How to choose between es and das? Are they interchangeable?

  • Ich gebe ihm das


  • Ich gebe es ihm

Another example:

  • Ich weiss es


  • Ich weiss das
  • The examples are a bit short on context. As the first example shows, they are not interchangeable, since they require different word order. The concept direct object is not really helpful in German. Note, that things also may have non-neutral gender in German, so ihn and sie might also be involved.
    – guidot
    Jul 23, 2018 at 14:42
  • 2
    Have you thought about their similarity to it and that in English?
    – Ludi
    Jul 23, 2018 at 15:58

1 Answer 1


Note that das is a demonstrative pronoun that needs to point to something from (maybe even a visual) context. das also takes its job as a pronoun pretty seriously - It will in most cases refer to a noun.

Es is much less restrictive: It does not necessarily need to refer to a noun, but can rather only refer to some general subject matter or some general, even maybe nebulous matter:

Dem werd' ich'(e)s zeigen

Only tells you he will show him something (very probably some violent action) without much further context.

Dem werd' ich das zeigen

does, however, need some more context to refer to. ("Das Auto und nicht das andere").

Es can also be completely impersonal ("es regnet") and not relate to anything - "das regnet" is only possible in some dialects. "Es ist Nacht" works perfectly, "Das ist Nacht" doesn't, not even in dialects.

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