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Als sich abzeichnete, dass die Zahl der Asylbewerber in diesem Jahr auf mehr als 100 000 steigen würde, ...

Is Als sich abzeichnete the same as Als es sich abzeichnete? Is it typical to leave out es in this reflexive-verb construction? (I guess we can’t say Als schien instead of Als es schien.)

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Related: – chirlu Oct 20 '13 at 12:14
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Here is my guess. Just for sake of keep tracking of the elements of the sentence,suppose you don't have Als but Denn, which is a "position zero particle", that is, you could omit it without grammatically make a mistake (although, of course, the meaning of the sentence wouldn't be the same)

Denn es zeichnete sich ab, dass ...


Es zeichnete sich ab, dass ...

The point is that you need es here, in order for the verb to be in position two, as it should. Then es is said to be a Platzhalter. Compare

  • Sich damit zu beschäftigen ist hier kaum möglich and
  • Es ist kaum möglich, damit hier sich zu beschäftigen.

Now, als doesn't work as a "position zero" particle, because one says

Als du gekommen bist, ....

but if one leaves als out, the sentence must be modified

Du bist gekommen

Then als is taking a place and you no longer need es.

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