"Es erhellt auch ..." seems to be an old idiom in German scientific/philosophical language. Just two examples:

"Es erhellt auch, dass B sich nicht mit D austauschen lässt, da es statthaft ist, dass D und A zugleich in einen Gegenstande enthalten sein können."

"Es erhellt auch von einer anderen Seite, dass, was als wirkliche Realisation einer Idee gelten soll, nicht etwa ein blosses Geschöpf, sondern ein ..."

How would you translate it - "It appears that ..."?

  • 1
    It discloses also ... – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 8 '19 at 17:03
  • Is the “es” in the preceding sentence? – Carsten S Jun 8 '19 at 17:07
  • Where are these examples from? – Arsak Jun 8 '19 at 20:10
  • The proper (and relatively literal) translation to English would be "it is enlightening that..." – tofro Jun 9 '19 at 8:25
  • @tofro: Das wäre "Es ist erhellend, dass", "It enlightens" müsste "Es erhellt" sein, oder? – user unknown Jun 9 '19 at 13:15

I have never encountered this kind of (intransitive) erhellen before. Duden (2b), DWDS (3) and DWB (1) all have it and agree on the meaning:

(Daraus) wird klar, daß …
Es folgt (daraus), daß … / Es ergibt sich (daraus), daß …

(From this) it becomes clear that …
It follows (from this) that …

Just like more usual sich ergeben (aus), klar werden (aus) the verb may be accompanied by the preposition aus, indicating the logical antecedent.

»Unser Volk … ist in seiner großen Mehrheit… von den Prinzipien des Gemeinguts durchdrungen; es ist, wenn man sich so ausdrücken darf, instinktiv, traditionell Kommunist. […] Daraus erhellt, daß unser Volk, ungeachtet seiner Unwissenheit, viel näher zum Sozialismus steht als die Völker des westlichen Europas, obwohl diese gebildeter sind.« (source)

“Our people … in its great majority … is permeated with the principles of common ownership; it is, if one may use the term, instinctively, traditionally communist. […] It is clear from this that our people, despite its ignorance, is much nearer to socialism than the peoples of Western Europe, although the latter are more educated.” (source)

Note that the meaning of intransitive erhellen is sharply different from the transitive one, as indicated by the translations given above. Firstly, intransitive erhellen has lost the meaning of illuminate. Look at transitive erhellen:

In diesem Essay findet sich ein erstaunlicher Satz, der schlaglichtartig das Problem erhellt, das für die meisten Filmkritiker, Filmtheoretiker und Drehbuchlehrer im Dunkeln bleibt.

… an astonishing sentence that abruptly illuminates the problem …

In this example, ein erstaunlicher Satz is the agent of illumination in the usual metaphorical sense of intellectual enlightenment. Now compare intransitive erhellen:

Eines muß also das Regierende und Leitende sein, und dies muß den Namen des Alleinherrschers oder Kaisers führen. Und so erhellt, daß Monarchie oder Kaisertum zum Heil der Welt notwendig sei. (source)

And so it follows that …

The subject is the subordinate clause introduced by daß. However, that clause does not denote the agent of illumination, but the logical consequent of an implication. Recall from the earlier example that intransitive erhellen can occur with a prepositional object headed by aus, denoting the logical antecedent. This is another feature that distinguishes it from the transitive variant.

  • Nice references. I too never encountered this but my first association was "beleuchtet", meaning that a previously mentioned fact/result gives some kind of spotlight to the following thoughts. I can't really describe that idiom in English. "Das wirft ein (anderes/ neues) Licht auf ..." or "in dem Licht erscheint ...". – hajef Jun 8 '19 at 19:29
  • @hajef Es leuchtet ein, daß… seems very close. – David Vogt Jun 8 '19 at 19:48
  • It's another point of view and another idiom but now that you mention it ... it fits even better. Thank you. – hajef Jun 8 '19 at 19:55
  • @hajef In hindsight, the metaphor of light is misleading in this instance. – David Vogt Jun 9 '19 at 12:18

In context of the question and the examples I would translate (or better interpret) it with "it shows/it's showing, that...".

In general I would use "beleuchten" in German instead of "erhellen".

For example if you want to investigate something closer, you can say "etwas genauer beleuchten".


It is quite straight forward:

  • German hell (adjective) = English bright, light
  • German erhellen (verb) = English lighten, enlighten
  • German erhellend (participle) = English enlightening


Es ist erhellend, dass
It is enlightening, that


Es erhellt, dass
It enlightens, that

  • "It enlightens, that" is not English. I don't think there's a good translation. – PiedPiper Jun 8 '19 at 22:15
  • A better translation would probably use "to illuminate sth.", like "It also illuminates that B can't be interchanged with D..." – Henning Kockerbeck Jun 9 '19 at 8:22
  • It is enlightening that means the same thing in English. – tofro Jun 9 '19 at 8:26

To start from the beginning: no, this is no dated fixed phrase, the whole word erhellen fell out of favour.

The mostly closely translations into English are enlighten (sharing that dated touch) or highlight.

The assumed equivalence of knowledge and perception (especially optical perception) is not specific to German, but quite universal. (Note that in eVIDence the Latin stem of videre, i. e. too see, persists.) Put some additional light on therefore translates to giving some additional knowledge.

This occurs in two qualities, both addressed by erhellen:

  1. Provide knowledge, where none was before; in English this would translate to uncover, reveal or enlighten. An example of this would be the sentence: "Der Polizei gelang es bisher nicht, die Hintergründe der Tat zu erhellen."
  2. Emphasizing knowledge, which may have been present, but not considered at all or as not relevant, translating to highlight.

For your first example I found another reference in Brockhaus (1837): There it seeem to translate to imply.

Aus dem Vorhergehenden erhellt zugleich, daß im Dreieck keine Diagonale möglich ist, weil darin jeder Winkel unmittelbar den beiden andern benachbart ist [...]

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