This quote, like many that I mention, is from the film "Der Untergang."

"Was ist denn hier los?"

My question is why "hier" comes before "los" and not the other way around? Please provide an example sentence as well if possible.

As I understand the standard TMP (time, manner, place for adverbs)

I think "los" is both an adverb and adjective but here is modifying "ist" so it must be an adverb. And if that is correct, wouldn't it be in the "manner" catagory and come before "hier" which is a "place"

Or now that I think about it, could there be a verb I'm not aware of? Los sein would make sense but Linguee didn't pull anything up.

Also, excuse my quotation craziness.

1 Answer 1


los is a regular adjective meaning off (in the sense of unleashed or detached). The basic idiomatic expression using los is the following sentence:

Etwas ist los.
Something is unleashed/moving (figuratively: going on).

los does not become an adverb here as the sentence is simply assigning the attribute los to the subject etwas. los is an adjective used predicatively. Unless used as a poetical synonym for to exist or to live, sein will never imply an adverb.

Your question "Was ist denn hier los?" is asking about the etwas being los, so los is still a predicative adjective. There are several positions where the location hier might be inserted:

  1. Was ist denn hier los?
  2. Was ist hier denn los?
  3. Was ist denn los hier? (rather offensive)

Note that (depending on pronunciation, though), this is rather a rhetorical question. If the speaker is not addressing a specific person and emphasizing the word hier in sentence 1 or 2, they are likely expressing outrage about the situation they just encountered. Besides, variant 3 is usually used to eagerly ask for silence or when criticizing somebody in a rough way.

By the way, there are a few more important idioms arising from modifying the word order:

Hier ist (vielleicht) etwas los!
Wow, there is quite something going on here!

Ist hier etwas los?
Is something wrong/going on here? or Is it fun here?

(Irgend)etwas ist hier los.
Something is wrong here [but I don't yet know what it is].

Actually, we are still not finished here. This is one of the most versatile and "pronunciation-sensitive" expressions in the German language.

  • That is an amazingly detailed answer! I love the amount of example sentences you used and even going so far to show the different meanings through word order choice, idiomatic usage, etc... If only I could rate the answer higher :) Thank you very much!
    – Autumn
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 2:22
  • 1
    I don't think the comma is correct in "Was ist denn los, hier". Newspapers (who are at the forefront of putting stuff behind the verb) pretty much never use a comma there. Example: "Der Sachbearbeiter hat sich geärgert über die vielen Anträge."
    – Emanuel
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 10:54
  • Right, I deleted the comma.
    – Œlrim
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 13:07
  • Great answer although I kinda disagree with calling it an adjective. It seems to me more like a degenerate adjective that formed a kind of composite verb … although evidence pointing against that is kann hier je etwas los sein? where it should be lossein if it's a composite verb (cf Wenn du dich lossagst …). I'm not sure about it though, I could be badly wrong. If los is indeed an adjective, it is a very degenerate one, as was then asked and answered in the other question. answered
    – Jan
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 15:51
  • I was not sure either, but according to Duden, the los in "Was ist los" is listed as an adjective. There is another los which is indeed an adverb, but it seemed not to be applicable here.
    – Œlrim
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 15:53

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