11

If I am talking about a particular place/city, should I be asking

“Gibt es einen Supermarkt?”

or

“Hat es einen Supermarkt?”

What is the difference between the two? A formal explanation of when to use es gibt and es hat would be really nice.

  • 4
    It basically depends on whether you are in Switzerland (or some other regions) that use "hat es" – Hulk Sep 25 '15 at 5:44
  • @Hulk : So what can be the exact translation for it? Can it be Is there a supermarket or can it also be used in situations where I need to ask Do you have fish – Vini Sep 25 '15 at 5:57
  • 1
    Related, possible duplicate: german.stackexchange.com/questions/3178/… If the comments are considered part of the question, not exactly a duplicate, else, yes. – Stephie Sep 25 '15 at 6:22
11

Gibt es [a certain facility]? is standard German and hence universally correct.

Phrasing the question as Hat es …? is a dialect variant that I would expect to hear in southern areas.


Edit after reading comments:

Taking into account the above dialect varieties of geben/haben, in southern areas:

  • gibt es
    signifies a general statement, something always or routinely available or on offer while
  • hat es
    is used for specific instances, e.g. right now or the availability of something at the moment of asking. So

Gibt es Fisch?

asks whether fish is on the menu (generally or today), but not necessarily signals your intent to buy some (implicitly, yes …)

Hat es Fisch?

asks whether a serving of fish can be ordered or bought right now.

  • Comments moved to chat. – Wrzlprmft Sep 25 '15 at 12:33
  • About »southern areas«: Maybe you mean »areas in the south-west« like Switzerland and Swabia. But sentences like »Hat es Fisch?« are not in use in Austria, which is in the south and south-east of German sprachraum. – Hubert Schölnast Sep 26 '15 at 7:33
  • @HubertSchölnast Yes, that matches the findings of the "Atlas der Alltagssprache", yet OP claims to have heard this in Bavaria. Am aa bit undecided, am considering an edit for clarification. – Stephie Sep 26 '15 at 7:54
6

The only important difference is a regional one. As a non-native speaker who does not target a specific region, always use es gibt. In Switzerland, and if you want also colloquially in the south-west of Germany, you may want to prefer es hat. See here for a distribution map. Both versions are understood everywhere, but es gibt is the supraregional standard.

Es hat probably derives from a calque of French il y a. At least this would explain its distribution.

Regarding the meaning: Es hat has no more to do with having than es gibt has to do with giving. Both expressions just mean there is/are with no special connotations. (The same applies to French il y a.) Unlike English, where you can make the word there in there is revert to its original meaning by stressing it, not even stressing gibt or hat has any effect beyond stressing the existence of something. (Nobody ever stresses es except when correcting a misunderstanding after someone misheard the word.)

In regions in which both variants are in use, naturally es hat is more common in colloquial speech and es gibt is more common in somewhat elevated registers. This easily explains the distinction that Stephie added in a post scriptum after some commenters pointed it out: In a philosophical treatise, it’s always “es gibt”, but when talking about the fridge content in those regions it’s always “es hat”. General existence of something in a shop or on a menu is an intermediate case that will be handled differently depending on where you are located on the “es gibt”—“es hat” dialect continuum. (Unfortunately the discussion was confusing because the more special haben Sie was also considered.)

  • So at a shop any of the two forms can be used and both are right. Are there any special scenarios where one of them should only be used.. Because as far as i have heard and know German is full of exceptions – Vini Sep 25 '15 at 9:47
  • In a shop you would normally prefer haben Sie?. In English you would definitely prefer do you have? or have you got? to is/are there? In German the same principle applies, but gibt/hat es? is more acceptable then you would believe coming from English. – Hans Adler Sep 25 '15 at 13:13
  • is there any particular instance where gibt es should only be used? I once translated to get this(i really don't remember the input) Gibt es eine Bushaltestelle am Marktplatz.. In this instance Hat es is also right? – Vini Sep 25 '15 at 13:18
  • Again, if you are not planning to live in Switzerland or write exclusively for Swiss people, just forget about using es hat. In Switzerland it's correct whenever es gibt is correct (of course that includes your example), but it makes absolutely no sense to use it outside the proper region for it. And when you are in the region for it, it's (almost -- see last paragraph of my answer) entirely a question of register. – Hans Adler Sep 26 '15 at 9:28

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