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I recently came across the expression:

Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

There’s still no master [that has] fallen from the sky

I'm curious about the es ist part, which I understood as it is, but here seems to work more like es gibt.

How would you translate the literal meaning here?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Perhaps you understand it rephrased like this:

Noch kein Meister ist vom Himmel gefallen.

While this is not the idiomatic wording, it says exactly the same. If you know some German, you'll recognize ist as a present-perfect auxiliary: ist gefallen as in has fallen.


Es ist an expletive here (German/English Wikipedia). That's basically a word that is only there for syntactic reasons and bears no meaning. As such, it's very similar to the es in es gibt.


An attempt at a literal translation of the phrase:

No master has yet fallen from the sky.

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The explanation of the expletive pronoun really helps, thanks. As a native English speaker I use it all the time, and yet it confused me here in German. –  Martin Aug 6 '14 at 15:13
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Maybe it's nitpicking but this "es" is not exactly the same as in "es gibt". This can be seen by reversing the order. "Es gibt in Berlin Bäume." "Bäume gibt es in Berlin." vs. "Es ist jemand gefallen" vs. "Jemand ist gefallen." The "es" in the first example is an expletive as per definition of English. It takes a grammatical role (here, the subject). The one in the second does NOT have the subject-role, nor is it an object. It is really just a filler that fills slot 1. –  Emanuel Aug 6 '14 at 20:01
    
@Emanuel I guess you're right. I've always found analysis of expletives confusing. Would you agree to call it similar? –  elena Aug 7 '14 at 8:35
    
Definitely...... –  Emanuel Aug 7 '14 at 9:16
    
Thanks for your input, @Emanuel! –  elena Aug 8 '14 at 11:56

The figurative meaning is:

Masters are made, not born.

The literal meaning is,

There still aren't any masters that have fallen from the sky.

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I don’t know if I understand your question correctly,

I would translate it like this:

There is still no master fallen from the sky.

You could use es gibt. But then it would be like:

Es gibt noch keinen Meister, der vom Himmel gefallen ist.

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Just confused about the es ist bit – I guess es ist can mean both there is and it is? Are there other examples that start es ist... that have the literal meaning there is...? –  Martin Aug 6 '14 at 11:46
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@Martin: Not to my knowledge. es ist kalt, es ist spät, es ist nicht gut, …, es ist einfach are very common examples but none of them would be translated with there is. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t phrases that might be translated (amongst others) with there is: es ist nicht möglich, zu entkommen: literally it’s not possible to escape but I imagine you can also say there is no way to escape / there is no escape / there is no escaping. –  tflo Aug 6 '14 at 12:39

There is [or: there hasn’t] fallen a master out of the sky yet.

likely a Dutch translation. It still remains not like a soft landing xD.

It means something like:

Never give up. Just go ahead give it an try.

Actually there‘s already a good translation of how it’s used in Englisch; that’s the mean thing.

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Hello and welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Your phrasing is slightly hard to understand. Could you try to rewrite your post so that it has full sentences? Helpful hints for formatting: You can make a quote (as in the OP) by adding > to the beginning of a line. Italics are enclosed in a pair of *, boldfaced (if you really need it) in double **. Please put some work into your answer, or it might risk downvoting or deletion for sub-par content. =) –  Jan Apr 23 at 17:29
    
I think i have 2 make a lot of single sentices then. –  Pascal Langenberg Apr 23 at 20:17
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Another comment: You state that it is likely a Dutch translation. Do you have any sources/background information on why you assume the proverb to be Dutch? –  Jan Apr 23 at 20:42
    
"has fallen out of the sky" sounds like "aus dem Himmel rausgefallen", as if this was the usual place where they reside which is quite the opposite meaning. –  user unknown Apr 24 at 3:24

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