How to Use the German Personal Pronoun 'Es'

The German personal pronoun "es" is the English equivalent of "it" and has similar functions. It is mostly a substitute for a noun and can:

  1. Act as a subject, therefore be in the nominative case.
    As a subject es can be placed either before or after the verb.
    Es donnert in der Ferne - It is thundering in the distance.
    In der Ferne donnert es.
  2. Act as an object, therefore be in the accusative case.
    Its position can sometimes be changed, either after the verb or after the subject.
    Das Fernsehen ist kaputt. Ich werde es morgen reparieren - The t.v. is broken. I will fix it tomorrow.
    Morgen werde ich es reparieren.
    But not changeable with the following sentence:
    Das Kind weint. Ich beruhige es - The child is crying. I'm consoling him/her.

See Personal Pronoun Chart for a listing of es in all cases.

Es is used in daily conversation such as when describing the weather or stating the time. Es ​however, is used more often in German. Also, not only can the position of es be changed, it can even be eliminated, depending on its function.
See the following functions of es, take note of the similarities with English, learn the differences and then practice with this exercise.

Es Functions Similar To English:

  • When describing the weather.
    Es schneit heute - It is snowing.
    Es hagelt sehr viel - It is hailing a lot.
  • When describing time.
    Wie spät ist es? What time is it?
    Es ist viertel vor acht - It is a quarter to eight.
  • When describing things.
    Es ist weich - It is soft.
    Es schmeckt gut - It tastes good.
  • Describing smells/dynamics of noises.
    Es stinkt hier - It stinks here.
    Es duftet schön - It smells nice.
    Es ist laut - It is loud.
    Es ist sehr still jetzt - It is very still/quiet now.
    However more specific noise descriptions usually can't be translated with 'it', such as:
    Es rauscht draußen - There's a rustling outside.
    Um Mitternacht gibt es immer ein Klopfen an meiner Tür - At midnight, there is always a knocking at my door.
  • To introduce a general remark/statement:
    Es ist schwierig heutzutage Arbeit zu finden - It is difficult nowadays to find work.
    Es ist wichtig organisiert zu sein - It is important to be organized.
    Es stört mich - It disturbs me.
  • To introduce a subsequent subordinate clause:
    Ich finde es schrecklich, dass sie nicht essen will - I find it awful that she does not want to eat.
    However, when that same clause is placed at the beginning of the sentence, es will no longer be used: Dass sie nicht essen will, finde ich schrecklich.
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Your Citation
Bauer, Ingrid. "How to Use the German Personal Pronoun 'Es'." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Bauer, Ingrid. (2023, April 5). How to Use the German Personal Pronoun 'Es'. Retrieved from Bauer, Ingrid. "How to Use the German Personal Pronoun 'Es'." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).