Es war absurder, als seine wildesten Träume es waren.

While I would translate it with the omission of es waren.

It was more absurd than his wildest dream.

So what does es waren actually mean? It is necessary to add it?

  • In case you are referring to this you managed to pick one of the sentences without errors ;) Do not use this to learn German.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 21, 2014 at 19:20
  • Thank you for pointing it out, I will be more careful before asking a question from now on. I will still use it though, as the language and style used is quite simple to understand. Anyway I counted just 2 mistakes, is it actually more worse than that?
    – Lex
    Mar 21, 2014 at 21:39

2 Answers 2


It is not necessary but it in fact part you can think of it as being part of every comparison.

Ich bin größer als Stefan (groß ist).

The "groß ist" is redundant and boring but for stylistic reasons I might use it. And of course I can replace "groß" by the generic pronoun "es". The other answer claims that the verb is there for grammatical reasons. I doubt that, because if this were the case, the following sentence would need one as well.

Ich trinke mehr Wasser als Maria und Thomas zusammen.

It would be not wrong to add "trinken" but I'd say most of the time people do not say it and it is totally fine to write that.

So why is it there? Maybe simply for stylistic reasons or to make clear that we're talking about dreams he HAD as opposed to dreams he HAS, which could be understood without the "waren" signaling past tense. Just compare these two examples:

Ich bin größer als Stefan. ("ist" is implied)

Ich bin größer als Stefan war.

If you want to read more about the underlying side sentence structure and how it explains why the comparing part comes after the final verb, I recommend this post on my blog. The relevant part is toward the bottom.


It is necessary because it puts the verb in the right number. The first "war" is in singular since it refers to "Es". "Träume" on the other hand is in plural so the verb needs to reflect that. Hence we need "es waren". In more words it says:

It was more absurd than his wildest dreams were absurd.

So actually it's basically the same as in English.

  • 1
    Well in fact it can be left out. As the verb is the same for both sentences, it can be omitted in the second one. This includes "es waren"
    – Vogel612
    Mar 21, 2014 at 11:40
  • I admit that it's usually omitted, and according to the "rules of everyday language" it can be omitted. But I do not believe that it is correct!
    – Einer
    Mar 21, 2014 at 12:26
  • please provide facts on your opinions or mark them as such..
    – Vogel612
    Mar 21, 2014 at 12:33
  • It is fine to leave it out, see my answer
    – Emanuel
    Mar 21, 2014 at 19:09

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