In this sentence

Ihm war es nicht kalt.

Why "es" is added there? I found it in a Memrise course, I think it is incorrect.

  • 1
    Sounds like a part of a poem or some other kind of literature. In poetic texts you have much more freedom, and grammatical rules are seen more like suggestions. Please tell us about the context: Where did you find this sentence? Mar 14, 2015 at 10:20

5 Answers 5


With another word order the sentence becomes valid:

Es war ihm nicht kalt.

so one would think that

Ihm war es nicht kalt.

is also possible. But the es in the first sentence has no meaning/is not a real object. It serves only one purpose: It lets the verb come second, as needed in German declarative sentences (V2). It is conveniently called Platzhalter-es. So when you already have something else allowing the verb to come second, you don't need it as a placeholder anymore:

Ihm war nicht kalt.

  • So, is the original sentence also correct or not?
    – Carsten S
    Oct 18, 2014 at 13:48
  • @CarstenSchultz I'm not sure. Maybe one coulda also argue that it stands for das Wetter.
    – user6191
    Oct 18, 2014 at 13:57
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    @MohamedAhmed The German (declarative) sentence structure is called V2, because the personal form of the verb always has to come second. The English pendant is SVO.
    – user6191
    Oct 18, 2014 at 14:06
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    It's funny - "Ihm war es nicht kalt" only starts to sound wrong once I start to think about it... I'm not certain whether it would be considered standard German, but as far as the spoken language is concerned, "Ihm war's nicht kalt" sounds fine to me.
    – blutorange
    Oct 18, 2014 at 17:47
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    I'm afraid this is wrong. The Platzhalter-es stands in place of the subject which is still part of the sentence. In "Ihm war es nicht kalt" the "es" is the subject. There is no other part of the sentence that can take his role.
    – Matthias
    Oct 22, 2014 at 23:34

The 'es' is correct. It has the role of a formal subject - the sentence wouldn't have any subject without it. Canoo.net has a nice blog post about it. They also state that the "es" is not necessary here because some verbs and expressions that describe (mostly) uncomfortable sensations can go without a subject.

  • Kälte is an effekt, and who causes it? The Kalt', haha! Really though. "Ich bin euch treu ergebener Diener". "Es ist Kalt-Wetter". "Was ist Mediopassiv"? Your dummy subject theory is from English, and it is pretty useless to argue about.
    – vectory
    Oct 7, 2019 at 23:12

"Ihm war es nicht kalt." is completely correct. It puts an emphasis on the person denoted by "ihm". For instance: There are several people who are feeling cold except one. Then you might describe this latter one by the sentence under discussion.

  • So this is standard German, and it is not something that is made up? Oct 22, 2014 at 12:19
  • Standard and fine. Oct 22, 2014 at 12:22
  • Could you please provide a source for that! Oct 22, 2014 at 12:35
  • I do not have a source, but I have used this kind of phrase myself many times. One more suggestion: There is a book by Martin Durell: Using German and you might find something useful there. I do not have this book with me right now, so I cannot check it. Oct 22, 2014 at 13:15
  • 2
    Yes, and I am a native myself. Oct 22, 2014 at 13:22

Ich halte "mir ist kalt" für die Standardvariante. Im Deutschen gibt es aber so viele Regionalvarianten, dass ich nicht ausschließen möchte, dass auch die Variante mit "es" vorkommt. Sie dürfte aber eher selten sein.

Ich will nicht lange recherchieren, aber ich habe einfach mal gegoogelt: Bei der Eingabe "mir is kalt" findet man allerhand. Bei "es ist mir kalt" findet man nichts. Mit "Mir ist es immer kalt", obwohl mich das "es" in dieser Formulierung nicht sonderlich stört, findet man bei Google nur Web-Adressen mit "Mir ist immer kalt", was eigentlich meine Ansicht bestätigt, dass das die Standardvariante ist.

In canoo.net findet man zu dem Problem "Mir ist kalt" mit oder ohne "es" doch eine kompetente Info. Demnach ist beides möglich.


In German one can, almost freely, arrange words around to emphasize. So, while the neutral expression would be "Es war ihm nicht kalt", if you wanted to put emphasis on the subject, you could phrase it like that.

It would mean "He wasn't feeling cold", somehow insinuating that someone else was. Like "Allen fror es, doch ihm war es nicht kalt / Everyone was freezing, but he wasn't".

Maybe it sounds a bit inelegant, but there is nothing wrong with it.

"Es" somehow slightly objectifies the subject. There is almost no difference between "Mir ist kalt" and "Es ist mir kalt". But while the first statement is a fact about yourself, the second is about the state you are in or how the surrounding affects you.

It is a very subtle difference.

  • Wie die akzeptierte Antwort zeigt, ist es in diesem Fall kein Subjekt sondern ein Expletiv. Und sobald man den Satz umstellt, um ein anderes Satzglied ins Vorfeld zu stellen, entfällt es. Folglich ist »Ihm war es nicht kalt« als falsch zu werten und der Satz wäre besser als »Ihm war nicht kalt« geschrieben.
    – Jan
    Feb 6, 2017 at 16:51

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