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In English we say There are... and I know that I've seen es gibt used in German. I've also seen es sind. Are these phrases identical?

There are many flowers in the garden =

Es gibt viele Blumen im Garten.

Es sind viele Blumen im Garten.

Are both of the above translations correct?

I've also sind this construction used with other verbs.

There are many people dancing in the living room.

Es tanzen viele Leute im Wohnzimmer

Is the above translation the equivalent of Es gibt viele Leute, die im Wohnzimmer tanzen??

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Side remark: At least in Swiss German “es hat …” is used. – Speravir May 22 '13 at 22:38
up vote 12 down vote accepted

My gut feeling tells me that "Es gibt..." is used in more abstract contexts while "Es sind..." refers to specific situations.

"Es gibt viele Blumen im Garten." seems more like a general statement about the location of flowers and the structure of gardens. "Es sind viele Blumen im Garten." sounds like the description of a specific garden that the speaker/writer has in mind.

Regarding the living room example the sentence "Es gibt viele Leute, die im Wohnzimmer tanzen." is not at all equivalent to "Es tanzen viele Leute im Wohnzimmer.".

The first sentence is a statement about general behavior of people - there are a lot of people who use to dance in the living room. (Also note that "viele Leute" has a slightly different meaning in this context - it does not refer to a number of people in one living room but rather to a signifcant part of the population.)

While the second sentence may be used to express the same idea, it would be a rather unusual phrasing. "Es tanzen viele Leute im Wohnzimmer." sounds like the description of a specific situation in a specific living room (e.g. "There are currently many people dancing in that living room over there.").

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Thanks! "There are currently many people dancing in that living room over there" is actually what I was going for with that last one. – kokirii May 22 '13 at 17:03

In the flower example, both sentences sound a bit strange (but not at all ungrammatical). I’d probably say something along the lines of “Der Garten ist voller Blumen” instead.

“Es sind viele Blumen im Garten” in particular sounds somewhat like a transitory state, as if the flowers might leave the garden again or new ones might enter at any moment. “Es sind viele Besucher im Garten” would be OK.

“Es tanzen viele Leute im Wohnzimmer” is a good translation.

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Thank you. I'd like to think of a better example sentence, then, that would better illustrate the difference between "Es gibt" and "Es sind." Can you help me out? – kokirii May 20 '13 at 14:04
One example would be “Es gibt noch Karten“ (Tickets still available). Here, “Es sind noch Karten” is ungrammatical/incomplete, but “Es sind noch Karten erhältlich” would be OK. So you can only use “Es sind” if there is another part in the sentence that it can refer to, like “im Garten sein” in your original example. – chirlu May 20 '13 at 14:17
So would "es sind noch Karten" mean "There are still tickets" in the sense that "tickets still exist...somewhere..." rather than in any particular place? Or is ist actually nonsense without the extra modifier? – kokirii May 20 '13 at 22:54
“Es sind noch Karten“ is not a valid sentence. (Well, in a contrived context, it could be valid, but it would mean “That’s still tickets (but will mutate into something else shortly)”.) “Es sind noch Karten da” is an acceptable sentence, and would somewhat stronger relate to a specific place. – chirlu May 21 '13 at 5:37

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