Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by sunsail, Apr 8, 2012.

  1. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    Guten Tag

    Can you explain how "es" is used in this sentence?

    "Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot"

    normally should not it be like below?

    "Alle Dorfbewohner waren nicht tot"

    Danke
     
  2. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    According to http://dictionary.reverso.net/german-english/es, it's an Einleitewort mit folgendem Subjekt.

    Here are some examples:

    es geschah ein Unglück
    there was an accident
    es kamen viele Leute a lot of people came
    es lebe der König! long live the king!
    es meldete sich niemand nobody replied
    es war einmal eine Königin once upon a time there was a queen

    These sentences could, in principal, also be expressed as

    ein Unglück geschah an accident happened
    viele Leute kamen a lot of people came
    der König lebe! long live the king!
    niemand meldete sich nobody replied
    es gab einmal eine Königin once upon a time there was a queen

    The main differences are stylistic. The difference between ein Mann kam auf mich zu and es kam ein Mann auf mich zu is, I believe, one of focus. In the first sentence, the subject feels like the focus, to me, but in the second sentence, the focus seems to be more on the action, what happened to me and what I experienced. I'm not so sure about Turkish, but I think the first sentence might be something like bir adam bana geldi, whereas the second is more like bir bana gelen adam vardı. Hmm, maybe not, but the sentences with es seems more in line with the es gibt / there is / var kind of sentences.

    For example, I would translate: viele Leute sitzen am Tisch as many people are sitting at the table, but es sitzen viele Leute am Tisch would be there are many people sitting at the table. Both ein Mann kam auf mich zu and es kam ein Mann auf mich zu, I would translate into English exactly the same way: a man came up to me. We seem to be unable to make that distinction in English. Maybe a native speaker can explain it more succinctly.
     
  3. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    in which title can I find this in german grammar? I tried but couldn't find.

    over your example
    ein Mann kam auf mich zu means
    a man came over to me
    and
    es ein Mann kam auf mich zu means
    there a man kam auf mich zu

    does it give "there" meaning? if yes why is it written as "da ein Mann kam auf mich zu" ?

    with stylistic do you mean there's nothing to do with meaning but exclamation or grammar?

    danke


     
  4. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    Hello :)

    In your case, the different structures convey a difference in meaning:

    "Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot" -- Not all the village people were dead (i.e., some of them were alive, but some of them were dead).
    This sentence could be rephrased into "Nicht alle Dorfbewohner waren tot", with the same meaning. Then the question whether to use "es waren" or "nicht alle .. waren" is a difference in style, as explained by das brennende Gespenst.

    "Alle Dorfbewohner waren nicht tot" -- All of them were alive.
     
  5. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    yes you are right.you can read like that

    "not all the village people were dead there" "Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot"

    or

    "all the village people were not dead there" "Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot"

    I think in two different ways you can read this sentence.It means two different stresses,right?

    danke

     
  6. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    I've added several sentences to my post above. There is no word "there" in the English sentences (and nothing that means "there" in the German sentences). :)
     
  7. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    Is there rule for this kind of usage of "es" in german grammar? Is there website that I can read about?
    It is like "es" is there but you behave like it is not there right?

     
  8. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    This specific usage of the word "es" is explained on German.about.com (fifth bullet point; and I believe also in the link that dbG provided).
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012
  9. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    The es is not exactly like the existential there in English (or var in Turkish). Most of the time, the two alternative German sentences are translated into English exactly the same way because we simply cannot fit "there" into the sentence (- well, we can, but then it means a spatial there, as in German da/dort, Turkish şurada/orada). The difference of style is small enough, that we get by perfectly well without an equivalent in English but it feels very useful in German (it's also in Swedish and probably also in other Germanic languages, even though it's lacking in English). I also find it hard to explain exactly what the difference is, when the es kam ein Mann sentence would be used, and when the simple ein Mann kam sentence is used. The more you use German, the more you get a feel for these things, but to me it feels like the es takes the focus away from the subject and places it more on the action. It's main use seems to be to get the subject away from the beginning of the sentence and place it after the verb (in the V2 position) - usually this is done by placing another part of the sentence there, but most of the time, that other part of the sentence adds its own semantic information to the sentence. For example:

    Ein Mann kam auf mich zu und fragte mich, ob ... A man came up to me and asked me if ... (Ein Mann seems to be the most important thing in this sentence).Dann kam ein Mann auf mich zu und fragte mich, ob ... Then a man came up to me and asked me if ... (Dann is at the beginning and it takes a bit of the focus away from ein Mann. The point of this sentence is to tell us what happened next, not so much to say what a man did.)

    Es kam ein Mann auf mich zu und fragte mich, ob ... A man came up to me and asked me if ... (Ein Mann has been moved away from the beginning, but the thing that has pushed it away (es), unlike dann, has no semantic value at all.)

    When learning German, there's a lot that has to be remembered by heart and consciously thought about until it becomes second nature (the inflection of nouns, determiners, pronouns and adjectives in different genders, the conjugation of verbs) but then there are other things that are simply best learned by using the language and getting a feel for it, such as the nuances conveyed by moving different parts of the sentence around to accentuate different information. I too would love to see an explanation of when the Es-VERB-SUBJEKT sentences tend to be preferred over the SUBJEKT-VERB sentences, but I fear that an explanation of that may not help you to choose which one to use at each time.
     
  10. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    "but I fear that an explanation of that may not help you to choose which one to use at each time" This is exactly what I am trying to do.when to use which one.
    I am reading a novel which in originally written in swedish and translated to german.that's because I encounter this "es" usage then? sometimes the book uses "es" structure sometimes it does not.But it is used when telling the story , not in the characters' dialogues.I don't know whether dutch is a germanic language but there are some special usages like "er" in dutch which is not translated literally but I can understand it like how it is used when it is used.I hope when I finish this book I hope I get the experience of "es" Thanks for this detailed explanation


     
  11. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    Placed at the beginning of the sentence to introduce the subject of the sentence.
    Es wurde eine Maus gefunden in diesem Restaurant - A mouse was found in this restaurant.

    If one places the subject of the above sentence first, then es will be eliminated:
    Eine Maus wurde in diesem Restaurant gefunden.

    I found the same source but it does not explain the reason.

     
  12. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    I found these too, which are the most detailed things yet, but even they doesn't explain what the stylistic difference is:

    http://www.canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/InflectionRules/FRegeln-P/Pron-es.html#Anchor-es-11481
    http://www.grammatikbegriffe.de/html/platzhalter-es.html

    Interestingly, all the example sentences from the first one are ones for which I would give differing translations for the two types of sentences.

    Es steht ein Schrank im Gang.
    Es wartet jemand auf Sie.
    Es strahlten die Sterne am Himmel. There was a cupboard in the aisle.
    There's someone waiting for you.
    The stars were shining in the sky. (Hmm, actually I don't think I'd translate it as There are stars shining in the sky because it says die Sterne ... it's definite, so there are/is doesn't work. I think we can only use the "there" structure in English when it's something indefinite, and in a continuous tense or with the verb be)

    Ein Schrank steht im Gang.
    Jemand wartet auf Sie.
    Die Sterne strahlten am Himmel. A cupboard is in the aisle.
    Someone's waiting for you.
    The stars were shining in the sky. / The stars shone in the sky.
     
  13. sunsail Senior Member

    istanbul
    de langue Turc
    Is this structure used in daily life or on the newspapers? I could be related to just literature.

    I think it's explained below.It is like "artistic passive voice" next to passive voice.This is my guess :)

    http://www.grammatikbegriffe.de/html/platzhalter-es.html

    I found this and "Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot" falls into the impersonal passivess category I think.


    Source
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 8, 2012
  14. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It's good thinking to try to get down to some basic logic as we seem to get lost in the details of specific examples.

    I can see the following categories:
    1) Emphasis of the subject, in spoken language supported by stress pattern:
    Es kam der Postbote und nicht der Gasmann.
    2) De-emphasis of the subject, mainly with jemand and niemand, in spoken language supported by stress pattern.
    Es meldet sich niemand.
    Es wollte jemand wissen, ob wir benachrichtigt wurden, dass der Strom abgeschaltet wird.
    3) In narratives, sentences often begin with conjunctions or adverbs which forces subject-verb inversion. If for once a sentence does not start this way the whole thing just "flows better", if you invert subject and verb there as well:
    Plötzlich kam ein Kollege, und wollte wissen, ob ich schon das neue Rundschreiben gelesen hatte. Daraufhin ging ich zu meinem Postfach und holte er raus. Und dann wollte er, dass ich es gleich lese. Und das tat ich dann auch gleich. Es kam auch noch ein anderer Kollege dazu, der auch wissen wollte, was in dem Rundschreiben steht.
    4) In poetry to keep the measure. I can't think of an example right now which doesn't also fit one of the other categories, but they surely exist.

    Can anyone think of an example which doesn't fit any of these categories?
     
  15. Gernot Back

    Gernot Back Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    German - Germany
    In case #a "nicht alle Dorfbewohner" (not all of the inhabitants of the village) is not only the subject, but also the topic (theme) of the sentence, while "waren tot" (their being dead) is the comment (rheme) about them.
    In case #b, the complete information that not all of the inhabitants of the village were dead is the comment (the rheme, the interesting part of the sentence, the actual new information.)
    The topic of phrase #b is probably already known since it stays the same as in the preceding sentence. Placing the subject in the first position would open a different (sub)topic, which is probably not intended by the author or speaker.

    For the same reason, when talking about accidents without damage to humans, the word order of the news is always:


    • Verletzt wurde niemand. :thumbsup:
      and never:
    • *Niemand wurde verletzt. :thumbsdown:

    Injuries are the topic/theme here and nobody is the comment/rheme.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topic–comment
     
  16. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I think you are right Gernot. The topic/comment analysis has the highest explanatory power. It explains most of the cases.

    But this is a bit too categorical:
    Both forms are used (example) but the former is certainly the more frequent one.
     
  17. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Es wurde niemand verletzt exactly mirrors the topic/comment structure of Es waren nicht alle Dorfbewohner tot.
     

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