sometimes "there" as in there is/there are, not as in location). And "hier" as both "here" and "this." For ex., I think of ermee as er + mee (met) = it + with = with it. hieronder= here (this) + under = under here or under this. Same idea for the daar words.
If you want to emphasise the location you would use daar, in which case you are pointing out that what ever occurs in the sentence happened THERE. So
If you don't want to emphasise the location, but rather the other events/actions etc. in the sentence, you would use er.
I encountered a post with questions about the concept er yesterday, in which one of it's uses (with a preposition) was discussed. While researching the rules I encountered a great PDF which elaborates on it's five uses, as mentioned on the site linked by El2theK.
I recommend you have a look at this PDF by W. Voortman: http://www.dutchgrammar.com/_word_docs/Er.pdf