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A teacher, I once had (native German), said there are three translations for English "there is/are":

  • es ist (ein Auto auf der Strasse)
  • es gibt (ein Auto auf der Strasse)
  • es hat (ein Auto auf der Strasse)

I've only heard "es gibt" before. Is this a regional thing? Do people actually say the other two?

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Did your teacher use these example sentences? I can make up a situation for "es ist ein Auto", but "es hat"? If it really exists, I'd say it is a dialect thing. –  John Smithers Dec 2 '11 at 13:57
    
Yes, these are real examples -- Es hat ein Auto auf der Strasse. –  Matt Fenwick Dec 2 '11 at 14:05
    
I think there are others, the first I can think of is es liegt. –  hippietrail Dec 9 '11 at 11:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

According to the Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache, "es hat" is a variant that is mostly heard in the south-west of Germany and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland.


Laut dem Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache ist "es hat" eine Variante, die hauptsächlich im Südwesten Deutschlands und der deutschsprachigen Schweiz vorkommt.

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2  
Jetzt hat sich's ausgeschwäbelt. –  user unknown Dec 3 '11 at 4:42

Theoretically speaking:

  • "Es gibt ein Auto auf der Straße" would roughly translate as "A car exists in the street."
  • "Es ist ..." would be the right choice in 99.9% of situations.
  • "Es hat ein Auto auf der Straße" is plainly wrong from a grammar standpoint, although ->

Practically speaking:

  • All (and more) variants are used in everyday language and dialects.

Bottom line:

Stick with "ist" says the native, you can't go wrong there. If you want to sound more "elaborate" use "steht, parkt, fährt" for the respective situations.

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I was hoping to have some feedback from some of my more learned Yiddish correspondents before weighing here, but in the absence of prompt replies to my inquiries I’m going to answer from my own incomplete personal knowledge. We definitely don’t use “es gibt...”: that would be the surest giveaway of a German-educated person trying to speak Yiddish. If anything it would have to be “es git…” like the Swiss, but even that does not seem to be idomatic with us. The two forms I know for sure are:

“Es gefinnt sich a wâgen af der gasse…”, where the “ge-“ prefix has somehow become a part of our present tense, and

“Es is (dâ) vorhan a wâgen af der gasse…” where the “dâ” is optional.

I notice from a discussion in another thread (which I can’t recall at the moment) that “findet” is also used in German, and with a bit of the reflexive going on as well, although not identical in form to ours. If I get some better information on these usages, I’ll post an update.

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+1 for "es findet sich" - not used for cars on streets however –  Takkat Dec 4 '11 at 14:48
    
Interesting answer -- so is Yiddish similar to german? –  Matt Fenwick Dec 4 '11 at 14:53
1  
@Takkat: "Es befindet sich ein Auto auf der Straße" could be used without a problem. –  John Smithers Dec 4 '11 at 15:11
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@Matt The term may be politically charged, but I wouldn't hesitate to call it a dialect. For a deeper discussion, you might want to post this as a separate question? –  Marty Green Dec 4 '11 at 16:01
    
Will do, thanks for the suggestion! –  Matt Fenwick Dec 4 '11 at 17:01
  • "Es ist ein Auto auf der Straße": Some people say it, but to me it sounds like a literal translation of the English version, and it seems there is something missing. For example "Es ist ein Auto auf der Straße unterwegs" would work fine.
  • "Es gibt ein Auto auf der Straße": Is the usual way to say that there is something and is definitely used often.
  • "Es hat ein Auto auf der Straße": I've heard this, but I think it is a regional thing. I think I heard it mostly from Austrians or Southern Germans, but I'm not sure. It's used rarely in Northern Germany.

Note that the examples are somehow constructed. I'd use "Es gibt" e.g. to explain which points of interest are somewhere, like "es gibt an diesem Platz eine Pizzeria, ein Museum und einen Zauberstabladen". You can of course also say "an diesem Platz befinden sich [...]", which may sound a little more sophisticated.

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1  
+1 for constructed examples. "Es fährt ein Auto auf der Straße." or "Es steht ein Auto auf der Straße." but "Es gibt"? –  John Smithers Dec 2 '11 at 14:12
    
Not quite sure what you mean by 'constructed' -- artificial or unnatural? –  Matt Fenwick Dec 2 '11 at 14:47
    
@MattFenwick: I meant "konstruiert" ;) I'm not sure what the correct English word is - I think it is artificial because you would not actually say that there is a car on the street in German, and someone just made up these examples. –  OregonGhost Dec 2 '11 at 15:12
    
@Matt, OregonGhost means that even the most plausible of your three sentences, while not grammatically wrong, sounds strange. You'd say "Es steht ein Auto auf der Straße" - "A car is standing/parked/waiting in the street". –  fzwo Dec 2 '11 at 15:44
    
Cool, that's what I thought. Thanks for the clarification! –  Matt Fenwick Dec 2 '11 at 17:20

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