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"es" after verb

Ich habe eine Frage. Why do you add "es" after verbs? Zum Beispiel; Sie kann es kaum erwarten. Ich liebe es mit dir zu reden.

June 23, 2018


  • 1045

In both sentences, “es” is the direct obejct. “I can hardly wait for it.” “I like it.” The first sentence is straight forward, except we don’t know what “es” is. In the second sentence, the “es” is further expanded: “mit dir zu reden.” The infinitive clause represents the direct object.

Normally, indirect or direct objects are nouns or pronouns. But they can also take the shape of clauses like the infinitive clause in your second sentence or a dependent clause, e.g. “Ich wünsche es mir, dass es morgen nicht regnet.” “Ich hasse es, wenn es regnet.”

You surely remember that you can identify the direct object by asking the “was” question: “was liebe ich?” or “was wünsche ich mir?” or “was hasse ich? The answer is: “mit dir zu reden”, “dass es morgen nicht regnet” and “wenn es regnet”, respectively. This clearly shows that these clauses are the direct object, which are represented in the main clause by some kind of placeholder “es” in the position you would normally expect the direct object.

Since the placeholder itself does not really have a meaning, it is optional in many (most? all?) cases because of this redundancy.

“Ich wünsche (es) mir, dass...” “Ich liebe (es), wenn die Sonne scheint.” “Ich liebe (es), zu reisen.” “Ich kann (es) gut verstehen, wenn du nicht willst.”

The same thing happens with verbs that use prepositional objects. “Ich glaube daran, dass alle Menschen gut sind.” “Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass du recht hast.” “Ich denke darüber nach, wie wir zum Erfolg kommen.” The da-compound in these cases is the preposition + the placeholder “es”.


I don't know if you are an English speaker, jeremyf22. If you are, there are a few differences in usage between English and German. One which tripped me up was the addition of "es" when in English we do not need it. For example, we say "I don't know" - I hear in German "Ich weiß es nicht". Not always but you do hear it. With experience I get the feeling that German transitive verbs like to have their direct object (silly thing to say but you know what I mean). A native speaker would have a better feel for that.

  • 1045

Deutsche Gründlichkeit! :) You are right, we like things orderly and all parts of a sentence accounted for!

There can be differences in meaning when "es" is used or not. In your example, "Ich weiß nicht" often expresses a more general state of not knowing, or rather some kind of hesitance or indecisiveness on part of the speaker. "Ich weiß es nicht" implies that "I" does not know the answer to a specific question. "Sollen wir heute ins Kino gehen?" - "Ich weiß nicht. Wir waren doch erst letzte Woche im Kino." vs. "Wie heißt der Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten?" - "Ich geb auf. Ich weiß es nicht."


Thank you. Lovely clear explanation. Another subtlety I missed. Native speakers play a wonderfully significant role on DL.

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