A teacher, I once had (native German), said there are three translations for English "there is/are":

  • es ist (ein Auto auf der Strasse)
  • es gibt (ein Auto auf der Strasse)
  • es hat (ein Auto auf der Strasse)

I've only heard "es gibt" before. Is this a regional thing? Do people actually say the other two?

  • Did your teacher use these example sentences? I can make up a situation for "es ist ein Auto", but "es hat"? If it really exists, I'd say it is a dialect thing. Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 13:57
  • Yes, these are real examples -- Es hat ein Auto auf der Strasse. Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 14:05
  • I think there are others, the first I can think of is es liegt. Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 11:26

4 Answers 4


According to the Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache, "es hat" is a variant that is mostly heard in the south-west of Germany and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Laut dem Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache ist "es hat" eine Variante, die hauptsächlich im Südwesten Deutschlands und der deutschsprachigen Schweiz vorkommt.

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  • "Es ist ein Auto auf der Straße": Some people say it, but to me it sounds like a literal translation of the English version, and it seems there is something missing. For example "Es ist ein Auto auf der Straße unterwegs" would work fine.
  • "Es gibt ein Auto auf der Straße": Is the usual way to say that there is something and is definitely used often.
  • "Es hat ein Auto auf der Straße": I've heard this, but I think it is a regional thing. I think I heard it mostly from Austrians or Southern Germans, but I'm not sure. It's used rarely in Northern Germany.

Note that the examples are somehow constructed. I'd use "Es gibt" e.g. to explain which points of interest are somewhere, like "es gibt an diesem Platz eine Pizzeria, ein Museum und einen Zauberstabladen". You can of course also say "an diesem Platz befinden sich [...]", which may sound a little more sophisticated.

  • 2
    +1 for constructed examples. "Es fährt ein Auto auf der Straße." or "Es steht ein Auto auf der Straße." but "Es gibt"? Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 14:12
  • Not quite sure what you mean by 'constructed' -- artificial or unnatural? Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 14:47
  • @MattFenwick: I meant "konstruiert" ;) I'm not sure what the correct English word is - I think it is artificial because you would not actually say that there is a car on the street in German, and someone just made up these examples. Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 15:12
  • @Matt, OregonGhost means that even the most plausible of your three sentences, while not grammatically wrong, sounds strange. You'd say "Es steht ein Auto auf der Straße" - "A car is standing/parked/waiting in the street".
    – fzwo
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 15:44
  • Cool, that's what I thought. Thanks for the clarification! Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 17:20

I was hoping to have some feedback from some of my more learned Yiddish correspondents before weighing here, but in the absence of prompt replies to my inquiries I’m going to answer from my own incomplete personal knowledge. We definitely don’t use “es gibt...”: that would be the surest giveaway of a German-educated person trying to speak Yiddish. If anything it would have to be “es git…” like the Swiss, but even that does not seem to be idomatic with us. The two forms I know for sure are:

“Es gefinnt sich a wâgen af der gasse…”, where the “ge-“ prefix has somehow become a part of our present tense, and

“Es is (dâ) vorhan a wâgen af der gasse…” where the “dâ” is optional.

I notice from a discussion in another thread (which I can’t recall at the moment) that “findet” is also used in German, and with a bit of the reflexive going on as well, although not identical in form to ours. If I get some better information on these usages, I’ll post an update.

  • +1 for "es findet sich" - not used for cars on streets however
    – Takkat
    Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 14:48
  • Interesting answer -- so is Yiddish similar to german? Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 14:53
  • 1
    @Takkat: "Es befindet sich ein Auto auf der Straße" could be used without a problem. Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 15:11
  • 1
    @Matt The term may be politically charged, but I wouldn't hesitate to call it a dialect. For a deeper discussion, you might want to post this as a separate question? Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 16:01
  • For what it's worth, this is very Germanized Yiddish---certainly no one pronounces words in this fashion. For instance, "gasse" is said as "gas", "vorhan" is "faran" etc. I imagine the German spellings used here were due to the fact that Yiddish does not use a Latin alphabet. In any case, in north-eastern Yiddish (Lithuania, Latvia, Belorus, North Ukraine and North Poland), one would say "es gefint zich a vogn af der gas" and "es is (do) faran a vogn af der gas."
    – user36833
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 20:56

Theoretically speaking:

  • "Es gibt ein Auto auf der Straße" would roughly translate as "A car exists in the street."
  • "Es ist ..." would be the right choice in 99.9% of situations.
  • "Es hat ein Auto auf der Straße" is plainly wrong from a grammar standpoint, although ->

Practically speaking:

  • All (and more) variants are used in everyday language and dialects.

Bottom line:

Stick with "ist" says the native, you can't go wrong there. If you want to sound more "elaborate" use "steht, parkt, fährt" for the respective situations.

  • I'd expect „Es gibt ein Auto auf der Straße.“ in a more abstract context like a poem or a discussion about traffic, for instance. „Es ist ein Auto auf der Straße.“ if there's a real one there. I'm from Vienna/Austria, if that matters. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 21:43

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