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'Es werde...' meaning in German

  1. I know that 'Es werde Licht' is a fixed expression. But why is it:

  2. 'Werde' instead of 'wird'?

  3. If 'Es werde Licht' means 'Let there be light', can I say 'Es werde ein Mann'? Which means 'Let there be a man'?

  4. What's the translation for "That is what I like about you,"?

December 1, 2016


  1. This expression is fixed because the Konjunktiv I is no longer in use for such purposes.
  2. The endings of Konjuntiv I are often the same as the normal ones. For werden for instance only du werdest and er/sie/es werde are different.
    2.a Some formes like du werdest are thought to be arkward. In such cases and if the form is the same as in the present tense, you are allowed to use the Konjunktiv II. Today many people use always Konjunktiv II which is an error because the the basical task of the two Konjunktives is quite different.
    2.b The only use of Konjunktive I in modern German is, to indicate that the sentence depends on something you stated before, like in quoting.
    2.c Exapmle: If a minister states: "Es wird nach einer Lösung gesucht"
    you can report about that:
    Der Minister sagte: "Es wird nach einer Lösung gesucht."
    Der Minister sagte es werde nach einer Lösung gesucht.
    Something you can often see here, is Konjunktv II.
    Der Minister sagte es würde nach einer Lösung gesucht.
    This is something no serious reporter should do. Konjunktiv II is stating impossibility. So you are not reporting but commenting that you do not believe the statement.
  3. Yes, you would be understood, but it would be an outdated use like using thou in English. These optatives are nowadays expressed with sollen. There shall be a man - Es soll ein Mann werden/sein.
  4. Das ist es, was ich an dir mag.

If you have a lot of time you can inform yourself about Konjunktiv here


The "werde" in "Es werde Licht!" is not a Konjunktiv, it's Imperativ.


It's a bit like "Long live the queen!" which is not "Long lives the queen" because this is a fixed phrase which has kept the subjunctive, even though the subjunctive is otherwise retreating in daily English.


Compare also: ''There be light.'' ''It is important that he work'' instead of ''There shall be light'' and ''It is important that he should work''.

The sentences roughly mean the same, but the constructions are different.


Your language questions have been answered perfectly by others. I would just like to add that "Es werde Licht" is not a fixed expression but a citation from the Bible (Genesis) in Luther's translation.

Was your question 3 aimed to the creation of man from the same source ("Let us make man in our image, after our likeness....")? Well, that's "Lasst uns Menschen machen als unser Abbild, uns ähnlich..." in German.

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