In the following pattern sentence

der Philosoph unternimmt es, diese Kritik neu zu lesen, sie historisch und systematisch auszudeuten und sie auf gegenwärtige philosophische Fragestellungen hin zu beziehen

is "es" in the main clause the so-called anticipatory "es," which, in this case, anticipates these three secondary clauses?

a. diese Kritik neu zu lesen

b. sie historisch und systematisch auszudeuten

c. sie auf gegenwärtige philosophische Fragestellungen hin zu beziehen

If so, could this anticipatory "es" have been avoided altogether?

And one last question: does der Philosoph unternimmt es translate into English as the philosopher undertakes / has undertaken the task of + 1. reading... + 2. interpreting... + 3. obtaining...?


The crucial thing is the verb unternehmen has a mandatory accusative object. It's so mandatory even a simple sentence as

Ich unternehme.

is considered wrong. It has to be

Ich unternehme etwas. (or es, but etwas is more idiomatic)

So in the sentence

Der Philosoph unternimmt es, …

that es fills in the mandatory accusative object. A typical real object in such sentences of doing something explained in infinitive clauses is die Anstrengung.

Der Philosoph unternimmt die Anstrengung, …

So es isn't a placeholder for each of the infinitive clauses but more a general description about the burden of the philosopher.

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  • And the rest of my assumptions are also correct? – ΥΣΕΡ26328 Jul 9 '17 at 15:15
  • You cannot avoid the accusative object, but you may replace es by a type of task. So your translation attempt is okay. – Janka Jul 9 '17 at 15:17
  • 2
    It's interesting that even an Objektsatz doesn't work: "Der Philosoph unternimmt, dass die Kritik neu gelesen wird" doesn't sound right. An infinitive construction should be grammatically correct, although "Der Philosoph unternimmt das neue Lesen der Kritik" sounds stylistically dubious to me. – RHa Jul 9 '17 at 15:59
  • There are other verbs where the es is preferred even with an Objektsatz, e.g. lieben, mögen, hassen, though not required there as much as with unternehmen. – Janka Jul 9 '17 at 18:50

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