Do Germans use other verbs like befinden or existieren or totally different constructions to avoid using es gibt regularly?

  • 4
    How often do you use "there is"? – I don't think that there's objective analysis done.
    – Em1
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 12:46
  • 4
    Germans have a certain tendency to avoid repeating the same words or phrase again and again, instead looking for alternatives and other expressions. Apart from that, there's nothing wrong with es gibt.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 12:59

5 Answers 5


I can only speak for myself – and I don't know how often you usually use "there is" – but I have the feeling, that "es gibt" is used constantly: it's simple, it can be informal and direct, it's rather neutral, and it's handy. I hear it (and use it) all the time: at work, in restaurants, when talking about the TV program, etc.

Just some quick samples:

"There is a problem." -> "Es gibt ein Problem"

"Today we'll have Pasta" –> "Es gibt Pasta."

"There's nothing on TV" –> "Es gibt nichts im Fernsehen"

"Don't be so nosy!" –> "Es gibt nichts zu sehen!" ( = "There's nothing to see here!")

Whereas befinden or existieren are way more formal – you wouldn't use either for any of the above cases. Instead, you would have to form a complete sentence - as probably is the case in English.

So I would say "es gibt" is actually very close to "there is".

  • 3
    I absolutely agree on the first part, however in the end it sounds like "es existiert" is more formal than "es gibt". In fact you would prefer "es gibt" in scientific work, as you want to write as simple as possible. "es existiert" will appear only if you have rly narrow defined mathematical phrases (thinking of the existince-quantor). Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 13:15
  • ok, thanks for the comment – and I agree. So "simple" instead of "informal" would probably better described what I mean. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 13:22

Taking a rather very naïve approach:

Here is the Google-Ngram for there is/are in English:

Ngram for “There is/are” in English

And here is the same one for es gibt in German:

Ngram for “Es gibt” in German

Assuming that the Ngrams reflect the actual speech, there is/are is used about three times as often at the very beginning of the sentence than es gibt. Something similar holds for cases where there is some introductory adverbial or similar as in:

In my opinion, there is nothing on TV.
Meiner Meinung nach gibt es nichts im Fersehen.

So as long as we only look at there is/are and es gibt at the beginning of the sentence or similar, the former is used more often. (If we also want to take into account subclauses, it gets more complicated, because of sentences like “Ich bin der Meinung, dass es heute nichts im Fersehen gibt.“)

  • did you account for number of speakers and indexed material?
    – vectory
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 10:32
  • @vectory: Yes, those are percentages.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 10:34

The point is that es gibt, befinden und existieren are used differently with some intersections. Some examples.

Being somewhere:

Es gibt Kuchen in der Küche (There is cake in the kitchen (implies that you can have some)
Es befindet sich Kuchen in der Küche (it is just there)
Es existiert Kuchen in der Küche (correct, but no one would use it)


Es existieren vier Naturkräfte (Four forces of nature exist)
*Es befinden sich vier Naturkräfte (totally wrong)
Es gibt vier Naturkräfte (there are four forces of nature)


Es gibt nichts im Fernsehen (There is nothing on TV (which I would like))
*Es existiert nichts im Fernsehen (wrong)
*Es befindet sich nichts im Fernsehen (wrong)

Being somewhere, interchangeable:

Es gibt Vulkane auf dem Mars (There are volcanoes on Mars)
Es existieren Vulkane auf dem Mars (the context allows for the formal "existieren")
Es befinden sich Vulkane auf dem Mars

As you cannot use one for the other in all situations, they cannot be used in general to avoid "es gibt".


My opinion as a German native speaker: If you use "es gibt", then don't forget that you use a term, that is often used to replace other words. It is an expression that is used primarily in the vernacular. For example:

"There is a problem." -> "Es gibt ein Problem" stands for "Es ist ein Problem aufgetreten" or "Wir haben ein Problem"

"There are volcanoes on Mars" -> "Es gibt Vulkane auf dem Mars" stands for "Es existieren Vulkane auf dem Mars"

"There's nothing on TV" –> "Es gibt nichts im Fernsehen" stands for "Es läuft nichts im Fernsehen"

Apart from that, I totally agree with Ingmar, that in the germans have a certain tendency to avoid repeating the same words or phrase again and again, instead looking for alternatives and other expressions. If you want to write a paper or a scientific report, it is better use "es gibt" as seldom as possible.

  • Good remark. Maybe you can emphasize in your answer that it is primarily the "gibt" that is replaced and not the "es". It's possible to formulate the examples in active voice to get rid of the "es" : "Vulkane existieren auf dem Mars"
    – Harald
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 11:49
  • I think this is an important thing to keep in mind when comparing "there is" to "es gibt". "Es gibt" will often replace a more precise option of expressing your thoughts, thus making what you say/write sound less formal.
    – Sir Jane
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 11:34

I know this is not exactly on topic, but it is a curious fact that in Yiddish the use of "es gibt" is considered a serious faus pas. A common acceptable alternative is:

  • es gefinnt sich a buch...

which of course roughly follows the German, but there are also:

  • 'sis dâ a buch... (the â here indicates a vowel shift to o or u)
  • 'sis dâ vorhan a buch...

or simply

  • vorhan a buch...

none of which seem to be reflected in Standard German. Maybe some dialects use these or similar forms?

  • ja, sicher, 's'is' kann sogar als einfaches 's' auftreten, s'ne Antwort die nicht jedem gefällt.
    – vectory
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 10:35

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