I was reading my German book, and I founded a little statement that I wasn't capable to understand.

... Plötzlich geht das Licht aus.
Robert: "Wer ist da? Martha, bist du das?"

Can someone explain me the translation of the word 'das'.
I know that this word is the neuter article, but the translation is "Are you there?". The translation of the word 'there' in German is 'dort', 'da'. Is this 'das' some kind of particle?

2 Answers 2


We can literally translate this example to reveal the usage of "das" in the example given as demonstrative pronoun:

Who is it? Martha, is that you?


A more literal translation might be is it you? The question is not only whether Martha is there (as opposed to no-one), but also who else might be there (e.g. Robert might have heard a noise, so someone is there, but who?).

  • 1
    hmmm... the German definite articles originally used to be demonstrative articles so "that" might be in fact more literal here
    – Emanuel
    Feb 4, 2013 at 18:13

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